Deal of the Week

Last week, the best I could come up with was a bag of Meow Mix. This week, I had a hard time limiting this column to five real Deals. So let’s get down to business and see what we’ve got…

Circuit City has a 17″ Proview LCD monitor on sale for $179, after a $60 mail-in rebate. This is an extremely good price on a flat-panel monitor, and I’m considering taking advantage of this myself to replace my aging 19″ tube monitor. I won’t be losing screen real estate – a 17″ flat-panel has about as much viewable area as a 19″ traditional CRT. Reviews at Circuit City’s site online indicate that this is a good entry-level flat-panel monitor at an excellent price.

I have a friend who has ties to the monitor biz, and he agreed that the Proview 17″ at $179 is a good price, but “the 19″ at $239 (regularly $299, also $60 off after rebate) is even better.”

Also at Circuit City, you can get the iPod shuffle this week for $69.99. I’m not a huge fan of the shuffle – I want a screen display and the ability to make playlists – but for those of you who have to have an Apple product, this is the first time I’ve ever seen the shuffle for less than $99.

Moving on to Best Buy… you can get a 32″ Westinghouse LCD HDTV for $999. Regular price is $1299, so with $300 instant savings it’s on sale for under a grand. By contrast, there was also a Sony 32″ in the same ad for $1000 more, so you can see that this is a good opportunity to pick up a 32″ screen at a bargain.

Also at Best Buy, you can pick up a 1 GB USB 2.0 SanDisk FlashDrive for $39.99 after Instant Rebate and Mail-In Rebate. This unit retails for $79.99, so you’re getting it for half-off – $40 total savings.

If you want more features than just your basic 1 GB drive, head over to Office Depot. They have a Swiss Army 1 GB flash memory drive – but this is not only a Flash Drive but a Swiss Army knife as well – for $49.99.

OfficeMax has a Brother P-Touch PT-65 Labeler for $14.99. This is also half-off – you save $15 off the normal purchase price, and for this item there are no rebates.

I’m going to wrap up this post by going back to Best Buy, where they have a Toshiba progressive scan DVD player for $59. I’ve been told this is not a Deal, in the sense that this is regular price for this model. However, this unit comes with a personal recommendation from a DVD expert who happens to be a friend of mine. He has owned four DVD players “and this is the best one ever, by far.” He says it’s easier to work than other DVD players, especially regarding the remote. He also tells me that this player does an unusually good job with foreign films with subtitles. “Really simple to work, no problems,” he says. You can get a DVD player for $20 cheaper, he tells me, but it will be a piece of junk. For a quality DVD player at a fair price, the Toshiba appears to be the way to go.

Whew… I feel like I just ran a marathon, but those are this week’s Deals. See you next Sunday.

Mail bag

Let’s see what we’ve got in the electronic mailbag today.

Subj: get ur watch at our quality internet store

If you’re a history fan like me, this is great news. There have been wristwatches that are tributes to Mickey Mouse, Snoopy, and Star Wars. But now there’s an Ur Watch, a watch that pays tribute to the ancient city of Ur in southern Mesopotamia, in the area of modern Basra, Iraq. Ur was the site of one of the earliest known civilizations, from about 3000 to 500 BC. The ancient Code of Hammurabi originated here. Here’s a link to a Wikipedia article about Ur. I can’t wait to order one of these watches.

Subj: Abolish all you are indebted without paying another dime
Date: 1/6/2030

Wow. A message from the future. Kinda makes me sad to learn that I’ll be in debt 24 years from now. But there’s a lesson to be learned here. This is what will happen if you pay minimum monthly payments on your credit card. Back when I was teaching, I actually did this as an Excel demo for my class one time. I think we did $10,000 at 19.9% interest with a 2% minimum payment, and it took over 30 years to pay off.

I’d like to thank this voice from the future for reminding us how evil credit cards are. Time to take Dave Ramsey’s advice: get a pair of scissors and perform plastic surgery!

Subj: enjoy the shopping experience at our online e store

When the bass is thumping and everyone is dancing and people are rolling on E, the world is a beautiful place. So be sure to log onto the Internet before you head out to your next rave. Although, I don’t know… some of these Internet stores can be… you know, shady. Why would you want to take a chance on buying Ecstasy (or “E”, as the cool raver kids call it) online when you can get it from a reputable local businessman like the 19-year-old kid with the visor, pacifier, candy necklace, and baggy pants?

Subj: paul Have you checked out the ratse
From: Mrotgage Xpert

I sure have.

Last Sunday there were three ratse running around near the dumpster in the alley next to Sleep Out’s. Big ones, too. I think this is a sign that Memphis is turning into a real urban environment – we now have ratse that approach the size of the ones found in New York City’s subway tunnels.

Of course, good-sized ratse can also be sighted near Memphis’ tourist capital, Beale Street. They tend to scurry around Silky O’Sullivan’s courtyard, where Silky puts out food for his goats.

(I didn’t want to be rude and tell Mr. Expert that there is no “e” at the end of “rats.”)

Subj: try the miracle new weight loss herb
From: Handball H. Unworthiness

Mr. Unworthiness – with all due respect, I’m going to make a prediction about your personal experience with this herb. I think for a short while, you’ll take it and see minor success, losing a few pounds in the process. But then a crisis (real or imagined) will come up in your life, and you’ll turn right back to what’s familiar – food – and gain the weight back.

You see, Mr. Unworthiness, I can tell from your name that your weight problem will never be cured by pills or herbs or diets alone. You’ve got to address the underlying cause – low self-esteem. I recommend that you check out the self-help section in the bookstore, or consider seeing a therapist or psychiatrist.

By the way – I also gather from your name that your parents must be fans of the sport of handball. I have a couple of friends who play at the local gym, and they’re always looking for opponents. Why don’t you e-mail me your parents’ contact info, and I’ll pass it on.

Subj: increase the size of your manhood 3-4 inches

I didn’t respond to the first 133,718 penis enlargement e-mails I received, so chances are I won’t respond to this one either. Let’s face it – the days of bulk e-mail marketing to promote this kind of product are over.

But I am not one to criticize without offering a better solution… so how about celebrity endorsements? According to this Wikipedia article, professional wrestler Robert Fuller (who wrestled as The Tennessee Stud, Col. Rob Parker, and Tennessee Lee) has a 13-inch penis. Maybe the makers of enlargement products could sign him to an endorsement contract. They could probably get him for cheap – from what I’ve read, the guy is perpetually broke, despite having owned wrestling promotions in Alabama in the past.

And that’s the mail for today. My domain is still in the process of transferring from old server to new server, so it’s possible that this post (or possibly the entire site) may disappear and then reappear over the weekend.

Moving servers

I’m transferring paulryburn.com to GoDaddy and moving everything over. Hopefully this will all go smoothly, but if you hit my site and there’s nothing there anytime in the next few days, that’s what’s going on and it will be resolved soon.

E-mail problems, and web hosting

If anyone is trying to send me e-mail today, you might want to copy my backup address, paul.ryburn at gmail dot com, in addition to my main address, paul at paulryburn dot com. My web host, EZPublishing, seems to be having trouble with their mail servers. I’ve been sending myself test messages this morning and not getting them back. This is the third time this is happened in a month (in the previous two cases, I’ve received the messages hours or days later).

I’m thinking about moving the two domains I own, paulryburn.com and memphiswallpaper.com, to a new hosting service. I also plan on registering a third domain later this month (more on that soon). Anyone got any good recommendations for web hosting services? I know that one of my consulting clients uses GoDaddy.com. Does anyone have good or bad feedback on them?

Sorry for the lack of updates this week. I’ve been busy with both work and personal projects. The personal projects are exciting and you’ll be hearing about them soon.

LinkedIn

Monday night I had a great hour-long phone conversation with my friend AngieDawn, a former Memphian who moved to Santa Monica in 2004 to get her MBA. It seems that we’re experiencing a lot of the same challenges when it comes to business/careers/life, and I’ll be writing more about our phone conversation in future posts.

But right now, I wanted to share something Angie told me about that may be of interest to some of you – a networking website called LinkedIn.

In 2004, I was a member of a business networking group that met at the Arcade every Thursday for breakfast. The idea was, we’d learn about each other’s businesses, and then as we were out doing our thing through the week we’d look for opportunities to refer business to our group members. You need help with QuickBooks? Well, let me introduce you to my friend Ed – here’s his card. You and your family are thinking about buying a house – have you talked to a mortgage broker yet? You should meet my friend Chris. That kind of thing.

Well, around that time I took a look at Friendster online. In case you’re not familiar with Friendster, you join, tell Friendster who your friends are, and then you can meet your friends’ friends and their friends and so on, up to 4 levels deep. Most people who are big into Friendster use it to find new people to hang out with, or to date. It’s less scary to meet people when they come with the recommendation of someone you know, I guess. I never really got into Friendster. But, I thought, what if someone took that concept and used it for business networking – a virtual version of my group that met on Thursdays?

Well, that’s what LinkedIn is. You join up, you form a network of people you know, and then you can ask to be made aware of job opportunities, business deals, etc. that they know about, or that friends of friends know about. My friend Angie writes,

It’s great that you joined LinkedIn – it is super popular in most of the country – on the east coast and the west coast. A lot of people use it to get jobs… and it works because of the referral features. It has been SO disappointing to me that Memphians haven’t been partaking in the fun… especially since I consider many Memphians to be entrepreneurial.

So if you’re looking to network professionally, get a new job, or meet new potential customers for your business, you should check out LinkedIn and consider joining (it’s free to join). If you do, please search for me (paul at paulryburn dot com) once you’re a member and let’s be a part of each other’s network.

Deal of the Week: no deal

Well, after reviewing the weekly ad inserts in the Sunday Commercial Appeal, nothing really jumped out at me as a hot deal this week. I talked it over with a friend who has knowledge of the consumer electronics industry that I don’t have, and he agreed: nothing looked like a deal to him either.

The only thing I could find was the 1 GB Sansa MP3 player, and I already mentioned that two weeks ago. It’s back on sale at both Circuit City and Best Buy for $89. Twice the capacity of the iPod shuffle, ten dollars cheaper, and a lot more features.

Other than that… ummm… I don’t see much this week. Target has an 18-pound bag of Meow Mix on sale for $7.99. Cats ask for it by name, you know.

Anyone know of any deals that I missed? Let me know and I’ll post ’em.

Those little blue crack boxes, and other weekend notes

I never made it to Trolley Tour last night. About 6:00 I was at Sleep Out’s, and some of the other regulars said, “Wanna play poker?” (Texas Hold ‘Em poker is an option on SOL’s NTN trivia game). But I was about to head out to South Main to drink free wine and look at my friend Kat‘s breasts, so I said no. A few minutes later, Kat called and said that she and her breasts couldn’t make it because a big project had come up at work. So I thought, hmmm, an hour or so of poker sounds good, I’ll play until 7 and then head to Trolley Tour by myself. So I asked the bartender for a blue NTN box.

I checked to make sure it was not box number 11 and logged in. (One of the regulars at SOL takes his NTN box to the bathroom with him so he won’t miss a poker hand. The day before, he had been using box number 11. So if you get that box, you might want to ask the bartender to wipe it down with cleaning solution)

Before I knew it, it was 7:00. “I can’t leave now, I’m winning,” I thought. It was a two-hour game, which meant it would end at 8. “I’ll play until the end of the game, then run home and change (I still had shorts on, as it had been a warm day outside) and then catch the last few minutes of trolley tour.” I paid my tab, handed in my NTN box, and prepared to leave.

… and then I thought, “They’re starting another game. I’ve missed the best part of trolley tour already. Most of the galleries will be out of wine by now. What the hell, I’ll play until 10 and then go out.” So I ordered another beer and asked for another box.

Turned out to be a good idea. On the first hand, I was dealt a pair of pocket fives, and then a five showed up in the flop, so I went all-in and knocked about half the people playing out of the game. Trouble is, if you run out of money you just log out and log back in again, and you get a new $4000 to start with. (I wish real life worked that way.) Because of this, you’ll get people going all-in when they don’t even have a pair, because if they lose they can just go get more “money.”

Meanwhile, the guy I mentioned earlier walked to the bathroom – and took his box with him again. He was using box 20 last night, so 11 and 20 are the numbers to watch for, although this is a lottery you don’t want to win.

10:00 came, and the bar showed no signs of closing… so I signed up for another game. Finally, as it was approaching midnight they kicked us out.

Afterward, we went over to a friend’s place. One of the SOL regulars just bought one of the new condos on Main next to Smooth Moves, and we hung out on his second-story balcony for a while. Meanwhile, on the street below, a bum saw us and tried to get our attention. “Gimme twenty-five cent.” Even in someone’s private home, you can’t escape the bums downtown.

Then we ended up at Huey’s, where the SOL staff had gone for some after-work cocktails. By about 1:00 I was too tired to keep my eyes open and walked home.

(If any SOL regulars are reading this: Yesterday was Frenchie’s birthday, so buy him a drink if you see him out this weekend)

So now it’s Saturday. The psychic fair I mentioned earlier in the week is going on today, and I’m trying to decide if I have the energy to drive out there. I don’t think I do. Besides, I’m hungry for an order of corn brats from Big Foot Lodge. Corn brats are like corn dog nuggets, but made with bratwurst instead of hot dogs.

Not sure what I’ll be doing tonight. I’m definitely NOT going to Sleep Out’s – those evil blue crack boxes have occupied enough of my time this week. And everyone else’s. I’ve heard from managers there that NTN Trivia has already paid for itself, and they’ve had it less than a month. Not surprised. Due to NTN, Sleep Out’s has become the bar where I spend the most time, knocking the Saucer out of the top spot for the first time in about a year.

The Soul Party is at the Hi-Tone tonight, but I’m not sure I’ll feel up to driving out there. Downtown, it’s ’80s Night at Swig, and I may have to stop by for that. The Tap Room also seems like it will fit into my plans for the evening at some point.

All right. Time to go get those corn brats….

The best pizza downtown

I stopped by the Black Diamond about 3:30 this morning for a late-night snack. The Diamond has the best pizza downtown by far. Here’s a pic of the sausage-and-black-olive pizza I got:


And of course I washed it down with one of these:

Thursday update: vacation so far, this weekend

I signed a new lease on my apartment yesterday. That’s a huge relief. I had been worried that my building would go condo, or jack the rent up since it’s one of the few remaining apartment buildings downtown. But they signed me up for another year at the same rent I’ve been paying since 2003. So I’m a Downtowner until 2007 at least.

This has been a great vacation week. People have asked me, “Why don’t you take a road trip? Go out of town for a few days?” But the thing is, I don’t need to or want to. There is no place where I’m happier than Downtown Memphis. I have places I enjoy hanging out, and an abundance of wonderful friends.

Monday night I actually made an excursion outside of downtown. I had been at the Saucer that afternoon working on my laptop, and one of the waitresses asked me, “What are you doing tonight? I want to go to Bluegrass Night at the Buccaneer, and I need someone to go with.” Having never been to the Buc, I agreed. I’ve read good things about it in Rachel and the City and other blogs, and was curious. So about 11 she got off work, and we took my car out there. She drove, as I had been drinking beer since about 2 in the afternoon, and she got to watch in amusement as I turned my apartment upside down trying to find my parking pass, and then couldn’t find my car in the garage. But anyway, once we got to the Buc I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Small, dimly lit bar with a great band and reasonably priced PBR on tap. Definitely a place I’ll check out again in the future.

During the days this week I’ve been helping a local company make updates to their website. I know that doesn’t sound like much of a vacation, but I can take my laptop to local Wi-Fi enabled bars and do it there. And besides, I really like this company. They do architectural design and drafting, mechanical drafting, and 3-D and 4-D CAD work, and they have a business model that allows them to deliver top-quality work to their clients at less than half the usual cost. Check out their samples page – that’s mainly what I’ve been working on this week. If you know of any architects or anyone in the design business, they need to take a look at this site.

So what are the plans for the rest of my vacation? Nothing definite for tonight. The Rapscallions are again hitting TJ Mulligan’s for their trivia night tonight, but I spent 6 hours playing NTN at Sleep Out’s yesterday and am absolutely trivia’d out for a few days. Besides, for some reason I just can’t get into Mulligan’s. It doesn’t hold the same appeal as my Holy Trio of downtown bars – Sleep Out Louie’s, the Flying Saucer, and the Tap Room.

Tomorrow it looks like I’ll be hitting the South Main Trolley Art Tour with fellow blogger Kat. Kat has never been to the art tour and I have to teach her how to sniff out free wine at the galleries.

Saturday day there’s a Psychic Fair at the Mt. Moriah Holiday Inn, and I’ll probably swing by and see what’s going on there. I don’t talk about it much in this blog, but I am actually quite interested in this stuff and have read quite a few books about it. Here’s a link to the info about the fair. The Holiday Inn is right off I-240 Exit 17, near the Mt. Moriah Center for the Performing Arts.

Saturday night… undecided on this one. There’s a Soul Party at the Hi-Tone. I went to the last one, and was struck by two things: 1) how incredibly good the ’60s vintage soul music was, and 2) how I knew almost no one there. I’ll figure it out between now and then. If I don’t head to Midtown for the Soul Party, I may do the next best thing and hit Raiford’s. Haven’t been there in several months, and if I go to Raiford’s I don’t have to drive.

And of course, then there’s Sunday brunch at Sleep Out’s to cap off a near-perfect week.

In the meantime, I have simpler pleasures to enjoy. Like taking a bunch of crackers over to Court Square and feeding the pigeons. And I have my downtown lunch spots to hit this week. I’m thinking it’s going to be Erika’s today for some good German food, and then tomorrow I’ll hit Culinary Productions, where it’s usually salmon or some other fish on Fridays.

Couple of other random notes:

– I read in the paper yesterday that Thomas Boggs of Huey’s fame and the chef at Tsunami have teamed up to lease the old Cafe Samovar location, and will be opening a new restaurant there. No info about what type of restaurant yet, but the current sous chef at Tsunami will be running the kitchen.

– Any veterinarians read this blog? Last night I was talking to a friend, discussing a business idea he had. He wanted to bounce ideas off veterinarians or other people who work with animals, and asked if I knew anyone. Surprisingly, I don’t. I had a former student who was going to vet school, but I haven’t seen her in 4 years. So I figured I’d try to use the Power of the Blog to see if anyone can help. E-mail me (paul at paulryburn dot com) if you can.

And that’s the mid-vacation update… the bars open in less than an hour, guess I better shower and get dressed.