New stuff

“Hey, Paul. What’s new?”

1.) Car

Natalie and I have been down to one car for the past 18 months. At first, that arrangement was fine. She’d get up early in the morning and take me to work, run her errands during the day and come pick me up afterwards.

Recently, however, with all the new changes in our lives, that has been more and more cumbersome. Her business has been taking off, which means she’s been more busy in the evenings. We both belong to a gym now, which means we both want to go, but with one car, it means we have to try to coordinate our schedules to get there at a convenient time. On top of that, we both belong to seperate business networking groups now that meet at 7am on different mornings. Overall, it means that one vehicle between the two of us has become, to say the least, tedius and inconvenient.

The reason I’ve waited so long to buy another car is because I’ve been so mad about how I lost the old one. I had a Saturn that we’d financed when we were first married. I had about 6 months left to pay on it and we had the cash on hand, so we decided to go ahead and pay it off, removing the extra monthly payment from our radar.

5 days after I sent the check in, the engine “threw a rod.” In Paul-land, that means very little, but to people who know cars, upon hearing that, they look at their feet, shake their heads and moan. Apparently, a part popped, penetrated the engine block and essentially, in terms I can understand, the car was broken.

They told me it would take $4500 to repair, and that was with a used engine that had over 100,000 miles on it. The car’s value was right around $2000, now having about 180,000 miles on it.

So I’d JUST paid it off and less than a week later, it dies.

You can understand why I’ve been upset and unwilling to put myself in another car right away.

As it turns out, we decided last week that we’d had enough of this goofy one-car business, so Thursday I went to the dealerships and found a Volkswagon Jetta. It had under 100,000 miles and was under $10,000… my requirements were met.

When I saw it, I knew I wanted it. I made the sales guy drive in it with me. I figured, if I was going to give this guy my money, I wanted to know him and know that he was going to take good care of me and give me a square deal.

He turned out to be a really great guy, but I think I scared him crapless by my driving. The car is a 5-speed manual. When you step on the gas, it GOES. It’ll spin the tires on any gearshift, if you want it to…. and I wasn’t prepared for that kind of power when I sat in it.

The first thing I did when I started it up was stall it out in the parking lot transitioning into first gear.

The roads were wet and I haven’t driven a stick in almost 10 years. He took me out to the exit ramp for the highway during the test drive. I saw a car coming, but it was a pretty safe distance, so I decided to go. Had I been in our Camry, there would have been no problem. I’m used to how that car handles. But the Jetta handles quite differently. It’s tight… and as my father says, when you step on the gas, the engine gets mad.

Those tires squealed and yelled and the car went nowhere as an oncoming car approached on wet roads. The tires weren’t the only thing squealing and yelling.

We cleared the traffic and made it to the onramp and the salesman turned to me with eyes, wide as dinner-plates.

He smiled a nervous smile and said, “you-you’re doing fine.”

Well, his professional manner and charm was well-spent. I bought the car.

It’s white, has tons of poewr under the hood and purs when you drive it. I like. It gets an alleged 33 mpg, but that still remains to be seen. Tinted windows, keyless entry, alarm, power everything… the only thing it doesn’t have is a sunroof. I even bought the additional 2-year bumper to bumper warranty. It was a little pricey, but they sold me on it by saying, “if you don’t use it in 2 years, you get a full refund.” Done.

Now I’m having buyer’s remorse. For another $2000, I could have gotten the 2006 Toyota Yaris that I’ve been drooling over for the past two months. It would be brand new, get 44 mpg and would have come with a 10 year warranty. Granted, they’re not in stock ANYWHERE and I’d probably have to wait a minimum of 6-8 weeks before it would be delivered. On top of that, the Yaris doesn’t even come with a sunroof option. Boo.

Ok, so maybe in a few years I’ll trade in the Jetta and get the Yaris I’ve been wanting… in the meantime, I’ll drive this little bad boy around.

2.) Laptop

You get what you pay for. Natalie and I have been developing a philosophy of, “pay the extra money up front and buy the right thing the first time.”

I bought a Toshiba laptop 4 years ago. It was on sale at Circuit City and I had just spilled milk all over my old laptop. The problem with the Toshiba was that it was had an Intel Celeron processor. For those of you who don’t know what that means, it means that somebody put a cubic zrcon where the diamond was supposed to go.

A Celeron processor is mostly fine for people who need a computer to surf the web and compose email… but for someone like me who does animation, graphics and video production, a Celeron processor just doesn’t cut it. I got what I paid for.

This time around, I decided to “buy the right thing” the second time. I ordered a Dell with a dual-processor, a Truebright wide-screen and cranked up the memory and hard drive on it. I even bought the little leather top for it so it would have a nice black leather top on a silver and white chassis.

When I walk through the room with this laptop, the other computers in the room bow in respect.

3.) VCR

Who buys VCR’s anymore? Apparently, I do. When it comes to electronics (computers excluded), the “pay the extra money and buy the right thing” policy has different rules and regulations. I buy “bang for the buck” electronics which means that I often buy off-brand. The reason for this is because electronics evolve so quickly. Why buy a state of the art Sony for twice the price of the cheap model? Some people will say, “because Sony will last longer.”

In most cases, that’s true. But for me, I don’t WANT it to last longer. I want it to break in 3-5 years so I can buy another one with more features.

How many 1.2 mega-pixel cameras do we still have out there because they haven’t broken yet?

You don’t buy electronics to last, you buy ’em to serve a temporary purpose. You want them to last for about 2-3 generations and then break so you can buy a new one.

Our VCR wigged out on us about 8 months ago. It still would play VHS tapes, but it played them back in black and white. I haven’t really had any urgency to buy a new VCR except that next week, Natalie is hosting a ladies’ Bible study and the course material is all on VHS.

So this weekend, I was out at the electronics stores looking for VCR’s. It’s actually pretty hard to find one. I decided that if I was going to buy a VCR, I was going to get one with an attached DVD recorder so I could roll off a bunch of those old tapes to DVD… that way, when this new DVD/VCR breaks, I’ll have all my media already moved over to DVD and won’t care.

Good thinking.

…until I hit a snag The first video I put in has what’s called Macrovision encoding on the tape. That means that it’s designed so that you can’t make illegal copies of it.

I imagine that many of the tapes I want to copy have this protection on them as well, but I’ve managed to roll off a couple so far that I really wanted to save.

The other cool thing about this new toy is that I’ll be able to capture off stuff that we’ve recorded from our DVR. I highly doubt I’ll ever do it, since we’ve had the DVR for 3 years and have never really wanted to watch anything twice but having the ability to do it does give me some archiving options. It might be nice to have a few DVD’s packed with 8 hours of Star Trek or Twighlight Zone episodes.

4.) Duplex

We’re moving! Our youth pastor and his family had a great place in Spring Lake. They’ve recently been called to move out to Colorado. We’re going to be moving into the place they’re vacating.

We live in a really great apartment right now, but with 4 people, it can get a little tight. Granted, it’s the largest apartment I’ve ever seen, but it’s still a little tight.

Our current place is a new construction 3 bedroom, 2 full bath flat with 1100 sq ft and raised 20 ft ceilings.

We love it. It’s less than a mile from the highway and about 3 blocks from the mall and all the good resturants in town.

The new place, if you can even believe it, is even better. It’s still relatively new construction, 3 bedroom, 2.5 bath, 2 floors, attached garage, front and back patios with living room and family room, plus storage room. It’s about 2000+ sq ft and is right near the beach. I’ll finally have a place to bike and rollerblade and we’re about a mile from the highway. It’ll had about 5 miles to my commute to work, but I think that overall, it’ll be worth it.

So what’s it all mean? 8 hours of Twighlight Zone on my new laptop in the new car, sitting in our attached garage. The possibilities are endless.

Is it blurry in here or is it just me?

This weekend was a totally relaxing weekend. Friday night, we celebrated my 29th birthday at a friend’s house by grilling my favorite foods (spare ribs & corn on the cob).

Saturday, we planned on going to see Over the Hedge (which was great) but decided to first go over to my firend’s house so Matthew could jump around on the trampoline.

Matthew and I jumped around and played trampoline tag and rodeo (where he rides on my back as I jump around on all fours and thoroughly wear myself out). Generally, games like that are followed by one of Matthew’s favorite phrases: “let’s do that again!”

Eventually, we stopped wearing me out and went inside. I had been wearing my RX Oakley sunglasses outside and had my regular inside glasses in my jacket pocket in a protective glasses bag.

Unfortunately, the bag isn’t quite enough to protect the glasses from an hour of jumping and tumbling on a trampoline.

As I pulled the peices of my Ray Ban glasses out of the “protective bag,” I thought to myself, “how am I going to watch the movie without glasses?”

I remembered that I still had my old pair of glasses back at home, so we stopped there to get them on our way to the theater. I planned on stopping at the Glasses Shop on the way in to work this morning, but discovered that the store wasn’t open until 9:30, which didn’t fit very well into my schedule… hence, I still haven’t had them fixed.
On top of that, I wore my RX sunglasses to drive in to work today, but Natalie needed the car, so once she dropped me off, she took off with it. So, all day today, I’ve had my RX sunglasses and my broken everyday glasses in my pocket… not a very good mix for working in a dark office with no windows.

Try getting someone to let you borrow their car to get your glasses fixed when you say, “hey, my glasses are broken and I”m blind today. Can I borrow your car to drive to the Glasses Shop and get them fixed?”

Designing blind is a difficult task. I suppose you can expect a few things from today’s product: 1.) the text on my designs is going to be huge 2.) the colors are going to be vibrant and bright 3.) the images i choose will all be close-ups 4.) the fonts will be all mis-matched.

Who knows? Maybe it’ll be great and I’ll break some ground in design that no one has explored… more likely, however is that I’ll get my glasses fixed and look back on my work from today, wishing I could just press the “unsuck” button.

Just cut me some slack if you see me walk into the ladies’ room and wander around, feeling the walls for a urinal.

New and improved

About four years ago, I decided to get with the times and register my own domain name: I was all proud of myself for coming up with the idea of having a URL that had a dual meaning for the benefit of my freelance work.

It says to the client that they (you) envision their goals or their needs and I will help them acheive them. It also plays off my last name and reinforces my design and visual capabilities.
I registered my domain and secured some hosting space four years ago with the intent that I would eventually put up an online portfolio of my work. Unfortunately, when you’re busy building sites for everyone else, there isn’t any time to focus on your own work.
As the old joke goes: Who would you trust to cut your hair? The barber with the nice looking hair or the neighboring barber with a terrible haircut?

For four years, I’ve been the barber with the terrible haircut because generally, you don’t cut your own hair… or have time to build your own website.
My friend and old college roommate bugged me for months about it, asking when my new site was going to go live… it never did. The furthest I got was to design a logo… which I have always received very nice compliments over.
Two years ago, I got a phone call for a job interview, so I rushed an online portfolio together really quickly. It’s been an eye-sore these past two years and I’ve been embarrassed to point anyone to my address.

Until today.

My freelancing work has slowed down enough that I got a free weekend in. Normally, when I get some free time, the last thing I want to do is spend it working on the computer but last Thursday I woke up at 5:30am with a design in my head that I just couldn’t shake.

I waited all day and finally at 7pm, after all the dishes were washed, we sat down for a nice quiet evening to watch a movie. I opened my computer and decided to compose the thought that had come to me that morning.

The creative process flowed like water as I composed on my laptop.
Normally, I design on paper first, then pull it over, but I’d been mulling over it all day and there was no need for preliminary sketches.

Now, nearly one full week later and four years overdue yuEnvision has been launched.

It launched this morning at 1am.

It’s still in it’s beta stage and there’s a lot of work that needs to be done, but I’m a proud daddy…

…I’m going to bed now.

Don’t you just hate that?

Last year, I bought my buddy, Morgan Foster a book called, “Don’t you just hate that?”

We used it as idea starters when we were conceptualizing the Gospelcon Trailers last year.

It’s a collection of 738 things that suck on a day to day basis; one of which is probably, “when you try to write a book with 740 things that suck and you get stuck at 738.”

I have fifteen more to add to their list that have recently happened to me:

  1. Being sick on a highly-anticipated date
  2. Your close friend at church moves away
  3. Still being sick on the last day that your friend is going to be at church
  4. A chocolate chip melts under your butt
  5. Your spoon mysteriously disappears into your huge bowl of soup between the kitchen and your desk
  6. Going to take a drink from a can of Coke and discovering that half of the can is full of ants that are now desperately crawling out of your mouth
  7. Buying a $6 bar of gourmet dark chocolate only to find that you’ve forgotten it in the car over the winter and now it’s all grey and hard
  8. Being pleasantly surprised that the digital video recorder captured a classic episode of Battlestar Galactica in a two-part series only to find out that it didn’t capture the second episode
  9. Getting to the gym and finding that the cat knocked a cat-toy into the toe of your gym-shoe
  10. Going to a business networking meeting and discovering that you’re fresh out of business cards
  11. Finding a coffee shop punch card in your wallet that’s completely full of punches from a coffee shop that just closed
  12. Buying upgrades for your hobby toys and having to send them back because they don’t fit
  13. Talking on the phone when your mobile phone rings
  14. Trying to come up with a list of fifteen items and only coming up with fourteen

I’m not makin’ this stuff up… and yeah, I’m a whiner.

Date Night

Saturday was date night.

I took Natalie out with some friends for a night on the town in Grand Rapids. We started the evening with dinner at The 1913 Room at the Grand Plaza Hotel.

Talk about classy! We had two waiters, two waiter-assistants and a butler. Frankly, I’m just not used to that kind of service. It’s been a while since Natalie and I were at a restaurant of that caliber.

Saturday was also prom night. Anyone else feel like prom is getting out of hand? I went to high school… we did the whole formal thing. There were limos and tuxedos involved, but that place was packed with prom kids. Fortunately we couldn’t hear them. …but what is with extra-stretch Hummers and taking their dates out for a $250 dinner? When I was in high-school, washing dad’s car, buying a flower for my girl and taking her out to Olive Garden was top-of-the-line. Times are a-changin’.

Anyway, Natalie got the Beef au Poivre and I got the New York Sirloin. Natalie and I have pretty much written off sirloin steak from any restaurant because it usually just comes out a pretty crappy steak… but I figured at the 1913 room, anything on the menu was a safe bet. I’m sure it was delicious, but I caught a nasty cold earlier in the week and by Saturday, I could barely breathe. Food just doesn’t taste the same when you are sans-sense of smell.

They brought us our choice of several different kinds of bread and water, along with a champagne-topped sorbet to cleanse the pallette between the starter and main course. We followed it up with dessert, where I got some more champagne-sorbet (the alchohol from the first helping cleared my sinuses and made me feel better so I went for some more) and Natalie ordered… some chocolate cone thingy with a Frenchy name. I think it was filled with chocolate. I dunno. It looked like one of those kids’ clown sundaes you used to get that had the ice cream cone as a hat, only it had melted and now all you had left was the hat, some saucey cold stuff at the bottom with some chocolate things floating in it. Natalie said it was delicious.

Following our extra-ordinary meal and experience, we headed outside into the rain for phase 2 of our date-night. I’d arranged with my friend to reserve a horse and carriage ride through downtown Grand Rapids at night so we could see the lights.

What a beautiful time! We rode the clip-clop and snuggled with our dates under the big furry blanket, under the covered carriage as we listened to the rain fall softly. We could hear the trot of the horse, along with an occasional whinney, and the subtle creaking of the carriage over the city sounds and drizzling rain. We crossed over some stone bridges and passed fountains and rivers, saw the lights of the city and the traffic and enjoyed the magical moment and the cool breeze.

Both prom and anti-prom members looked and pointed in awe as we trotted by. Limos and extra-stretch hummers impatiently followed our 4 mph carriage on the main roads… but we didn’t care. We just liked watching the girls in their dresses, turn to their dates and ask, “why didn’t we do a carriage-ride like THEM?”

One thing to note: taking an hour-long ride in a bouncy carriage with a full bladder is a poor combination.