Visiting Angel Stadium of Anaheim

Last Saturday was a good day. Pam returned from a trip, and I picked her up at LAX. Picking a loved one up at an airport is so much better than the drop off. Instead of returning home right away we went to Anaheim. We had a lunch and dinner hybrid at Tacos Y Pupusas. It was the first time I’ve had a pupusa (a specialty from El Salvador), which was a positive experience. My al pastor burrito was also very good.

After eating we walked to Angel Stadium of Anaheim to see the Angels play the Tigers. Angel Stadium is the 4th oldest ballpark in MLB, meaning I have now attended games in the five oldest parks (1. Fenway Park, 2. Wrigley Field, 3. Dodger Stadium, 4. Angel Stadium, 5. O.co Coliseum). This was Pam’s second MLB game.

Angel Stadium viewed from the parking lot.

Angel Stadium viewed from the parking lot.

The stadium has a cheerful appearance, with palm trees being prominent around the structure. The signature design elements are the Big A in the parking lot (you can see it in the picture above, it’s in profile as the red narrow pyramid on the right side) and the twin size 649 1/2 caps by the main entrance. I really enjoyed the big hats.

Size 649 1/2 hats in front of Angel Stadium.

Size 649 1/2 hats in front of Angel Stadium.

We took a picture in front of the stadium (photo stolen from Pam).

We took a picture in front of the stadium (photo stolen from Pam).

We purchased tickets for section 515. I had a new experience going through security, when the security agent didn’t like my camera lens. I was told not to extend the lens. (Lenses that are longer than 4″ are forbidden, a policy I was aware of but did not expect to be enforced.)

Our view from section 515).

Our view from section 515.

The stadium has some interesting features. The rocks and water behind the center field fence are a fun element.

The rocks and water in center field.

The rocks and water in center field.

The sound levels tended to be a bit higher than my preference (we were near a speaker). It reminded me of the noise level in Chicago at The Cell.

It was a beautiful, sunny California day. The temperatures were in the mid-80s, with a slight breeze. The game was played at a brisk pace. Pam got to see her first home run in the 2nd inning, when Efren Navarro hit his first career home run. This game featured Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrerra, and Justin Verlander–it was fun to see so many great players on the field in the same game. We also got to see Tori Hunter make a spectacular catch in right field for the Tigers.

Albert Pujols at first base (with Jim Joyce in the background).

Albert Pujols at first base (with Jim Joyce in the background).

The game also featured another first for me. In the 3rd inning Eugenio Suarez was picked off first base by Matt Shoemaker. Suarez was initially called safe, and Angels manager Mike Scioscia came out and challenged the call. After the replay Suarez was ruled out. It was the first challenge I saw at an MLB game. Tigers manager Brad Ausmus felt that Scioscia took too long to challenge the play, and his theatrics in disagreement led to his ejection by first base umpire Jim Joyce.

In just under 2 hours and 47 minutes the Angels triumphed 4-0 over the Tigers.

The field under lights.

The field under lights.

Soon after the game ended the lights went down and a post game fireworks show commenced.

After the Angels win a game the halo on the Big A is lit up. As we walked away from the stadium I took a picture of the beacon of victory. I like traditions of statements of victory at ballparks (like the Wrigley Field flag or the Big A halo).

The halo was lit up on the Big A (Angels win!).

The halo was lit up on the Big A (Angels win!).

Seeing Angel Stadium means I have now visited all five MLB ballparks in California. I did not expect to accomplish that so quickly after moving to California, I thought it would be a long-term goal.

It’s great to have Pam back from her trip. We’re in the home stretch of the wedding countdown!

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A Razor Showdown: Gillette Mach3 Turbo vs. Harry’s Winston Razor vs. Dollar Shave Club 4X

In the autumn of 1999 I purchased a Gillette Mach3 razor. Up to that point in my life I had exclusively used an electric razor. I was quickly hooked on the Mach3. Since that time I have used Mach3 or Mach3 Turbo blades (that’s almost 15 years). The cost of razor blades has made me consider exploring a cheaper alternative. Most intriguing to me was a shave club that would send blades to my door. And so I decided to give Harry’s Winston Razor and the Dollar Shave Club 4X Razor a try. I used both of these challenging razors for extended periods of time to give them a fair trial. After a few months I reached my verdict (do you feel the suspense?).

The razor line up (left to right): Harry's Winston, Dollar Shave Club 4X, Gillette Mach3 Turbo.

The razor line up (left to right): Harry’s Winston, Dollar Shave Club 4X, Gillette Mach3 Turbo.

Mach3 Turbo (Grade: A-)
Number of Blades: 3
Price Per Cartridge: ~$2.25
Shaves Per Cartridge: 14-18

The Gillette Mach3 Turbo.

The Gillette Mach3 Turbo.

I started shaving with the Mach3 and transitioned to the Mach3 Turbo. The razor feels like an extension of my hand (15 years of use will do this), so I must admit that I have a bias toward this product. The handle is easy to grip and is relatively lightweight. The cartridge is compact, yet the blades are spaced well apart so residue is easily washed free. When shaving with this razor I rarely cut myself or get razor burn. The Mach3 Turbo gives me a close shave without excessive re-shaving parts of my face. I can also easily shave the tricky areas by my nose and close to my lips.

I can remove all suspense and say at the conclusion of this comparison I chose to stay with my Mach3 Turbo. I discovered I can buy cartridges in bulk at Costco for about ~$2.00 each, which is far better than the usual retail price.

Harry’s Winston Razor (Grade C+)
Number of Blades: 5
Price Per Cartridge: ~$1.88
Shaves Per Cartridge: 8-12

The Harry's Winston Razor.

The Harry’s Winston Razor.

I had high hopes when I ordered my Harry’s razor. In fact, I decided to order the premium Winston handle. The Harry’s Winston looks very sleek; it was the Rolls Royce of my razor test. I will confess that I really hoped it would win because it looked so good. I liked the handle–it is easy to grip and is of an appropriate weight. The blades are very sharp, yet the cartridge feels a bit light. My biggest concerns about this razor were the lack of flexibility of the cartridge, the closeness of the blades, and difficulty skirting the nose. The cartridge flexes because it is plastic, but there is not a spring system or some sort of suspension. Of the three razors it was the most reluctant to fit the contours of my face. The closeness of the five blades in the cartridge mean that residue is quick to get stuck and build up. I had trouble cleaning the cartridge. The placement of the blades in the cartridge also make shaving close to a nose nearly impossible. I also found that I had to shave over areas a few times to get a close shave. This might have contributed to the fact that this was the shortest lived cartridge of the razors I tested (Table 1). I was prone to get nicks and razor burn. I will say that when I shaved very slowly and carefully (about 3 times longer than a usual shave) I got a very close shave from this razor–but that sort of extra time just won’t work in the daily routine.

In the end this goes down as a failed venture. I’m glad I tried it out, but the blades did not live up to their sexy handle.

Dollar Shave Club 4X (Grade: B-)
Number of Blades: 4
Price Per Cartridge: ~$1.50
Shaves Per Cartridge: 9-14

The Dollar Shave Club 4X.

The Dollar Shave Club 4X.

My second shave club attempt was the Dollar Shave Club 4X. The club supplies a free handle, which is nice. I was impressed by the comfort of the handle and the ability of the cartridge to pivot and follow contours. While the handle and razor look cheap aesthetically, they function respectably. The blades are sharp. I found that I had to go over places a few times to get a close shave. I had minimal nicks or razor burn. Shaving around my nose was easier than it had been with Harry’s blades, but not as easy as the Mach3. My 5 o’clock shadow with this razor was the indication to me that it was not giving me as close of a shave as the Mach3.

The gap between this razor and the Mach3 is not large, but it is enough to make me miss my Mach3 when I am using this razor. I would definitely choose this razor over Harry’s based on performance (though Harry’s looks far better).

A comparison of razors with grades.

Table 1. A comparison of three razors.

When I evaluated the razors and their performance I decided to stick with my trusty Mach3. The cost difference is minimal considering the Mach3 cartridges last longer than the challengers, plus Costco has excellent prices on Mach3 Turbo cartridges.

As an aside, a few years ago I accidentally bought counterfeit Mach 3 blades on the internet. It was the worst shaving experience of my life. I still have a few of those counterfeit cartridges (they look so real!), if you want to experience shaving misery let me know.

The Mach3 Turbo is king of the mountain.

The Mach3 Turbo is king of the mountain.

Do you use a razor? What is your favorite model? Do you have any recommendations? Have you had a different experience with these razors?

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Wedding Gifts: The Etiquette Paradox

One of the things I learned recently is that the inclusion of wedding registry information on or with a wedding invitation is considered a violation of etiquette. It seems we humans like to make life difficult for each other at times in the name of social grace. The lack of directness surrounding wedding gift etiquette is one of those times. As someone getting married I see two guiding principles:

Principle 1: It is rude for me to assume you will give a gift, and it is also rude to even mention gifts.
Principle 2: It is rude for you to fail to bring a gift.

The workaround is the wedding registry. I can build a registry and leave clues how to find it somewhere (thank goodness for websites and the internet). You can then purchase things off of that list.

But this is not a perfect system. What if I wanted to say a few things directly about what would be most helpful as a gift? What if I wanted to request that things should be shipped to my address instead of brought to the wedding? What if cash gifts are really what we want? What if I wanted to write a statement about realizing that traveling to a wedding is an expensive venture and could be thought of as a gift in itself? These things are only done by tactless (at least that’s what I read).

So here is my tactless statement regarding my upcoming wedding:

I am very happy to be marrying Pamela this summer. If you are attending the wedding I am glad you will be there. Please do not feel obligated to bring a gift. Traveling is expensive, and we realize that your presence is a gift of both symbolic and tangible value. Pam and I already have two places furnished, so we’re downsizing to one as we start life together. We really don’t need very much right now. We made a small registry of things that would be helpful. Since we’re getting married in Pennsylvania and living in California, it would be great if gifts that don’t fit in a pocket were shipped directly to our address. If we are given cash gifts we will likely use them to purchase a new couch, bed, and other miscellaneous furniture (woohoo!). If you are not able to come to the wedding please don’t feel obligated to give us a gift if you received an invitation.

My general conclusion is that if a giving a gift makes you happy, then go for it. If giving a gift makes you stressed or unhappy, then don’t do it. We invited you to the wedding because we like you–not because we thought you’d bring cool stuff. We look forward to celebrating with you, and we hope you have a good time.

Yes, I much prefer a world where you can say things directly. . .

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July 4th Baseball in Oakland

Yesterday Pam and I drove to Oakland to watch a baseball game. Last year I spent July 4th at the O.co Coliseum as well (a bit of a tradition is starting). This was Pam’s first baseball game, and it was my first game of the 2014 season. We arrived in Oakland around noon, stopped by In-N-Out Burger for lunch, then walked to the O.co Coliseum. It was a cool, sunny day. We purchased tickets for section 219, row 6.

A view from our seats at the O.co Coliseum.

A view from our seats at the O.co Coliseum.

When I looked at her I could see the field in her sunglasses.

When I looked at her I could see the field in her sunglasses.

The game was cleanly played. Both the A’s and Blue Jays came into the game in first place in their divisions–so I expected nothing less. I had hoped for some offensive fireworks from the powerful line-ups, since things are exciting when runs are being scored, but instead we got a pitchers’ duel (and that was okay).

A loyal fan wearing an Athletics beanie and cape walked by us playing a banjo. I now have a new retirement plan.

An elderly man wearing an Athletics hat and cape while playing the banjo walks by.

A fan walks by.

bp2I usually sprout roots and stay in my seat throughout a baseball game–today was an exception. I wanted Pam to get a chance to see the stadium and take in the various vantage points it offered. So we walked around the concourse. On our way a team photographer asked us to pose for a picture.

We had the obligatory hot dog, popcorn, and souvenir cup soda.

When we returned from the stroll around the park the game was still tied 0-0 in the late innings. The tie lasted right through regulation and free baseball commenced. Right around the time extra innings started a flock of pigeons started flying around the field and over the seats. One of those birds managed to drop a load of what appeared to be mayonnaise and honey mustard right on Pam’s head. I was wanting Pam’s first baseball experience to be very positive, so this bird-bombing was not part of the plan. But we laughed.

A view from our walk around the stadium.

A view from our walk around the stadium.

Extra innings began. Finally in the 12th inning Derek Norris walked and Nick Punto hit a double into the left field corner. Melky Cabrera had difficulty picking the ball up, and just like that the A’s had a walk-off win. The stadium erupted with joyful sounds. The game had lasted 4 hours and 5 minutes.

So Pam got a full dose in her first baseball game: a pitchers’ duel, extra innings, and bird poop. Through this she laughed and smiled a lot, and she told me it was not a terrible experience. I had a wonderful time.

Baseball is beautiful–and so is sharing it with someone.

Postscript: Here is a link to Pam’s account of the game.

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Charter Marketing

This past fall I wrote about being badgered by Charter phone calls. I have Charter cable internet service, but I am not a cable television or phone service subscriber. This seems to bother Charter. The campaign to get me to increase my service has been running since the day I signed up. I would hear from sales representative urging me to save money by bundling services. “You can save money” they told me. The breakdown of the savings looked like this:

My Current Service: Internet: $44.99 = Total: $44.99
The “Savings”: Internet: $29.99 + Television: $29.99 + Phone: $29.99 = Total: $89.97

I stopped the phone calls by vowing to cancel my service if I received one more phone call. To Charter’s credit since I made that ultimatum they have not called me once.

Now I get letters in the mail. I started keeping the letters to track how dedicated Charter was to the cause of saving me money. It didn’t take long for me to realize the offer vacillated from $29.99 per service to $39.99 per service frequently (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Promotional offers for bundling Charter services received at my address.

Figure 1. Promotional offers for bundling Charter services received at my address.

I’m very curious why they alternate between pricing. Is it designed to make the consumer perceive a fair value of $39.99 and a bargain of $29.99? Is it to land oblivious customers at the $39.99 price? Is there a ratio between $39.99 customers and $29.99 customers that is being maintained?

Another thought: does anyone really believe internet service, cable television, and phone service have equal value? Really?

My current valuation of these services:
Internet: $50
Television: $10
Phone: $1

It seems I am not the kind of customer Charter is looking for. . .

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