NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article, October 2004
The Deals Column
by Bob (the Cheapskate)Click, The Dealsguy
Greater Orlando Computer Users Group
(click to email author)

Central Florida experienced Hurricane Charlie, as you may know. Charlie was originally predicted to cross just north of us and we would only get the edge. Don't we wish; the worst of it ended up passing directly over us because it unexpectedly turned ashore further south than originally predicted. Our wind gust expectations would change to in excess of 80 mph instead of 50 mph. Actual wind gusts of 105 mph were recorded at the airport. Since we have no interior rooms, we sat in the living room waiting it out. Many times our patio doors would start rattling and we saw the glass actually warp in and out, along with the same action for our front windows and their sliders, but surprisingly, no breakage. Then the whole house would shudder and I hoped the place would hold together. If the roof had come off and we got sucked out, we would have no choice but to wish each other a good trip and I forgot to keep my camera handy so I could take pictures as I left.

In the end though, our house suffered little damage. There's only one large tree near our house while many other houses had more. One house on our block had two large trees fall on it, but the damage wasn't bad. Charlie blew some soffit from under the eves on one side of the house and blew one screen out of our back porch. While most homes on our block suffered the loss of many, if not all, of their shingles, we only had one broken shingle. Only one house on our block was unhurt, but others had considerable roof and tree damages. We had no power for five days, but many areas went without power for much longer. At this writing some are still without power.

When we were trying to find a restaurant (very scarce here for several days), it was an experience because with the power out in much of the eastern Orlando area, most traffic lights were inoperative and few people were courteous at intersections. Gas was scarce, but we had filled up before the storm. A station with gas and power to pump it usually had very, very long lines. It was impossible to find ice in stores, although a few places were set up, not near us, where volunteers passed out free ice, drinking water and Deet insect repellent. Grocery stores open for business were scarce, and if you found one, it was without milk and other necessities. Also, no lamp oil, wicks, batteries or plain telephones. I needed a new wick.

Our street had many downed tree branches, but many streets were even impassible for a few days until people and crews cleared them out. Some areas had no water, and where sewer lift stations had no power, there were problems with sewer backups, although not in our area. Our subdivision has underground utilities, but our wellbeing depends on the feeder lines coming in on poles. I saw pictures of streets where an entire line of wires and poles were broken off laying on the street. Progress Energy said that much of the grid had to be rebuilt.

There were several sad stories about people who died more or less as a result of the storm. I was unaware that a storm could affect people's pacemakers, which was the problem for one as well as his lack of oxygen. Trimming trees is also a dangerous job, which resulted in a couple of deaths. It was an experience I hope not to have again for a while. However, many neighborhoods certainly helped each other out with food when somebody had power and others didn't. Some also shared generators. The paper and TV were full of stories both sad and good for days. I'm glad we didn't live on the gulf side of the state where the storm came ashore with much more power and devestation.

Costly Celebration!
My wife and I worked the 25th anniversary of the Home Depot stores [http://www.homedepot.com]. It was held at five different elegant hotels and the Orange County Convention Center. We worked at the Gaylord Palms [http://www.gaylordhotels.com/gaylordpalms/]. The name of the game was party and that is what nearly 6,000 attendees did. A large well-decorated hall with pool tables, other games and a bar was set up, and Universal Studios Park was rented for one day. Attendees were flown in from all over, even from China, and all at Home Depot's expense. I'm told the cost for this celebration was over 25 million. One manager told me they would make that back in a short time. Perhaps, but I wonder if the shareholders would approve of that expense!

We also worked two days at the same hotel for the Sybase [http://www.sybase.com] (TechWave 2004) show that took place only a couple days after hurricane Charlie. In spite of Charlie, the attendance was about 1,300, including 300 employees, which surprised management under the circumstances. They promoted PowerBuilder 10 as well as their other products, and put on a great production.

While working that show, we certainly noticed that many Progress Energy workers, along with many utility workers that came in from out of state, were headquartered at the Gaylord Palms Resort. Their parking lot had many utility trucks and there was an inventory of poles, power transformers, wire and other important parts. The hotel prepared some great meals for those hard working folks, however I'm not sure who paid for that and the rooms. Power line damage was very severe in that area.

Last month one of my items was PopFile, a product to filter spam. I misunderstood Paul Witheridge's comments and said it was also an antivirus, which was incorrect. What he had meant was that with training, it could filter out spam with a virus in it, which means it might substitute for an antivirus. Sorry for that misconception on my part.

This vendor might help raise funds for your treasury. They call themselves "The $2.95 Guys" and can offer you T-shirts at good prices. They can package or compress them in all sorts of unique shapes. Quantity for that $2.95 price is rather high and I'm not sure how competitive their prices are with the lower quantities. However, it won't hurt to take a look if you are looking for shirts. For the compressed shirt packaging, the price is more. The sample they sent me was a Hanes, which I consider a quality name. They are at [http://www.295guys.com], or call them at 1-800-536-5959. The person I originally talked to was Tom Hardy, but to my surprise, he has not returned my calls for a confirmation after three days of trying, so good luck if you order. I can't change this item because the column has already been sent to my "early editors." No special deal for the column, but I thought of it as a possible fundraiser.

Another Fundraiser
This might be something a bit unique, but when I heard about it I thought it would help make money for an individual, or a group. The name is CafePress and their URL is [http://www.cafepress.com]. You can make money with absolutely no investment. All you have to do is come up with your own individual design of some sort, or a logo that you like. They offer a number of products to carry your design or logo, which can even be a statement or question. I counted at least 70 products offered on their Web site to carry your creation. A friend designed a shirt with 'Ask me where I bought this!" that he is selling.

After making your choice, set your price, which should be over their base price in order to make money for you. They handle all the ordering, sales and shipping, then send you a check when you have accumulated enough. Hopefully, their accounting is accurate. Not a bad deal considering you have nothing invested except your time and creation. Be careful you don't infringe on something copyrighted, especially phrases and sayings.

That's it for this month. Meet me here again next month if your editor permits. This column is written to make user group members aware of special offers or freebies I have found or arranged, and my comments should not be interpreted to encourage, or discourage, the purchase of any products, no matter how enthused I might sound. Bob (The Cheapskate) Click [ http://www.dealsguy.com ] for interesting articles from user group newsletters. I also posted some interesting Web site pages for your viewing. They contain new product announcements that I received over a period of time in 2003. More will be forthcoming when I get the ambition.

Click here to return to top