July Goings Ons… ings.

I don’t generally blog about family stuff (it’s on Fran’s blog, remember?) but I did a couple of fun things with the family this month that I thought posterity would be interested in so I have included them.

Fourth of July Weekend

Each year we go to BYU campus and sit and watch the fireworks. We’ve gone to the Stadium of Fire before, but we decided we like watching the free fireworks more than being inside.  We have a fun little tradition these days. We actually rent a hotel room (this year we hit Best Western) and go live it up up in the afternoon (relaxing, pool, some TV, whatever). Then we go eat dinner while everyone else scrambles to get inside the stadium. You can eat anywhere, no wait. We went to Saigon Cafe this year- love that place.  Around 9:30 we walk over to BYU and find a spot where we can see the fireworks. The show usually starts around 10:15. This year it seemed extra awesome. The kids are old enough that they can almost make it though the show now without crying. Almost.

And then over the next few days we lit off fireworks at home. The kids love the smoke bombs, snakes, crackle balls and snap pops so I loaded up on extra boxes at WalMart (they actually have an okay selection of fireworks). My family came over for a Fourth of July BBQ (hot dogs, hamburgers and lots of chips & dip). Later that night we lit off our own fireworks. It was actually raining, so we sat under our gazebo and lit them on the concrete pad in our backyard. It worked really well and we had a fun time. The kids are all big enough that they they want to take turns lightning thing (well, to clarify – they all want to light everything, but we make them take turns).

Side Note: Aerial fireworks are now legal in Utah. I didn’t get any myself (it is my cheapness? I don’t know), but we got to enjoy them anyway (many neighbors invested). They are awesome.

New Trampoline

Our old trampoline had been mangled, cut, repaired, slashed, and the springs died sometime last year. It served us well for over five years, but it was time for a new one. Luckily, I just happened to have one at my work and luckily I had to remove it because we needed the space.

I brought it home over the Fourth of July weekend and finally got a chance to set it up a few days ago. Our trampoline hole is in pretty bad shape, but we cleaned it out, rearranged the rocks, pounded in some rebar and then put the new trampoline mat, springs and pads on the old frame (there was no way it was coming out and it’s still in good shape). What a difference a new trampoline makes! I played with the kids for a couple of hours and then spent the next few days in serious old man pain. 

Side Note: I highly recommend Regal Trampolines. Their trampolines really are top quality and have superior components. The junk you get at places like Toys R Us or Walmart just doesn’t compare.

Herman’s Hermits Concert

Last weekend we went to see Herman’s Hermits at the Sandy Amphitheater. My Dad has a longstanding love for 60’s bands, (i.e. Turtles, Paul Revere and the Raiders, etc) and he graciously extended the invitation to see Herman (who’s real name is Peter Noone) with him. He prepared the kids by having them listed so some of the Hermits greatest hits (Henry the Eighth, There’s a Hush, Mrs. Brown, You’ve got a Lovely Daughter and the like). They were pretty exited to see “Herman.” My Dad scored us some seats in the first section of the lawnchairs. They were right in the center, they were comfortable, and we had a great view.

The show was really good. Peter is 63 this year but he’s energetic and very entertaining.  The Hermit’s songs have a timeless quality (I grew up listening to them) and I really enjoyed myself. The crowd consisted of mostly people Peter’s age, but there were a fair number of younger fans as well (I think I can count my kids as “fans” now too).  Hopefully we get a chance to see another concert in the near future. Thanks Dad!

Moving Stuff

We’ve also done a fair amount of “terraforming” at our house. Besides my garage project (see it @ utahcorvette), we spent a good deal of time rearranging our basement. We moved the video games out of the rec room* and  into the basement family room. Stuffed into a corner by the pool table our rec room gaming center  was awkward and very cramped (we had to sit in folding chairs). Our new setup is neat, comfortable (we have a couch to sit on now) and  feels spacious. Check out the before & after pics below and click here if you want to see the new set up in more detail. I love moving stuff around!

I keep reading online articles about people who saved thousands of dollars a year by not doing things. “We saved $3,000 this year! We were going to take a vacation, but we didn’t!” or “We saved $1500 this year by not repainting our deck and letting our lawn grow into a jungle.” Some of it comes off as ridiculous. Well, I’m pleased to report that by this logic I saved $1370 on this game room project. I had budgeted $1450:  A flat screen TV ($1000), a new entertainment center ($300), and a Blu-Ray player ($150). Instead we used our old TV ($0), I got a wall shelf ($36), some hooks ($4), two framed posters ($40), and we decided to make due with no BluRay player ($0). Wow! By Internet standards we are super frugal.

* We’re turning that into more of a library- still a work in progress, so more on that later.

Pioneer Day

This year we celebrated Pioneer day with the Browns- both sets. The men stood around the grill doing and saying very manly things. Jim & Cindy had to take off early, but Tom & Aimee stuck around for fireworks. We exploded them dangerously close to our home to heighten the sense of pyrotechnic excitement.  I think Fran will blog about Pioneer day in more depth.

Oh, and of course the most important part of any get together: the show of bravery, stamina and general lack of common sense. With a aforementioned trampoline now place we had everything we needed. We each took a turn inverting ourselves, playing “back to front” and then “spin to win.” Ultimately we were forced to conclude that we were not as young as we used to be.

10th Anniversary!

On July 28th, 2011 Fran and I celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary! We went to Ruth’s Chris (kind of our anniversary tradition) and spent a quiet evening together. We had planned to go to Hawaii, but with a little one on the way (yes, number four is seven months along) we decided to postpone it. I got Fran an anniversary band with ten diamonds (I got something too, not to worry). I don’t get to buy Fran jewelry very often (her choice) so I think I was as excited as she was. Needless to say, Francoise is my best friend, a wonderful wife and a stellar mom and it’s been a wonderful ten years!


Other notable July events:
Rachel’s Birthday
Jason’s Birthday

Erin’s Birthday (she turned 30!)
The Jorgensens move to Seattle (Andrew needs to blog about this!)

Posted by Cam Hughes, July 30, 2011

Security Bugs (Me)

Sometimes security “features” perplex me. For example, last week I wanted to change my user name on eBay to “utahcorvette.” To my dismay eBay informed me that me user name couldn’t match my email address (my user name @gmail.com).

Supposedly the theory behind this is that eBay is protecting me from spammers. Theese terrible spammers could  add common email extensions (i.e. @gmailcom, @yahoo.com, etc) to my user name  and send me email! As much as I appreciate big brother looking out for me I wanted “utahcorvette” as my use name and I got it.

For those of you who don’t know, Gmail has a pretty cool feature: you can actually add extensions to your email address. Just use the “+” sign after your real user name and then add extra text. For example, let’s say your email was corvetteman@gmail.com and you wanted your eBay user name to be “corvetteman.” You’d simply change your email address with eBay to something like “corvetteman+ebay@gmail.com.” Gmail will ignore anything after the “+” sign (your email will be delivered normally) and eBay will let you use the user name you want (“corvettecam”) since it’s  not the same as your email now. Win!

Sometimes security measures bug me, but if you look hard you can usually find a way around them.

Posted by Cam, July 18, 2011

Zombies Ate My Brains… Sort Of.

Anyone else play Plants Vs. Zombines on the iPhone? It’s incredibly addicting!  I love tower defense games to begin with but Popcap’s version has so many extra elements and such polished gameplay that it outshines it’s rivals. If you haven’t tried it yet I’d suggest you get a copy (it’s only $2.99 in the app store).

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the game the premise is simple: Zombies are trying to eat your brains. They attack by making their way across your lawn (and later your back yard and roof) toward your home. If they get inside your house you’re done for. Luckily you have plants you can use to stop the zombies from reaching your brain. You strategically place your plants on the lawn and they attack the waves of zombies. If the zombies are successfully repelled then you win! That’s fun, in and of itself, vut Popcap has loaded Plants vs. Zombies with power ups, achievements, mini games and even a Zen garden in their latest update. Lots of replayability.

Luckily there hasn’t been a update recently so I’ve got things under control. That means I’ve completed all the achievements, won all the mini games, bought all the powerups and even completed my Zen garden. I confess that I spent a fair amount of time on the garden. I actually did a lot of Googling to see if I could find a few pointers and tips about the iPhone Zen garden, but I came up dry (in fact I didn’t find any completed iPhone Plants vs. Zombies Zen gardens). That being said, I wanted to post pics of my Zen Garden and answer the questions I had. Maybe it will help someone else.

Q. What is the Plants vs. Zombie Zen Garden?

A. One you have beaten Plants vs. Zombies  it unlocks a Zen garden where you can collect plants from the game. There is a section for regular outdoor plants, a section for mushrooms and a section for aquatic plants. The mushroom and aquatic gardens must be purchased.

Q. Where do I get plants?

A. You can occasionally buy plants from Dave (the gifts) but they also appear randomly while you play the regular game or bonus games.

Q. Which plants do I need to get?

A. Take a look at the images below to see what plants you need to complete your garden. There are extra spaces in all but the mushroom garden. If it’s not in the picture don’t expect to get it. As an aside, you can make a ton of money growing plants and them selling them to Dave (check out my moola cache!).

Q. Is there a faster way to get plants? I’m sick of waiting for the present to respawn.

A. Patience is Zen virtue. But yes, there is a faster way…

Once you have all the plants you can get you’re rewarded with the “Enlightened” achievement. I don’t know why I care, but getting this made me really happy. So there you have it- my Plants vs. Zombies Zen Garden for the iPhone. Check it out!

Posted by Cam, July 7, 2011


A Bright Idea: Flashlights

At work we’re always looking for products to expand into. One of the things that we’ve really enjoyed are Flashlights. The other day our Fenix flashlight rep asked us if we had any flashlight related domains or websites. I had casually looked, but we really didn’t have any good solid flashlight web domains. I’m a big believer in virtual real estate and moonlight as a domain buyer/seller so I made it my personal mission to get some good flashlight related domains (in case we ever decided to open an online flashlight store). I’m not going to discuss strategies for getting domains in this post, but you do need a small fortune to hunt down good domain names.

Overall I think I did pretty well. In a strange twist of fate I was actually able to procure fenixflashlight.com and fenixflashlights.com. Now they redirect to the Fenix flashlights for sale on our website (a fair amount of visitors comes from this kind of direct traffic). I also secured ledflashlights.com,  flashlightblog.com (we run knifeblog.com so it was a good match) and flashlightsforsale.com (we also own knivesforsale.com, so another good match).  On a whim – and because it cost next to nothing –  I picked up ledlightblog.com; LED technology seems to be the direction all lights are headed.

Slowly but surely our flashlight sales are picking up. We recently became an authorized dealer for Surefire and Xeno flashlights. The world of flashlights is actually pretty big – maybe rivaling the knife industry in size. Maybe.  Full speed ahead.

Resources: LED flashlights, Fenix Flashlights, Flashlight Blog, Knife Blog, Surefire Flashlights, Xeno Flashlights, flashlights for sale.

Posted by Cam, July 7, 2011

Home Again

The move is complete! Last time I wrote I had the car moved, but there was still a lot of work to do. Now I’ve got all my stuff from work (cleaning supplies, car jacks, tools, boxes, etc) moved to my garage. I confess that I was really concerned about space, but everything fits pretty well. I even have enough room to jack up the car to change wheels,  perform maintenance (i.e. oil changes) and even do washing & detailing.

One secret to cramming everything into my garage was the extra space from new shelves. Specifically the black Whalen shelves offered by Costco (about $60 each). Even though they aren’t necessarily designed for it, you can stack them three sections high pretty easily (check out my above pic, right side).  We have a 10′ ceiling in the garage and so that gives me a ton of storage space (space that would otherwise just go unused). That’s right- adding things can make more room.

I also ran power off a plug in the ceiling (the plug for the garage door opener). I used a splitter and ran two extension cords across the ceiling to two corners of the garage for my battery charger, shop vac, air compressor and anything else I might need it for. It was a really cheap/easy way to get power where I needed it.

So that’s it- the move is oficially done (the area at work where my car was is already filleed with shelves!) So far having my car at home has been really nice. I can make quick little trips without having to make a detour over to work to switch cars. Also, it’s nice to have all my car stuff in one place (specifically cleaning supplies). And I think the more limited space will keep my junk level in check and keep me from doing too many uncessary projects too. Now I just have to get things organized and finish settling in…

Posted by Cam, July 3, 2011

Will the Real Knife HQ Please Stand Up?

I recently came across a funny post about knife hq. Part of the post reads, “At first it seemed as though there was a dispute over who owned the actual knife hq. I saw a blade hq as number one when researching knife hq, but how can the blade hq be number one? As I delved further in to my research I found there really is only one knife hq… if you do the research you will find that Survival Knife HQ is the real Knife HQ and that simply put, the others don’t even come close.” 

I just though I’d take a moment to answer the poster’s question and correct his misconceptions. Quite simply put- bladehq.com is knifehq.com.  There’s no dispute over who owns knife hq or which company is the “real” knifehq. Furthermore a quick visit to both websites in question will leave you with little doubt about which one doesn’t “even come close.”

Speaking of survival knives– if you’re actually looking for some you can buy check out a knife hq owned website called survivalknives.com! We sell- wait for it- survival knives. I guess, given the evidence, you could say SurvivalKnives.com is the “real” survival knife hq.

Posted by Cam, July 3, 2011

Odd Years Bring Tears…

2011. Odd year. By odd I don’t mean strange, I mean it’s not even. Every odd year I need to get my emissions & inspection done for the state of Utah (my car is a 2007 model). No sweat, right? Ha ha…ha…

Safety inspections are no problem. Everything on my car is in tip top shape and I even have legal tinting. I will confess that I have legal tinting now because I had to rip it off two years ago for the safety test. But I digress… It’s the emissions that kill me. If you know anything about OBDII emissions testing you’ll feel for me shortly.

Emissions testing used to be done by literally measuring the emissions output from your car. However, newer cars can actually monitor their own emissions. When you go for an emissions test in Utah they just plug a computer into your OBDII port (usually located under your steering column) to see if your car passes or not. The car has a series of onboard emissions tests that it runs while you drive (checking the O2 sensor, fuel system, catalyst, misfire monitor, etc- it varies from car to car).  If your car successfully runs the tests (you can have one “incomplete” test in Utah) and your MIL (Malfunction Indicator Lamp, also called the “check engine light”) is off then you’ll pass your emissions inspection. If your car doesn’t run the tests or fails them then you have a potential problem. And a quick side note- disconnecting your battery will erase your test results! Don’t change or disconnect your battery right before an emissions test.

My emissions test was due at the end of June. Luckily I decided to take care of things at the beginning of June so I had some time. Anyone can check and see which emissions tests have run or not run. You just need an OBDII scanner tool (you can actually go to an auto parts shop like Auto Zone and they will let you use one while you’re there). I have a mini laptop with a copy of HP Tuners that I can use to see if my tests have run or not. I’d been driving around for the last six months with no problems so I was very surprised to see that every test had an “inc” (incomplete) result. It’s very unusual for the tests to remain incomplete after so long. Just to be sure I did a GM drive cycle to see if the tests would run. Nothing. I racked my brain- it had been two years since my last test when there were no issues. What was preventing the tests from running?

And then it hit me- my tune! I checked pending error codes and found a P0103 code. This particular error code has to do with a malfunctioning MAF (Mass Air Flow) sensor. However, my MIL was off. Generally error codes like was I was seeing cause the MIL to come on. If the MIL is on then generally cars won’t run their onboard emissions diagnostics. I called my car tuner, Marc,  to see if he had any insight.

Sure enough, it was the new tune that was interfering with the onboard emissions tests. Usually cars use a MAF  sensor to determine the right amount of fuel to deliver to the engine. But my MAF just wasn’t up to the task so we switched to a two bar tune using a MAP (Manifold Air Pressure) sensor instead. When you make this change you have to tell the car to ignore the MAF sensor and this throws an error code (the P0103) resulting in the MIL coming on.  But Marc had programmed the car so that when the code was thrown the MIL stayed off (even though the car thought there was a problem).  Net result: The emissions tests didn’t run and weren’t going to run with the new tune. I was going to need an “emissions tune.”

I took my car back to the Marc and he created a new tune that used the MAF sensor (so no error codes). And then it was just a matter of driving until the tests ran. Since this was a “down and dirty” tune the car runs like caca. If you load and unload the engine quickly the car tends to die (this happens when you’re turning or stopping). And there surging issues,  rough idle and jerky acceleration. Luckily it only took two drive cycles to get the emissions test to run (well, all but one; I have never seen my EVAP test run on any of the Vettes I’ve owned).

After the testes ran I got the emissions inspection done, took the emissions & safety documents to the DMV and registered the car, and then took it back to Marc to have the old tune put back on. The car is now registered again, has the old tune and I don’t have to deal with this crap for another two years! Hooray! Sometimes I wish they’d go back to the old way where they just measure your tailpipe emissions… well, no- I’m sure that wouldn’t go well either.

Posted by Cam, July 1, 2011

Helpful Links:

Utah Safety & Emission Info

GM Drive Cycle information