Why Shopping at Target is Awesome

A new Target recently opened up near our apartment.  Since then, our local Walmart hardly gets any visits from us.  Target is just so darn close!

But it’s more than that, I’ve concluded that shopping at Target is awesome!  Charlene and I do the vast majority of our shopping (groceries and sundries) at the following establishments (in alphabetical order):

In terms of preference based on shopping experience, I’d rank Trader Joe’s and Target as tied, then Costco, then Safeway, with Walmart taking dead last.

Don’t get me wrong, Walmart does have low prices, which I greatly appreciate during this recessionary period.  But Walmart is not always cheaper than Target as we’ve been lead to believe.  And I love Costco for certain things, like meat.  But honestly, the shopping experiences in both stores pale in comparison to shopping at my Target.

Here’s why my* Target is so awesome:

  • The employees are empowered. One time I had an item ring up for a few bucks more than it showed on the shelf.  At a Safeway, this would require the checker to send a runner to verify the price.  The runner would then have to come back, report the correct price, and an adjustment would be given.  Sometimes this makes me feel bad as I make the 3-5 people behind me wait as I get my few dollar discount.  At Target, they said, “OK, no problem.” punched in the discount, and away I went.  Nice!
  • I get a 5% instant discount with my RED card. Can’t beat that in this economy.
  • The store is bright, clean, and airy. Can’t get that at a Walmart.
  • I get $0.05 for each reusable bag I use. More savings is better!
  • They sell groceries. One less reason to go to Safeway.
  • The employees are helpful. Unlike Walmart or Costco employees, Target employees are super helpful.  If I ask about a product I’m trying to find, not only do they know the aisle, they offer to take me there and show me. Try getting someone at Costco to do that for you.
  • The employees speak and understand English. This is not meant to be racist at all, but frankly, many of my local Walmart employees don’t understand English, and it’s very frustrating.  I ask them questions, and the answer is either “No” or a shake of the head, even if I ask a question for which there is no “Yes or No” answer.
  • They have a Pizza Hut and a Starbucks in one location. Nothing like satisfying your vices while you shop.
  • They have frequent, continuous sales on the items I buy. Again, it’s all about saving money.
  • Their pharmacy always has my prescriptions ready and on time. Try getting Safeway to fill a prescription on time.  I’ve gone there numerous occasions when they called me to tell me a prescription was filled, only to make me wait 10-15 minutes while they unsuccessfully search for, and then re-fill my prescription on the spot.  They freakin’ called me to tell me it was ready.  Where did it go???
  • I can get $4 generics at the pharmacy. More money saved. I’ve even had instances where the amount of the $4 generic they provided was 4 times as much as the $5 generic I got at Safeway.
  • Their pharmacy sells my asthma medication in pre-mixed vials. When I have really bad asthma, an inhaler just won’t do.  I need it nebulized.  Safeway provided me with a bottle of albuterol and a number of vials of saline solution.  This requires me to mix the albuterol with 3/4 of the vial of saline.  (What in the world do I do with 1/4 of a vial of saline solution???)  I even asked the Safeway pharmacist if I could get it pre-mixed.  She said “No.”  Target sold it to me pre-mixed without me even asking.  When I bought it and ask if I could get it pre-mixed, she said, “It already is.”  Talk about anticipating the customer’s needs!

If I thought about it some more, I’m sure I could come up with dozens of reasons why Target is better.  But this should suffice for now.

Bottom line: If you have a neighborhood Target, patronize it.  You’ll be glad you did.

*I believe most of this list applies to all Targets.  There may be some exceptions, like in the helpfulness of the employees.  So I understand your Target may be absolutely awful, and for that, you have my condolences.  Now you have the street address for mine, so check it out and let me know if you still differ with me.  But this has been my experience at my San Jose Target, and they definitely get an A+ from me.

Pneumonia’s No Good

I spent the majority of the last couple weeks sick with pneumonia. I got sick on Tuesday 12/28, spent the the morning of 12/31 in the ER, and was finally feeling about 95% last Friday.

Lots of coughing, phlegm, fatigue, and sleepless nights. No fun.

On top of that, just as I was starting to get better, Charlene came down with a cold. So it was the sick caring for the sick around here for a few days.  After 2.5 weeks, I’d say I’m finally about 98%. I still have a lingering cough, but the rest of my symptoms are under control. Praise God!

We were super blessed that my accountability partner, Andrew, was willing to go grocery shopping for us to buy food. My brother-in-law, Jeremy, was also kind enough to stop by with some chicken noodle soup from Safeway. Thanks guys!

Funny story: Jeremy bought two different kinds of soup. I don’t remember exactly what they were, but let’s call them “regular” and “organic”. As is typical of Charlene and me, we couldn’t agree on which one we liked. I preferred the “regular” one, but she liked the “organic” one. The noodles and the flavor of the regular one were much better to me, but she didn’t like the noodles in the regular, and preferred the organic noodles. The good thing is that meant we got to split the soups, and we both got what we wanted. No sharing necessary 🙂 That’s the way it is around here.  Go figure.

Mute Wife

I have a mute wife for the next week. Charlene got back from the doctor’s office today, and he has ordered her not to speak until next Monday. So needless to say, this will be an interesting twist in our first year of marriage. We’ve already begun working out our own sign language, which I’ll call WSL (Wong Sign Language). Frankly, it’s a hilarious mix of finger spelling, and wild gestures 🙂 For some of her most hilarious signs, you’ll have to ask her in person.

On the positive side, I’m pretty sure that Charlene and I will have an unfair advantage at any future game of Charades or Guesstures.

Got My Grill!

I finally bought my grill yesterday. It’s a Master Forge, and it has four main burners with a side burner. Now I’m ready to Grill! It! Up!

Summer at the Wong household can finally commence.

Andy and I are going to assemble it this morning, and we’ll cook dinner on it tonight. I already went shopping at Costco and Safeway for our dinner. We’ve got to inaugurate the grill in style, so I’ll be cooking up the following:

The first five items will be on the grill. The last one will be in the oven, but if I get a little crazy and adventurous, I might try some on the grill as well.

Can’t wait!

Online Backup

I’m in the market for an online backup solution. Historically, I’ve backed up my stuff to CD and DVD. But since I now have over 100GB of photos, it’s getting a bit unwieldy. The 1TB hard drive likely won’t help the situation either.

I’m looking at a few solutions, namely:

Backblaze is probably the newcomer to the group. I first heard about them on my favorite tech news site: Arstechnica. I think the thing I like about them is tye keep it stupid simple, and have a pretty nifty restore function no one else has: if your computer dies, (for a fee) they’ll mail you a DVD or USB hard drive full of your data. The one concern I have about Backblaze is the very fact that they are young. They seem to have an all-star team of leaders, but they’re such a young company, it’s hard to tell what their future is. I did find at least one user who switched from Mozy to Backblaze. Backblaze costs $5/month or $50/year

Carbonite seems pretty similar on the backup side, but doesn’t seem to offer a similar restore process. I think the one thing that concerns me about them is that they lost a bunch of their customers’ data earlier this year. Carbonite costs $54.95/year.

Mozy seems like a decent company. I think the one thing they have going for them is that they’re a part of storage and infrastucture giant EMC. That means they’ve got some serious backing, and likely won’t disappear anytime soon. I also like the fact that between Mozy and Carbonite, Walt Mossberg prefers Mozy.  The downside is that someone else found that it was a pain to restore from them. The fact that they give 2GB of free space is nice, but I’ve got almost 200GB I’ll need to backup, so that’s really immaterial to me. Mozy costs $4.95/month or $54.45/year.

There are a few downsides to doing online backup, and they certainly deserve special consideration:

  1. Uploading takes forever. I’ve got a 6mbps DSL line, and Speakeasy says my upload is only 650kbps, meaning I could upload about 6GB per day. (Speedtest.net generally confirms this.) If I have to upload 200GB of data, that’s 33 days straight.
  2. These services are subject to failure. I don’t worry about security as all of these solutions do proper encryption. But as noted above, Carbonite lost the data of 7,500 customers. I don’t think Backblaze was even in existence yet, but their data center of choice had a power outage in 2007. I’ve yet to hear of any problems at Mozy. Fortunately, neither of these issues is ultimately catastrophic to the data (the issue of credibility is entirely different). Since these are backup services, Carbonite customers should have been able to do a re-upload or “re-backup” and have their information be safe once again. Assuming they were in existence, Backblaze customers merely would have needed to wait for the servers to come back up in order to continue a backup or restore–no data was lost.
  3. What happens if the companies disappear? Upline was a backup service provided by tech giant Hewlett-Packard. It shut its doors earlier this year, proving that even Mozy–as a part of EMC–might not be immune to being shutdown by it’s corporate backers.  Backblaze might not have to worry about the corporate bueracracy, yet. But what if they aren’t profitable, or run out of funding before hitting the black? They could very well shut their doors as well. And if they get bought by another company, their policies might change to the detriment of consumers, or their new overlords might shut them down for whatever reason.

All in all, I think an online backup service will serve as a secondary or tertiary backup solution around here. I’ll likely keep backing up to DVDs (or Blu Ray when I can get my hands on a burner) and to Charlene’s computer, and have an online, continuous backup solution in the cloud.

I’ll keep you posted as I find more, and when I make my decision.

1 TB of Space

I got a new hard drive from NewEgg two weeks ago.  It’s a whopping 1TB of space, and it was a steal at $75 with free shipping. Of course the bummer is that the marketing makes it sound bigger than it is.  When formatted, I lose about 70GB of space and am left with 931GB of space.  Talk about shrinkage. I remember the days when a 256MB hard drive was 256 megabytes. They didn’t have any of this funky messing with bits and bytes, decimal and base 2. Oh well. Times have changed.

In any case, I’m very excited to start filling it.  My current hard drive is 250GB (really 228GB). One of the partitions is 180 GB, and it is nearly full of pictures and other data. Between my 10.1 megapixel dSLR and 8 megapixel point-and shoot, I’ve got over 110GB of photos. I’ve also got about 30 GB of iTunes data including music and videos. I can’t imagine what I’d do if I had the 5D Mark II or the Sony Alpha A900. I’d be shooting 1080P HD video (4.8MB/sec = 289MB/min = 17,370MB/hour) and 21 megapixel twenty-four megabyte photos. Ouch!

The one thing I was worried about was if the drive came DOA (dead on arrival). If you look at the user reviews on the right of that NewEgg page, there’s a fair number of people who have complained about that. So in order to mitigate that risk, I took out a couple of insurance policies. The first one is almost literally an insurance policy. I paid extra for the extended warranty.

The second one is that I took the time to stress test the drive. Frankly, I had no idea how to do it, or what utility to use, but that’s what Google is for. The first entry on the list was for something called Barts Stuff Test. Doesn’t sound that compelling from the title, but I figured I’d give it a look. And apparently Google found exactly what I was looking for:

Bst5 (Bart’s Stuff Test v5) is a small win32 application for long term heavy stress testing storage devices. Bst5 supports testing at file and device level.

That ought to do it! And it even supports hard drives of my size and larger:

Bst5 supports very large volumes, up to 16 exabyte (17.179.869.184 Gigabyte) enough to last for at least 30 years.


So I downloaded it, started it up, and let it run. And run. And run. It ran for almost 5 days straight. Nothing broke during that time, so I’m assuming that we’re good.

Thanks Barts! Time to start filling this sucker up.  See ya!

That was Fast!

It took us a mere 15 minutes to setup our new dining room table tonight.

We opened the box, put four bolts into the legs, put the bolts into their respective holes in the table top, threw on a washer and nut, and flipped the table right side up.  We even had time to open up the table to add the leaf, pull it back apart, and fold the leaf back into the table.


I am admittedly grateful that we didn’t have to setup the whole leaf and bracing mechanism. That likely would’ve taken hours to assemble. But with a setup that quick, I find it hard not to love this table. It also means disassembly for transport (when we eventually move, or sell the table) will be a snap.