Diamond Resorts Second Chance

 | June 14, 2010 3:24 PM

Lake Tahoe Vacation Resort - Diamond Resorts

Several months ago I wrote about my first experience with Diamond Resorts.  What I did not expect was that Diamond Resorts Chief Experience Officer, Patrick Duffy, would comment on that post within hours of it being published.

Patrick Duffy and I spoke on the phone about my experience.  To make amends he offered to let us and our family friends who were supposed to come with us the first time to stay again at the same luxury resort in Tahoe for free for three nights.  He even included free parking.

Patrick’s assistant, Linda Krakower, took care of all accommodations.  We called the resort to book the only weekend that worked for both of our families.  When the resort said no room was available we asked Linda and she booked top floor rooms close to each other with balconies.

During our stay we were treated very well but more importantly as Patrick promised there was no hard sell for either family.  The rooms were very comfortable, the experience of swimming in a pool during a snow fall is special and the view is beautiful.

Patrick Duffy provided us with outstanding customer service and I want to thank him and his staff.


My 2010 Election Ballot

 | May 22, 2010 6:36 PM

Lieutenant Governor
Gavin Newsom

I have been impressed by what he has done as mayor of San Francisco.  Under his administration San Francisco became the first U.S. city to “provide quality health care for every single resident – regardless of pre-existing medical conditions.”  San Francisco has also led the way in green initiatives.  And in general he has struck me as a leader.

The other two candidates seem unremarkable.

Proposition 13
Limits on Property Tax Assessment

No one opposes it.  It seems reasonable that doing construction to seismically retrofit buildings will not trigger reassessment of property tax value.

Update: Easily passed.

Proposition 14
Increases Right to Participate in Primary Elections

Politicians wrote Proposition 14 to change the law so they can conceal their party affiliation on the election ballot.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California after he cast his vote in Los Angeles on Tuesday. Update: Unfortunately this proposition easily passed and I wonder if we California voters fully understand the ramifications.  All I know is Arnold is happy about it.

Proposition 15
California Fair Elections Act


I was not sure about this one.  However in the end I voted yes because it’s a pilot program for only two election cycles and for only secretary of state.  It would be ideal if we could rid the election process of politicians being bought by big money.

Proposition 16
Imposes New Two-Thirds Voter Approval Requirement for Local Public Electricity Providers


The sponsor of this bill is PG&E.  They don’t want anything to threaten their monopoly.

Update: Failed thankfully even with all the money PG&E threw into promoting it.  Just learned that PG&E was portrayed as knowingly contaminating groundwater in the hit movie “Erin Brockovich.”

Proposition 17
Allows Auto Insurance Companies to Base Their Prices in Part on a Driver’s History of Insurance Coverage


The sponsor of this bill is Mercury Insurance.  Consumers Union opposes it.


I did not vote for anything else because I did not have an opinion.


Give Me The Rock Champion

 | April 19, 2010 2:58 PM

I won my fantasy basketball league.


Unfortunately I was not able to help Alan win his.  I think I gave as much bad advice as good advice.  But that’s okay, next year we might be competitors in that league. 🙂

My MVP was Steve Nash.  My biggest surprise was Marc Gasol.  My favorite player was Monta Ellis who later became somewhat of a disappointment.  I think the Warriors should trade him.


Hockey Gold in Canada

 | March 1, 2010 7:25 AM

At the start of every international hockey tournament I am always worried.  Canada is always the favorite or one of the favorites but so often Canada disappoints.  Maybe my expectations are too high since disappointment means not winning it all.

I remember how Canada finished fourth at Nagano in 1998 and I felt so bad for Gretzky because he never won a gold medal.  I remember Canada losing the first World Cup in 1996 to the United States because Mike Richter stood on his head stopping everything.  In 2002 though the curse seemed to be broken as Canada won the gold and I loved that team and watching Gretzky, the architect of the team, celebrate from his box.  But then Canada finished 7th in Torino in 2006.

Canadian athletes also in general seem to not be the type that rise to the occasion.  They seem to be almost too polite, sympathizing with their opponent, being embarrassed about winning too much.  This is unlike American athletes who seem to love overcoming all obstacles, winning no matter the odds.  It’s Canadian politeness vs. the American dream.

Alexandre Bilodeau celebrates Canada's first gold gold medal of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games, and the first ever for the country on home soil. But in these Olympics Canadians no longer are the polite hosts, allowing others to win on their soil.  Canada, who had never won any gold medals at home, suddenly won the most of any country and broke the record for most gold medals in the Winter Olympics.  It was stunning.

Despite this apparent change I was still so worried about this game.  Maybe it’s because the thought of losing to the U.S. would be more painful than losing to anyone else.  Even though I consider myself mostly American when it comes to hockey I’m still a little Canadian boy playing street hockey all day with the neighborhood kids.

I was hoping that Canada would score quickly, put the U.S. back on its heels, and continue to press and hold onto win, outshooting the U.S. 2 to 1 with Ryan Miller stopping practically everything.  The game seemed to go as planned with Canada getting the first goal.  But the U.S. was going toe to toe with Canada, Canada was not dominating.  Canada then got the second goal and I felt good.  But then Canada started playing conservatively and I remember thinking that’s a bad idea.

But the Canadians took advantage of another defensive miscue, when at 7:13 of the second period U.S. defenseman Ryan Whitney deflected a centering pass from Ryan Getzlaf directly into the slot, where an uncovered Corey Perry pounced on it and snapped it past Miller, giving Canada a 2-0 lead.

Soon the U.S. scored on a goal that was not an easy one to stop for Roberto Luongo but something I thought Ryan Miller could have stopped.  Canada then started pressing the attack again and I thought maybe it’s good the U.S. scored.

This pressure continued for the first five minutes of the third period but then the U.S. began dominating.  I was just watching the clock, wondering why hockey teams use such a strategy to protect a lead, wishing it would reach the twenty minute mark and worrying because Luongo wasn’t looking sure-handed.

Then with 24.4 seconds to go Zach Parise scored and I was deflated.  I was thinking “Now I won’t be able to go to church.” (The service had already started.)  I was also thinking please don’t let it go to a shootout, I just hate the concept of anyone winning that way.

I thought overtime was kind of gimmicky, 4 on 4.  I was hoping that would be in Canada’s favor but the U.S. was playing well.  Sidney Crosby rushed in and tried to break through two defensemen but got stopped.  I remember thinking how Sidney hadn’t really done anything in the last two games, not judging him for it, just observing.  Then he got that break and shot it past Ryan Miller.  I couldn’t believe it, I thought it was impossible to score on Ryan Miller unless he can’t see it.  But I thought how appropriate that the symbol of Canadian hockey should score the winning goal.

Although the Canadians sat back late in the third period, they came out shooting in overtime. Sidney Crosby's shot from the lower part of the left circle eluded goalie Ryan Miller, and Canada Hockey Place erupted in deafening cheers.

I was screaming and jumping up and down until I became hoarse.  No one was home except Victoria upstairs playing Dora on the computer.

Sidney Crosby's overtime winner gave Canada its first Olympic gold medal on home soil.Now I am debating whether to go buy the Canadian Olympic hockey jersey.  Would it be too brazen wearing it here in the U.S.?  Whose name should be on it?  Sidney Crosby?  Joe Thornton (San Jose Shark)?  Alan “Goliath” Kwok?  Vincent “Ping Pong” Wong?  Are there any Christians on the team?

One cute family note.  Isaac likes to know who to root for.  When I was watching the first Canada vs. U.S.A. game he asked if I am rooting for the red team or the blue team.  I said the red team so he started cheering for the red team.  Then he realized the blue team had the U.S.A. flag so he started cheering for U.S.A.  Dylan said he’ll keep cheering for the red team.  Then they asked Ji Seon who she is rooting for and she said she doesn’t really care who wins but knows that I really care so she will root for Canada too.   I actually want them to root for the U.S.A., it’s their country and it should be mine but hockey is Canada’s game.

You can see the video highlights of Canada’s win here.


Diamond Resorts Hard Sell

 | January 7, 2010 9:09 PM

Diamond Resorts One family that we are good friends with, especially because our children get along so well, told us about an offer to stay at a luxury resort in Tahoe for only $140 for three nights.  This offer actually came through another good friend who has a timeshare at this resort.  The only catch is you have to listen to a 90 minute presentation about purchasing a Diamond Resorts timeshare.

Now I am pretty frugal but I never take these offers because I so dislike the hard sell.  But in this case I thought it would be a good idea because we get to spend time with this family, we wanted to go to Tahoe this winter and the price was good.

Two days before we were about to go our friends had to cancel because of a family emergency.  The trip was not nearly as appealing anymore but we had already paid and it was too late for us to cancel.

We arrived at the resort Wednesday evening and I started becoming unimpressed.  The concierges were not very helpful, check-in took an inordinate amount of time, they charge $7 a day for slow WiFi internet access and there is almost no parking so you have to valet.  On the other hand the suite, a one bedroom, is quite nice and it’s not even in the renovated wing.

Our presentation was scheduled for today, Thursday, at 11:30 AM.  Because it was in the middle of the day we asked if we could reschedule.  They said we could not.  We then asked what we should do with our kids and they said kids are welcome at the presentation.

*Time* Ticking away... on Flickr 11:30 AM we arrive for the presentation and the presenter suggests we put our children in the child care center free of charge.  After doing that and giving us a tour we sit down at a table while music blares over the speakers.  Our presenter notes that it’s 11:45 AM and that we should expect that the presentation will end at 1:15 PM.  I found that a little strange since she had just led us on a tour and we were told kids were welcome but now we were being penalized 15 minutes for bringing them.  But I did not complain.

Our presenter starts off by saying this is not a hard sell, it’s a soft sell.  Of course we don’t buy that because if it’s not a hard sell then why is she presenting just to us instead of to a room full of people so we can inconspicuously leave once it’s done?

She then begins to ask us many questions to get a sense of what kind of vacationers we are.  Then she starts talking about how expensive hotels are and how you are stuck in a small room instead of a nice one bedroom or two bedroom.

The presenter tries, as I imagine a good saleswoman would, to try to use whatever we say as selling points.  When I said once that vacations can be stressful because of small children she kept pointing out how less stressful being in a one or two bedroom would be.  When we said how family is important to us she talked about how vacations are so important for family time.  She even talked about the 50% divorce rate and how we should vacation so we don’t divorce!

O ooo on Flickr The hard sell continues.  We see a video where people give testimonials about how wonderful Diamond Resorts is, a home away from home, relaxing, “destressing”, best service in the world, something you can pass on to your children.

During this whole time she refuses to tell us just how much a timeshare will be.  She takes us on a tour of the renovated suites.  She then has us enter into a computer program how much we spend on hotels, how often we vacation, what we expect is the rate of inflation, how many years we plan on vacationing.  I enter in $125/night, 10 days a year, 3% inflation, 25 years and get a nice output of about $50,000.

Now the presenter finally tells how much the timeshare will cost.  For 4000 points a year the cost is $24,000 plus $840 a year in HOA fees.  Apparently that’s a fantastic deal, at least according to her.  We can pay it all or for about $4000 down we can pay the rest with interest at 22% a year.  I was amazed they could offer a 22% interest rate with a straight face.

Also the presenter offered us all these first time visit perks which I did not really see as being that valuable except for of course the waiving of the $3000 membership fee which she never mentioned before.

174: I would quite like to decline the concept of time. on Flickr We politely decline.  The presenter acts flabbergasted.  At this point the presentation has gone on for 150 minutes, 60 minutes over the amount of time they said they would.

The hard sell continues.  The manager comes over, asks a few questions, asks us to sign a few things.  Then he says he has to go do some other stuff.  When he returns he offers 3500 points a year for $10,000, an owner’s only offer.  I am not sure why 500 points costs $14,000 more but after a little bit of hesitation we decline again.

After the manager leaves the presenter then says she will give us 7 days in a two bedroom suite for free if we take the offer for 3500 points.  We again decline.  At this point I probably said for the fifth time we just want to go back to pick up our kids.

The hard sell continues further.  Our presenter says she needs to get some more things signed.  Then this elderly lady, who had been sitting in the corner the whole time, pops up and says she can sign us off.  She comes over and asks more questions.  She asks why we won’t buy it.  We say we don’t like to make quick decisions.  She replies that she buys whenever she sees a good deal and that she only regrets not having bought more things in life.  I am now annoyed with her too.

The lady then offers to let us decide for the next 12 or 18 months.  The catch is we have to buy a vacation package.  We again decline.

Clock on Flickr Now they finally take us over to where we are supposed to get our two free lift tickets and a $25 Visa card.  Of course though things don’t work out.  The $25 Visa card is not given to us because they say we are not supposed to get it since we got the lift tickets instead of the dinner and dance show.  Though the reasoning might be legitimate I just found it amazing that a company that is asking you to spend between $10,000 and $24,000 would nickel and dime you for $25.

It is now 2:30 PM when the presentation is finally over, twice as long as they said it would be.

I hate the hard sell.


D80 from Nikon At the encouragement of my brother-in-law I started shooting all my photos in RAW on my Nikon D80.  Unfortunately this meant that each photo I shot was larger than 10 MB.  My MacBook has only an 120 GB hard drive so it didn’t take long to realize I was going to run out of hard drive space.

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2 The day of reckoning soon arrived when I noticed after my latest download of photos that Lightroom began to be noticeably slower.  This is either because Lightroom could not handle the added number of photos or because it needed more disk space.  I guessed it was the latter and this article seems to verify this.

I consulted my two experts in the hard drive field and was conviced not to buy Seagate which I had always thought was the best.  I apologize if I recommended Seagate to any of you.  The reviews on sites like Amazon and Newegg confirmed that Seagate is not as reliable.  Western Digital was recommended to me because they tend to be more conservative by using proven technology and not pushing the performance envelope.  The online reviews seemed to confirm that Western Digital was the way to go.

Western Digital 320 GB Scorpio Black SATA 7200 RPM 16 MB Cache Bulk/OEM Notebook Hard Drive WD3200BEKTAfter more deliberation I ended up purchasing the Western Digital 320 GB Scorpio Black SATA 7200 RPM 16 MB Cache Bulk/OEM Notebook Hard Drive WD3200BEKT.  I don’t know when Amazon began selling hard drives but I think Newegg, TigerDirect and others are in trouble because Amazon matches their best prices and they give free shipping so it’s a no brainer.

Unfortunately during my deliberation the price had gone up from $70 on Black Friday to $76 when I purchased it.  And now it’s $82 which is $1 less than the list price.  I am not sure what is going on but hard drive prices in general seem to be going up.

Anyway the hard drive arrived on my birthday and I could not wait to install it.  I started following the excellent instructions at iFixit for installing a MacBook Core 2 Duo Hard Drive Replacement and was almost done when I realized on the second last step I needed a T8 Torx screwdriver.  Sadly I undid everything and sent an email to my hardware hacker friend for help.

Fujitsu MHY2120BH 120GB SATA/150 5400RPM 8MB 2.5 The next day hardware hacker came through with not just a screwdriver but a screwdriver set!  Last night I resumed my project and replaced my old hard drive, a Fujitsu MHY2120BH 120GB 5400 RPM 8MB Cache 2.5″ SATA 1.5Gb/s Notebook Hard Drive, with the new one.

Mac OS X 10.5 Help: Recovering your entire system Before removing my old hard drive I did a Time Machine backup and thought it would be a simple matter of restoring the backup to the new hard drive.  Unfortunately like another birthday boy it did not go as smoothly as I hoped.  According to Apple’s Mac OS X 10.5 Recovering your entire system document when I booted from the Mac OS X Install Disk I should have seen a Restore System from Backup option.  However it was not there!

I did what the other birthday boy suggested and installed Mac OS X on the new hard drive.  When it was done and it rebooted I realized it had installed Tiger instead of Leopard.

I then put in the Mac OS X Leopard CPU Drop-in DVD for upgrading from Tiger to Leopard.  I double-clicked on the Install Mac OS X icon and when it rebooted I was able to restore my system from my Time Machine backup.

In retrospect I wish I had purchased a USB SATA hard drive enclosure and used SuperDuper! to clone the old hard drive like iFixit instructs.  That would have saved me a lot of time!

Now I have 320 GB to play with.  That should last me hopefully one to two more years unless I get into video. 🙂

Update: Lightroom is still slow. 🙁