LLoyd Floor Mats for any Occasion

One of my car / truck “upgrades” is usually a set of floor mats. It’s become like a tradition. I really like the mats from Lloyd. Good fit, nice quality, no problems- ever.
The floor mats included with the Z06 were undersized, low-pile and kind of sad. I ordered a set of branded front mats from yatesperformance (eBay) and had them within a week.

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What a difference! The fit and color match on these mats is great (they are “Jet Black”). I decided to order the cargo mat as well as I’m hoping it will diminish the road noise from the back a little (just a little). I used the “best offer” feature on eBay and saved about $20 off the seller’s regular price on each purchase  If you’re looking for floor mats Lloyd Mats makes some of the best.

Update 2/6/2015: I put int he rear cargo mat. It’s not compatible with the front cargo shade. Slits would have to be cut into the mat which I will do at some point. It does help a little with the cabin noise, but it’s not a significant reduction.

Moving On

I’m not sure when I’ll get around to posting a “July” update (or even an “August” update for that matter). July was the busiest month yet and I’m still in the process of recovering from everything (although the recovery is going poorly since August is giving July a run for its money…). How can there be so much freaking stuff?

I did want to make a quick post about one thing though:

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Fran took the the kids and went to visit her family for a few weeks and that was an ideal opportunity to get the house in shape and put it up for sale. After being listed it was sold in less than two weeks!

Over the course of the ten days following the sale we moved into a rental in Traverse Mountain. We’ll be in that location until the end of September. Hopefully our new house will be done by then… if not I don’t know what we’ll do. Move again? You think I’m grumpy now…

Things on Ivory’s end are progressing more slowly than I’d hoped (albeit at the rate I expected). One of the big hang-ups is the cabinetry. Ivory is using a new company and the latest update we got is that closing has been pushed back three weeks because the cabinets won’t be ready on time (we have been very unimpressed with this new cabinet company). Overall the building experience with Ivory Homes has been okay. I’ll do a write-up at some point in the future.

I will miss our old house- it was in a great spot, we had great neighbors, and the home never gave us any trouble (outside the “normal” scope). I expect I have already idealized things in my memory.

Side note: Originally we were considering selling the home ourselves but a friend who’s a real estate agent convinced us to let him sell the home. I’d definitely recommend an agent for the additional exposure (i.e. an MLS listing) and convenience (you don’t have to deal with the hassle of scheduling showings, paperwork or negotiating the actual deal). If you need someone to sell your home contact Darin Southam.

 

2014 Razer Blade Review

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As I said my last Blade post, my initial experience with Razer was…perplexing. After navigating  through an impossible checkout system I was informed that I’d actually failed to place an order. Nevertheless, and without further action, the Blade arrived and, being the inquisitive kind of guy that I am, I tried it out. Amidst falling in love with the quality, design and power I realized that the computer screen had a dew dead pixels. Razer customer service was very responsive and the computer was quickly sent back to them via a 2-Day FedEx label they provided,

Turn around was quick. Monday was a holiday so my computer shipped from Razer on Tuesday and I had it back in my hands Thursday. They ended up shipping me a brand new laptop. In some ways it was too bad- I’d customized a lot of settings and had installed quite a few applications on my original unit. However, the new laptop they sent seems superior in a number of ways and there were zero dead pixels!

Razer's initial presentation is exceptional.

Razer’s initial presentation is exceptional.

Quickly I’ll go though the pros and cons of the 2014 Razer Blade:

Pros:

• The QHD+ touchscreen is gorgeous! I love not being able to actually see the pixels. I was a little worried about the glossy finish but I’m sold at this point. Not to mention gloss is much better suited to a touch screen. I don’t know that I’ll use the touchscreen but it’s nice to have it just in case.
• Amazing build quality and aesthetics. The laptop just feels… right.
• The keyboard is second to none- no sponginess and the illumination doesn’t really bleed out from between the keys. The trackpad is super responsive and also feels nice.
• The sound is excellent. The speaker placement is ideal and the quality and volume levels exceeded my expectations.
• No bloatware on board. That’s always a wonderful treat.
• The Razer is whisper quiet. Sure you can hear the fans when you play something demanding, but even at their top speed they aren’t bothersome.

Cons:
• A little surprised that there isn’t a network jack. And the omission of an SSD card reader is also perplexing. Yes, you can buy USB adapter for the missing items but I feel like they should have been integrated to begin with.
•  Expensive. A lot of what you’re paying for is the compact design. For the same price you could get a much more powerful, albeit much larger, laptop.

Not good but not really bad…
• The black aluminum case retains finger prints / smudges. I’m sure there’s a simple way to clear things, but I haven’t found it yet.
• The trackpad buttons are a little spongey. This is surprising given the quality of the actual trackpad. Interestingly I much prefer the buttons on my replacement Blade- they seem to have a much better feel and lack the “boink” noise of the others.
• You can’t change color on keyboard.  It could be nice to alter the colors, but the green does look great.
• Some programs (i.e. Chrome) really don’t really support the higher resolution screen. That’s not a Blade issue, per se, but it is a consequence of the higher res screen.
• With the only vents on the bottom and using the case act as a heatsink the Blade can get hot when doing serious gaming. Under normal use the unit temp is comfortable. I was surprised at how much cooler my replacement Blade runs. The returned model got extremely hot to the touch under fairly light loads, but my new Blade has remained comfortable thus far no matter what I’m doing (excluding intensive benchmarking / gaming).

Performance on my games seems excellent. The Cloudgate 3D Mark results for the Razor Blade was about 15,600. For the sake of comparison the Cloudgate score on my Pulse 17 was in the 12,600. And if you’re interested: Maingear Pulse 17 laptop review.

I think Razer is really getting close. I would like to see the next Blade with the addition of an SSD reader, a network jack, customizable keyboard colors, 16GB ram, TB SSD and a 15″ screen in same chassis. Because… why not? But all things considered the 2014 Blade is a phenomenal computer with nearly everything going for it. I would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a compact gaming computer.

UPDATE: I purchased a 2015 Razer Blade (same model but with an upgraded graphics chip), Here are a few 3DMARK test scores from the newer version of the Blade.

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Hughes Family: January 2014

I’ve decided to start blogging once a month about family stuff. Somehow the pressure to do even two posts per month started getting to me last year. January was a pretty low-key month and there wasn’t a ton going on (I confess it’s nice to have a break).

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This is technically work stuff… but I don’t want to write a work-related post about it. Seven of us from BHQ headed down to Las Vegas for the annual SHOT show. It’s always fun (and a lot of work) to visit with some of our vendors and look for new products. And it’s a blast to try out new restaurants around town. My favorite this time was an all you can eat sushi place called Umiya (Mastro’s gets “honorable mention”). Always fun to visit Vegas.

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The fam has been honing their skiing skills this January. Mike and Claire have it pretty much figured out and Gabe is still taking lessons, but well on his way! I stay home with Chloe for now, but come next year I think we’ll all be able to hit the slopes.

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Extended family dinners occur monthly, but they are always filled with intellectual stimulation and memorable anecdotes. This month, as part of our family book club, we discussed George Orwell’s “1984.”
I’m pleased to report that our kids have started helping out around the house (Fran made them). It’s great to watch them set and clear the table and then wash and load the dishes. Thanks kids- you have finally made me proud. 

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Fran and I went to see “Kiss and Tell” and the Hale Center Theater. If there’s one thing I like as much as movies it’s plays. Jim’s mom, Laura-Beth, had a role in this production so there was a great excuse to go see it. The play was excellent and quite funny.

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And I’ll leave all of you with this random piece of land. Where could it be? What is is? Everyone loves a good mystery. 

Hughes Family: December 21, 2013 – December 31, 2013

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It’s funny how much delight frozen water brings to kids. I guess it’s also funny how much I loved snow as as kid and how much I dislike it as an adult. Next time it snows I’m going to go out and build an igloo with my kids.

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We had our annual Christmas Eve dinner with Fran’s family. Per tradition there was amazing food and log shaped desserts (bûche de Noël). After dinner we had a nice Christmas program and sang holiday songs. If I didn’t have such chronic anthropophobia I’m pretty sure these kinds of parties would be awesome 🙂

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This year we decided to open a few gifts on Christmas Eve. That was a tradition in my family (well… we opened all of them on Christmas Eve). I have proposed it numerous times but was always met with rejection (bordering on outrage) so I was really surprised that Fran wanted to do it year with no prompting on my part. We settled on opening presents from extended family members and it was quite fun.

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We try to make Christmas low key but special. We start off with some croissants, hot chocolate and patience (the only thing I want for Christmas is to sleep in).

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We take turns opening presents and then we spend the afternoon playing with them.

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We go to my parent’s house for Christmas Day dinner. Prime rib roast and green bean casserole! After dinner we hung out for a bit and bask in the holiday glow (or what’s left of it).

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After hearing how great it was over and over we decided to go see Frozen. The whole family doesn’t usually go out together for movies but Chloe is finally old enough that she mostly sits though movies now. All she needs is a giant bucket of popcorn.

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On New Year’s Eve everyone was hard at work helping mom makes cookies and brownies for the party (from what I gathered Claire was the only one who was actually helpful).

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Before the party we ate dinner with the Browns (and Browns). The only thing that could satisfy this hungry group was a Chinese buffet!

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And then we partied like it was 2013. We had a few friends over, played a new game, ate ice cream (cookies and brownies too), took a trip down memory lane and enthusiastically ushered in 2014 at midnight. All in all a fun day!

And with a mighty “thud” the year was over. Cam congratulated himself on surviving 2013 and promised everyone that he would “accomplish miracles” in the coming year. He smirked as he said it knowing his only real goal was to read four book and exercise twice. The books were a good bet.

Hughes Family: October 1, 2013 – October 15, 2013

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Every morning Fran makes a veggie juice concoction and each morning I drink it. I think it actually might help! I just want to publicly thank her for taking good care of me. Biggest Looser is starting back up today and I’m pretty sure that will help jump start my health efforts.

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Chloe turned two this past week! We don’t have giant parties for the little ones (we wait until they ask), but she still got a cake and some fun presents. Below is a video of her blowing out her birthday candles. Do you think she knows what’s going on?

Mike is about done with football for the year. He’s spent most of his time as a lineman (usually offensive tackle). His coach says he’s come a long way and he’s doing a great job. Here’s a video from one of his last games (he’s number 50):

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For FHE we went and picked out some pumpkins (I think Macey’s is a good place to get them). This year they had some decorative pumpkins which piqued the interest of the kids. Part of me likes carving pumpkins (possibly next week) but another part of me wants to scream and throw them at people I hate.

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Last weekend we took a quick trip to Moab for some biking and sightseeing.  We started our trip by discovering we had the wrong size hitch for our bike trailer which put us an hour behind schedule (and the bad weather didn’t either).  This was our first trip in the Yukon and the kids were pretty much glued to the TVs. Fran navigated us up I-15 to extend the road trip since the ride was so wonderful (this is sarcasm).

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We opted not to rough it this time around and stayed at the Aarchway Inn. The room was spacious and well maintained (three queen beds!). The hotel property was also very nice and included a giant playground, a parkour course, picnic areas and lots of open space (some mud too… the kids loved it).

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Hotel highlights: Mercilessly raiding the vending machines, hotel breakfasts and a splendid dip the pool.

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Biking didn’t go quite as we’d hoped. Getting the bikes & helmets adjusted took more time than we expected. And then only about 1/4 mile into our trip disaster struck. We hit a cluster of thorns that ended up popping seven of our tires. We were able to temprarily fix most of the tires and managed to make it another few miles down the path (which was beautiful) but ultimatley we had to cut our biking excursion short. I guess we’ll have to go back to bike another time.

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On the way up to Moab I requested that we try to find good (tried and true) food to eat. Fran assured me that we would be relying on Trip Adviser and that I was in good hands. Our first day in Moab Fran said we were going to eat at the Mandarin Szechuan buffet. Once we had tried the food it was clear something was very wrong- it ranks among the worst buffets I have ever tried. Fran confessed that she hadn’t checked Trip Adviser. She had seen the Asian buffet, got excited and made an “emotional decision”.  It was bad food, but I have to say I think my wife is pretty cute!
Our next meal was at Zax (4/5 starts on Trip Adviser). It was better than Szechuan, but over all the mean was only so-so (really dry pizza). I guess you can’t necessarily trust reviews either. 
What say ye Moab travelers- where should be eat next time?

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On the way back from Moab we decided to trick the kids and made a detour to Dead Horse Point. Man, what a view! I found a good place to hang off a “cliff” for the obligatory “I’m about to die!” picture. If this had been real I’m pretty sure my kids would have stepped on my hands.

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A lovely family picture.

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And a lovey panoramic view from the edge of Dead Horse Point. If you haven’t been here before it’s worth the quick detour.

Arches opened back up while we were in Moab. It would have been fun to do take a quick drive though the park, but the kids weren’t up for it. All in all I think we came away with a lot of good memories of trip that didn’t go quite right. Next time will be better.

Hughes Family: August 2, 2013 – August 20, 2013

Oh man- these past few weeks have intense. Personally intense, that is to say. I’ve been handling a lot of stuff. I am tired…

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We started off the month by breaking our bed. I wish I could say that we were doing something exciting (yeah, you know what I mean) but the fact is it just collapsed when I hopped onto it. You can make fat jokes, but we’ve had this frame for a looooong time and it had developed some cracks where the wood joints are. Later that night Mike broke Claire’s bed while he was jumping on it. Two beds, one night. Long story short- most of us are sleeping with our beds on the floor for now. It’s actually kind of nice…

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I spent some time fixing the dent in my Camaro fender. This was my first foray into auto body work. I bought the replacement part, had them paint to match and spent an afternoon fitting it in. Even though there was a small scrape on the front fender I opted to just touch it up instead of replacing the entire bumper. My insurance deductible is $700 and this cost me less than half. Overall I have to say I think I did an excellent job!

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The kids enjoyed their last few days of summer by going to… somewhere with water. I’m not really sure where this is. Judging by the Astro Turf I’d say it was Seven Peaks. They appear to be trapped in some torso bubble with handles.
In honor of the summer’s end we built a massive fort in the living room. This required nearly all the couch cushions, pillows and blankets we could find. We used two fans for ventilation. The kids all slept inside the night we built it and it survived nearly three days!

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Each Sunday one of the kids “helps” Fran cook dinner. This is Mike making some Thai soup. Fran said he actually got into it and did a great job. I had some soup and I can vouch for it’s yuminess. I feel like this picture needs a caption: “You want me to help? Okay, but I’m putting in some booze.”
And this is the children floating around at Libery Land. Or Trafalga North… or whatever it’s called now. Tip: Little kids (i.e. Chloe) can’t do anything at the park. Live and learn.

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Mike had his first football game. He looks so tough (and cute) in this football uniform. He’s a little apathetic at times, but he’s a good blocker and made a great tackle during one of the plays.
School started (tee hee!) and our oldest three are now in school all day (bwah ha ha!). So far they all seem to be enjoying their new classes. It’s crazy how fast they all grow up.

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One of the things that’s kept me super busy is trying to sell my cars. Maintaining / fixing everything has been a huge source of stress for me so I decided it was time to purge. Right now I’m in limbo- I’m really sad to see these cars go, but I’m hoping when the dust settles I can regain some sense of control.
Ode to the truck: You never let me down. You were always there for me. We moved little things, we moved big things and every time you moved me. Thank you old friend. 
Ode to the Camaro: You looked great, you drove well. A little slow, a little hard to handle, but that’s just your nature. We had some good drives and you will be missed.

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This one pains me more than the others. This is, in my opinion, is the sexiest car I have ever seen, let alone owned. Each time someone shows interest I want to cancel the auction, tell them it’s not available, tell them to go away. But I know what I have to do…
And the Vette… Still at RaceCo. I need to get it running. It’s the one car I might keep. But even that’s in the air right now. In nothing there is freedom. Do I sound crazy? Maybe I am.

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I don’t see a good segue into the fact that Fran got a Yukon. The kids are old enough now that we thought maybe they could handle something a little nicer than our minivan (jury’s still out). We actually went up to Idaho to get this beauty (sorry we didn’t have time to vist Erin!). This is a pretty sweet ride. You ever had your butt cooled by your seat? No? Come on over.

I’ve spent a few evenings hanging out w/ the guys too – The Jorgensens are back in town for August so we have gotten together with Andrew a couple of times. Just like the good old days. Somehow we ended up watching Catwoman the other night. It hurt us all pretty badly, but the bond between survivors of events like these is strong.

 

Hughes Family: July 3, 2013 – July 8, 2013

This is kind of a bonus installment. There’s a lot going on right now and I didn’t want to fall too far behind.

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Summer. Lots of trips. Lots of food. Summer. When a young boy’s fancy turns to mud. Summer. Lazy walks along dusty roads and under leafy canopies.

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Yet another trip for Fran and the kids. They found this spiffy creek and spent a good part of the day playing in it (as far as I know).

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Fran took Gabe & Chloe on a walk through the gardens at Thanksgiving Point. I have to admit those are some pretty gardens!

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The garden trip was actually a clever cover for Fran’s real mission – securing seats at the outdoor concert in the gardens. It was a semi-delightful evening as we listened to the orchestra, fed hungry children, restrained unruly ones and prevented massive emotional meltdowns. After the concert we were treated to a lovely display of aerial fireworks in the gardens.

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And speaking of fireworks- this year I decided to go a little bigger. I got my own pile of aerial fireworks and the big Costco box. The kids were pretty excited. Chloe had no idea what she was in for…

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We decided to hold the pyrotechnics in the front of the house this year. Don’t we look patriotic! I don’t think kids under 16 are supposed to light fireworks. But I also don’t believe that anyone in American (North or South) respects that rule.
The ground fireworks are fun enough, but after seeing a dozen of so sparkle showers it was time for something new. The aerials were a ton of fun – they are loud and visually stunning. You hardly even think about how you’re basically lightning money on fire. As we lit of our Chinese made fireworks to celebrate America’s independence we relished in the beautiful irony.

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Our neighbors put on some amazing shows as well (a few even made our offering to the fire god seem paltry). Chloe didn’t seem as enamored with the fireworks at the others even looking afraid some of the time. I’m sure she’ll come around.
And then it was all over and our streets were littered with the remains of the day…

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I took the boys to see Despicable Me 2. I think they will make good movie buddies in the near future.

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Meanwhile Fran and Claire went to see the Sound of Music at the Scera theater. They said is was very good (except that they got rained on a bit).

Eh, but who am I kidding. Just by virtue of not being current I’m already “behind.” I’m like a blog caboose.