The Rise T Shirt

If you don’t want to read this, you can just buy The Rise T-Shirt Here.

So, as you may know, the University of Colorado Buffaloes are my favorite football team. I like to say that, my internal organs are Orange and Blue (Broncos), but I bleed Back and Gold (Buffs).

Anyways, as a 40-year old man who has been a lifelong Buffs fan, you can imagine that I own tons of t-shirts, hats, hoodies, and the like, all with various versions of Ralphie or the interlocking CU on them. I love them all, and wear them a lot.

That being said, it would be nice to have something fresh every once and a while.

The latest promotional video from the folks at CU uses a phrase that one of the coaches has been saying, “The Rise.”

The idea is that the Buffs, a once, borderline great team, laid low by some team issues, and a string of mediocre, at best, coaches is finally, maybe, potentially, on the verge of rising back to its former glory, hence — The Rise.

Now, to me, this would make an awesome t-shirt to add to my collection. You can do a bunch of versions, including one with the phrase over or under the beloved (and very trademarked) CU Buffalo Logo. Even better, might be a subtle version with something CU on the back, or maybe hidden in the design of the words The Rise.

But, alas, no.

The CU licensing team has always seemed a bit underwhelming to me. I see licensed EVERYTHING for Nebraska and Florida and stuff. I know part of that is demand, but I also frequently see things that come with numerous college football logos, including schools smaller, and less in demand, than the Buffs, but no CU version. I can only assume our licensing guys are either too difficult to work with, or they want too much money. Either way, bummer for Buffs fans looking for something beyond the basics.

So, it should come as no surprise that despite a pretty solid online search, I cannot find a The Rise t-shirt anywhere.

Sigh.

I Made a The Rise Shirt

Now, I’m a professional freelance writer, and web developer.  T shirts, design, and graphics aren’t really my thing, but any web developer worth his salt has a least a basic bag of image tricks and tools up his sleeve. I’m no different.

A quick search shows that Zazzle lets you make custom t shirts where all you have to do it upload an image, then they print the shirt.

the rise t-shirt

Perfect.

So I got a The Rise image. Unforuntately, that left a kind of lame looking box around the words “The Rise.” For my The Rise shirt, I wanted it to look integrated into the t-shirt itself. I know that on webpages to make that happen, you need a gif or png with a transparent, or clear background. I also know one or two tools that will take a regular jpg and turn it into a transparent background one for you.

Upload, click, save… and voila! Transparent gif.

Long story short. I can now get (a relatively pricey, but fully custom, so what are you going to do) order The Rise t shirt. You can too, if you want. Apparently, I have a “store” now so that I can let friends order the shirt if they want one. I think I get a buck or two if you buy it, not that I’m in it for the money. I don’t think I can earn near as much with shirts as with freelancing, but hey, why not.

Let me know what you think, or if you have any suggestions. Don’t get crazy, like I said, this isn’t what I do, so my skills are limited.

Anyway, this should hold me over until the Buffs get around to making an official The Rise shirt. While they’re at it, if I could get a Shoulder to Shoulder shirt, and a W.T.T.F shirt, that would be awesome.

 

Radon Testing Worries

A few months ago, someone went to my wife’s office and spoke about radon and having your home tested for radon. As it turns out, in Colorado, higher levels of radon are common because of the composition of the soil. Still, it never was very high on my list.

However, my wife got a coupon for a free radon test kit, and she mailed away for it, set it up, and mailed it back in. I expected the results to come back something along the lines of, “Not even close. Frankly, you are silly to even be worrying about it.”

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Radon Test Results Denver Colorado

That is not what happened. Instead, the test results for our Denver, Colorado home came back with a radon level of 3.8. (The units are picograms per liter, I believe, but that isn’t really important.) At 4.0, the EPA recommends you “take action” to mitigate the radon in your home.

However, everyone says you should do a retest before you do anything because one result isn’t enough to go on.

It turns out that my wife’s company also has an electronic radon meter she can check out based on our concerning result. It’s sitting two feet away from me on a cluttered shelf right behind where I sit every day.

Right now, it reads 5.0.

radon tester reads too high
Well, that’s not good. 4.0 is considered “take action” level.

Yes, I’m freaking out a little bit.

Technically, you are supposed to test for 48 hours before drawing any conclusions, but here is the thing. The other test said 3.8 and was in a different part of the basement. The number on this tester has only gone up since I put it in.

Even worse, the “best” time to test for radon is in January when you keep your home all closed up for winter time, but it is now May, and windows and doors have been open not that long ago. In other words, I think this number is only going to get worse.

Radon Effects

At certain levels (thankfully, higher than 5.0) living in a home with Radon is the equivalent of smoking a pack a day. For smokers, radon is even more of a problem, resulting in a substantial increase in potential mortality from lung cancer.

The good news is that the effects are not an instant thing and build up over time.

The bad news is that I’ve lived in this house for over 10 years. My home office for my freelance writing business is in the basement, where the radon is the highest. I’ve basically been sitting in too high of radon levels for a decade.

Fix Radon Levels Mitigation Denver, Colorado

It apparently isn’t a huge deal to “fix” the radon in your home. The way radon gets in, in the first place is that the air pressure in your home is lower than the air pressure in the ground. So, it creates sort of a vacuum effect that pulls the radon (and other harmless gasses) into your house.

Fixing a radon problem is called “radon mitigation” and while there are several different methods to mitigate radon, they all basically come down to installing some pipes and a fan to create a different vacuum and pull the radon out into a vent that goes into the air. (Apparently, radon vents into the air from the soil all of the time, the concentrations are just so low that they don’t matter.)

It isn’t as easy as just putting in some sort of bath fan, however. So, you have to call someone, which means you have to find someone. There seems to be a handful of certified radon mitigation companies in the Denver area, so that part is O.K.

Radon mitigation costs between $800 and $1200 for an average radon vent system. That’s not cheap, but I can think of a lot more expensive crap that can happen to a house. (Our neighbors had to rerun their water supply line from the street into their house. That costs like $10,000!) But, I’m not really all that excited about have some construction guys come do stuff to my house.

Plus, I have an old 1920s house that already has a bunch of weird crap to it. When we replaced our water heater, I had to buy a more expensive, specialized direct vent, water heater, because their isn’t enough room in the chimney to vent it out, or something. Instead, I have a 4-in pipe sticking out of my brick wall in the back. I worry it will take something equally lame to do this work.

Of course, I’m not going to sit here and get lung cancer (assuming it’s not already too late), plus I’ve got a family to think about, so I’ll have it done sooner rather than later.

I’m solidly in my 40s now, I don’t need crap showing up that has to do with mortality.

*Whining over*

Go check out my Acorns review to make me feel better 🙂

Where To Get Radon Information

If you are worried about radon in your home, the State of Colorado offers some radon information on its website.

Don’t Check Out Writer’s Digest from the Library

I’m a freelance writer professionally. Like most writers, I have a novel or two kicking around in my brain as well. Someday, I’ll get around to writing them down (so say we all).

So, from time to time, I like to read writer stuff. Sometimes, I buy how to write books. Sometimes I read websites. Sometimes, I check out Writer’s Digest from the library.

I’m here today to recommend that you do not check out Writer’s Digest from your library. You see, the library here in Denver is really, really, cool and I check out stuff from them all the time. They let you renew your books online, and check what is due online, and I like doing stuff online. So, win!

If you ever do want to go to the library, it’s quiet and nobody bothers you because you really aren’t supposed to talk in the library. Plus, the main branch in Downtown Denver is a really cool looking building inside and out.

They even let you put books on hold online, which is particularly awesome because they let you choose where to pick them up, so instead of driving around to all the different branches of the Denver Public Library to get the stuff you want to read, they bring them to your own, nearby library, and put them alphabetically on the hold shelf.

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If you are particularly lazy, you can even put books on hold from your own library, which means a librarian will find the book for you, and put it on the hold shelf so you don’t have to go find it yourself.

All of this brings me to two things you need to know to understand why you should never check Writer’s Digest out from the library.

First, I’m not the neatest, or most organized guy on the planet. Generally, this doesn’t really hurt me, because I tend to know which pile something is in, or at least which pile to start looking in. If it isn’t in the first two or three piles I look in, then I go into, “It’s around here somewhere” mode and just check all the piles.

The second thing you need to know is that Writer’s Digest is close enough to being an 8 1/2″ x 11″ sort of size that your mind will look for it as such, and also that it is usually really thin.

writers digest is thin
Why are you so THIN?!

This results in you being unable to actually see the Writer’s Digest, even when you are looking right at the pile it is in. So, you walk around your house over and over again looking at piles and not seeing it, which the library keeps sending you emails saying that it is due back soon until it is finally overdue, and you start panicking.

Now, you actually start panicking three days AFTER it is due, because the library doesn’t start charging you fines until after a three day grace period.

What am I doing today?

Well, you see, the Writer’s Digest I checked out from the library was due three days ago, and I know, “It’s around here somewhere.”

Buying First MacBook Laptop

Since my first computer, I’ve had PCs with Windows. For decades, in my mind the computer hierarchy went, Unix, and big computers for databases, Windows servers and PCs for everything else, and Macs for graphic designers, students, and adults not smart enough to run a PC.

That was probably never very true, but suffice to say that I’ve never owned an Apple computer in my life. I did have an iPod, and eventually, I got an iPad, but the computers are all PCs.

Recently, not having an Apple system is causing bumps in the road with my developer profession. Making things like apps for the Apple AppStore all but require a Mac of some sort. This isn’t a “can” thing, it’s a “copyright” or not allowed thing by Apple who won’t let others play in their sandbox. It’s fair. Microsoft pulled a lot of crap in its day.

Also, there are plenty of cool developer tools or other things that are Apple only. I’m tired of being shut out.

The reality is that my freelance developer and writing business are doing just fine, and my family savings and investments are doing well as well. However, $1,500 sounds like a lot for a computer I’m not familiar with.

bought macbook pro

But, today, with encouragement from the wife, I’m pulling the trigger. I know that new MacBook’s are expected to be announced next week, but I don’t necessarily need the latest and greatest, and I don’t want to wait for months for them to become officially available, and then another month for them to actually be available to people who didn’t pre-order months in advance or camp out outside the store. So, I’m ordering mine now. I suppose I can return it if absolutely necessary.

I went with buying it from B&H Photo. I know them from buying camera equipment, so it isn’t like I’m buying from some fly-by-night company I’ve never heard of. For whatever reason, they have them for $100 off of list price, which makes them the cheapest I’ve seen from someone I trust enough to place a $1,500 order with. Plus, they don’t have any presence in Colorado, so I can save about $100 in sales tax.

After a lot of online research and talking to developer friends I know that already have Macs, I’m going with the MacPro 13″ with 8 GB of RAM and the 256 GB hard drive.

I’ve been told that an upgraded MacBook Air works fine for most developers, but by the time you do the upgrades, you are in MacBook Pro pricing land. I’ve also been told that the 8 GB is the minimum you want, and that 128 GB is a bit tight for drive space, so the 8GB with 256 GB seems like the minimum I should buy for my purposes.

I’m buying the AppleCare, because everyone seems to, and because for the first time in many years, I won’t be able to fix it myself, partly because I’m not an expert in Apple hardware, and partly because Apple isn’t known for being all that friendly to the get-in-there-and-do-it-yourself community.

Getting ready to buy, here are the steps I ended up following:

  1. Check B&H Photo to see if price still the same.
  2. Check Slickdeals, GottaDeal, and DealNews to make sure there isn’t some super Mac sale that I’m missing.
  3. Realize that searching deal websites for “mac” also brings up Macy’s deals. Too bad I don’t need any new bras today 🙂
  4. Talk myself out of worrying about the “new” MacBooks that may be coming out on March 24th. There is probably a way to return this if it’s really that amazing.
  5. Research AppleCare. Do I really need it, and is it worth $229?
  6. Realize that it says $249 on the Apple website to buy AppleCare. I guess I’ll do it through B&H.
  7. Swallow hard. Enter details.
  8. Go clean basement office to calm down.

And, that’s that. Next week, I’ll own a MacBook Pro. Who knows, maybe it will change my life 🙂

 

Google Fi and Nexus 5x Coming Soon

Here is the deal. I really don’t like my options when it comes to cell phones, just like I really didn’t like my options when it came to cable TV and internet providers. Like back then, when I tried cutting the cord, I’m trying out something new for the cell phone service now, too.

Google Fi

Google Fi, if you haven’t heard of it, is an interesting new cellular phone service from Google. Unlike Google Fiber, where Google is actually going out and building it’s own networks, Google is leasing space on wireless networks. To be specific, Google has a deal with T-Mobile and Sprint to use their wireless networks. The idea is that the phone picks whichever one has the better signal wherever you are and uses that.

In theory, this is brilliant. I don’t know anyone actually using the service, so I can’t say, yet, how it works in reality.

What pushed me over the edge was the change in how cell phones are sold these days. Back in the day (not that long ago really) you paid a semi-reasonable amount for a cell phone in exchange for a two-year contract. If you didn’t stay two years, you had to pay a big termination fee. In one way, this was terrible, because cell phone companies abused it as a way to not give you decent customer service. In another, it was great because you got what is essentially, a very expensive device for a cheap(ish) price.

nexus 5x google fi

The last phones I purchased for me and my wife were Samsung Galaxy S4 which we got for $199 each, but it was a buy one, get one free, so we paid $200 for two good phones. (The S5 had just come out, or was just coming out, so that’s why we got a deal.)

I was hoping to get something similar but seemed to have trouble. I have (had) a special offer with Sprint that gave me a really great deal on unlimited data. But, it turns out I don’t use too much, and my wife uses even less. I do a lot of stuff on WiFi when I’m home, so there just isn’t that much data.

Since I’m not using that much data, then I’m not necessarily getting that good of a deal. This is where the upgrade thing starts to sting.

Because my phone has a bit of the screen missing from too many drops (I don’t have the insurance and even if I did, there is a $150 deductible) I don’t qualify for any of those “We’ll pay you to switch” offers. They all require a working (read: non-cracked) phone. Mine is worth about $21 in trade-in.

That means that in order to get a new phone I either have to pay approximately $20 to $30 per month per phone, or pay $199 each for two phones. That means I can either pay and extra $50 per month –PASS!– or I can spend $400 on cell phones.

I get it. That’ what it costs, but I don’t have to like it.

Enter Google Fi.

Nexus 5x

I happened to look today, which completely changed the answers from when I looked before. It turns out that Google will also allow me to pay per month, but the phone itself, the Nexus 5x was just given a $150 price cut by Google if you sign up for Google Fi.

Considering the only thing I really do with my phone is some texting, some apps, and only occasionally calling, the only feature I really care about is the camera. And, it turns out the Nexus 5x has a pretty good one.

And, remember how I don’t use that much data?

It turns out I usually use less than 2 GB per month. Long story short, I can get my service for $20 (base) + $20 (2 GB of data) + $10.38 (Nexus 5x 32 GB payment) for a grand total of $50.38, plus some taxes and fees, I would guess.

That’s about what I pay now.

In other words, my new phone is free-ish.

Even better, Google doesn’t gouge you as much on insurance. On Sprint, coverage is $11 per month. On top of that, to use the coverage, you have to pay $150 deductible. Over the course of two years, that’s basically like paying for a second phone if you have to use the coverage. What’s the point?

With Google Fi, the coverage is just $5 per month, and the deductible to replace a Nexus 5x is just $69. That sounds pretty reasonable.

So far, I’m happy. I like this rate. I like the price for this phone. I like how it doesn’t come with a two-year contract, and how I don’t have to pay any money out of pocket, which means I’ve got more dough for that New York trip later this month.

All in all, so far, this is a win – win.

I hope it works out better than ditching cable did for us.