7/25/06 - Blockbuster upsets me

I've got a problem with Blockbuster online. If they didn't offer two free in-store rentals a month (or one every week depending on the option you choose) I would switch to Netflix in a heartbeat. Basically, my beef with them is that the queue they have available is COMPLETELY innacurate. I'm writing this because I need to blow off some steam and more importantly, I think the consumer should be informed about this. The following is my roller coaster ride my relationship with Blockbuster has taken. For those that don't enjoy reading or find the lives of others boring, here is a brief synopsis.

You can not trust Blockbuster's online status. "Available Now", based on information received from a CSR (who was very informative), means that there is only a 99% chance of getting that movie. I believe based on my own experiences that it is MUCH lower than that. After reading their Terms and Conditions I found some things that rubbed me the wrong way. I've heard that netflix will limit the speed at which you get your movies based on the number of movies you rent, but I really didn't expect Blockbuster to do the same. I was correct...almost. Under the "Selection and Allocation of Product" section, they explain that you get lower priority if you consitently get the highest movie in your queue or if you have been a customer for a while, among other things. The last line also troubled me: BLOCKBUSTER Online reserves the right to change these allocation metrics at any time, and to consider additional allocation metrics in the future, including, without limitation, a subscriber's historical rental volume, all with or without notice. It looks like they might, in the future, unless they've already done it, lower your priority level if you actually watch the movies you get in a timely fashion.

To start with a bit of background, I believe I signed up for Blockbuster in October of 2005. We got the free month for signing up and we immediately filled out our queue. Our first three movies were Fever Pitch, In Good Company, and Coach Carter. We got all of them within a couple days, watched and returned them and began getting the movies at the top of our list from there on out. Well, at least until about a month ago.

Before I jump into the main issue, I should just mention how much trouble we had with some of the movies we got. When we got National Treasure we had to skip an entire scene because the dvd was scratched so bad. Another movie, I don't remember which one it was, was cracked right down the middle (obviously unplayable). A couple of the other movies we received were also heavily scratched and only caused minor skips while watching, enough to get frustrated about, but alas, we could still watch the movie. The worst was during my attempt to watch Goodfellas. I had never seen the movie and was about to crawl in bed to watch this Gangster movie classic. I put the DVD in and started going through the menu options only to find out that they had sent me friggin' Fiddler on the Roof. How they got those confused I don't know. The only thing we could do in those situations was send the movies back and wait for another copy.

Back to the main point of this article: I had the same movie at the top of my queue for several weeks: Brain Twisters. This made sense to me because it's a very rare movie (my local Blockbuster didn't even have it in there system) and therefore, I assumed that they had 2 maybe 3 copies of the dvd. It consistently showed up as "Long Wait" on my queue. At one point, it stayed at "Available" for a few days and I got excited. I sent back one of the other movies after we watched it and waited for the confirmation email that Blockbuster had received it. The minute I got that email I checked my queue again and sure enough, Brain Twisters was "Available". A couple hours went by and finally I got the email stating which movie they had shipped next and I was horrified to find out that they had shipped movie #2 on my queue.

This required a call from me to customer support. After searching through the horribly organized FAQ section on the site (which oddly enough is where the "Contact Us" link takes you, I got the number and was able to speak with a customer service rep (no automated system, I was pleased with that). I was told that "Available Now" doesn't really mean "Available Now". It means that it might be ready to ship out, but maybe not. This made no sense to me, but considering the rarity of the movie, I accepted it as a timing issue between the website being updated and the movie getting shipped, I let it slide.

Fast forward several weeks where I have no set my queue up to have the following movies, in this order: Brain Twisters, Cry Wolf, Boiler Room (excellent movie by the way), Super Troopers, and The Godfather. Twice, I sent back a movie that we had watched, at a time where ALL 5 of those movies were listed as "Available Now", only to receive the SIXTH movie on my queue. This too required a call to Customer Support. This time I was told again that the "Available Now" status used on the website only means a 99% likelihood of getting that movie. To this I quickly responded that that percentage just doesn't seem right considering I didn't get any of the five I had at the top of my queue. She said she woudl see what she could do, but in the mean time offered to send me some e-coupons for free in store rentals. That's all well and good, but I got the online subscription so I didn't have to drive clear across town just to rent a movie. Ironically, after that call, the next two movies I received were: Brain Twisters (Number 1 at the time of sending) and Boiler Room (Number 2 at the time of sending). I thought things had cleared themselves up only to find out that the movie they sent me today was not numbers 1-3 as I would suspect (still all "Available Now"), but instead they sent me movie number 4: Jersey Girl (my wife wants to see it).

I'm not sure exactly what to do, but if they pull this a couple more times, I'll be moving over to Netflix very soon. Although they don't have free in-store rentals, maybe the use their online status they way they should.

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7/24/06 - Twisters

Saturday, Cristi and I went to a Twisters game at Alltel Arena, and we had a blast. I was really saddened to see that not many people show up to the games anymore. I remember the first year they were in town, you could barely get tickets. Right now, Cristi and I and Dan and his wife are going to a game this Saturday at 7:05. If you are interested in going, let me know by at least Wednesday so I can get you a ticket. Tickets will be $23 and I'm trying to get 25 yard line 3 rows up. considering how much trouble I had with ticketmaster today, I'm not sure if that will be happening or not.

I feel like I've got a crapload more to say, but it just isn't coming to me. I take it back, I've got a lot of stuff, but none of which I want to get in depth on. I'll give a short blurb on each. New riding lawn mower-Awesome. newer riding lawn mower-don't really need it. School-can't decide. work-getting really busy. pay-hopefully going up with work being busy. resume-posted online. job offers-3 in less than 24 hours (all requiring a relocation). working out-trying to get back into it. diet-can't do it because i enjoy food too much. nashville-coming up next week. time-just not friggin enough.

now, I feel better, in closing, I woke up this morning with enough time to fix a cup of coffee, 3 eggs and 2 slices of bacon, eat it, watch a little sporscenter and still be at work by 9:00. I really feel better about myself when I get up early, I just can't seem to do it on a regular basis.

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7/19/06 - Random things

Well, I guess I've got some stuff to post today. First of all, I turned 26 on Monday. Nothing special about 26, I guess 30 is the next important birthday. Cristi took me to Sushi for lunch and it was wonderful, she also got me/gave me permission to get an Xbox 360 and Fight Night Round 3. I'm hoping to get NCAA Football 2007 fairly soon. Chris let me borrow his memory card which contains all the official rosters for all the teams in Div A. He got it from Roster Downloads but he didn't seem completely satisfied with there customer service.

Last weekend, my brother, myself, Cristi and his girlfriend Jessica all went to the Spring River Saturday morning and came back Sunday afternoon. We had a blast. We left just after 7 in the morning on Saturday and get there close to 10:30. We set up our tent (which I still need to get pictures up of) and then went floating. We took the 8 mile float which took us about 4 hours or so. We stopped just before Dead Man's Curve and sat on one of the rock formations to cool off. I think the heat index got up to 105, but the water stays a constant 55 degrees year round. After the float we came back and played cards for a bit, ate some hot dogs and s'mores (or just marshmallows for some of us) and then played Phase 10. As it got darker the bugs got worse and worse, but thanks to the wonderful tent we got with the covered porch, we didn't have to worry about it. When we woke up Sunday morning, we just packed up and headed back home. Surprisingly, it was quite cool at night. In fact, Cristi complained of being too cold and not being able to sleep due to her teeth chattering.

When we got back Sunday afternoon, it was necessary to clean off some of the stuff we took including 3 large plastic tarps we used to keep the tent off the ground directly and to line the back of our Truck. Speaking of trucks, I have big news in a minute. So to get them cleaned off, I laid them out in our grass and put bricks on each corner to keep it in place. I think they laid there for all of about 3-4 hours. Well, I now know to never do that again because it left large brown spots in our yard. Pictures to follow. I should also mention the passing of my beloved rhododendron. It was good for about a year or so and has finally given up its fight to survive in the hot climate of Arkansas and the lack of its owner to water it regularly. I got one very good flowering season out of it and that it. I'm not sure what to replace it with now, but it will be difficult to see this plant go. You can see its shriveled carcass in the picture below.

The big news is that I have now sold my truck. It went Sunday the 16th and it was a bit sadder than I thought it was going to be. Out of respect of those who made offers, I will only say that the final selling price was between $6000 and $5000. Also regarding vehicles, this time Cristi's car, the trucking company that hit her actually did have insurance and if our insurance company would get it's act together, they have agreed to stroke us a check of a reasonable amount of money although I think we could have gotten a lot more.

I can't think of anything else for the time being, but I'll try to update more often so my entries aren't quite so long. Also, I'll see what I can do about reducing the amount of stuff that has to be loaded on this home page.

Leave a comment if you would like to see the pictures from this post.

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7/8/06 - Petit Jean Mountain

Cristi and I decided to go for a hike to Cedar Falls at Petit Jean State Park. Originally, we were going to camp their on the mountain and spend a couple days hiking, but her work schedule wouldn't allow it. The hike itself is about 2 miles long and it took us about 2 hours to make the hike, plus about 45 minutes spent at the actual falls. From my limited research, I found out that Cedar Falls is the tallest, continuous flowing waterfall in Arkansas at about 90 feet high. The hike itself was not easy, so to speak, for those of us who are badly out of shape, but we did make it. We were afraid the weather was going to be unbearable, but the humidity and temperature stayed rather low for us.

Leave a comment if you would like to see the pictures from this post.

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7/5/06 - Starbucks

It wasn't too long ago that I hated Starbucks. I felt like it was taking over the world by selling overpriced coffee and allowing a place for coffee snobs, emo kids, and spoiled preppy brats to hang out in public. I didn't like it. Then, it happened. About a year or so ago, one of the groups I was in at school started meeting at a Starbucks because they had a very quiet corner in the back, it was centrally located and we thought it might have wireless internet (it wound up not having it). Since I was there and using their "space", I felt obligated to at least get something small. I don't remember what I got, but it was good. This continued weekly for the about a month or two and I believe I tried something different every time and only once got something I didn't like. I still felt robbed for paying 5 dollars for a cup of coffee, but at the same time, I felt like that was paying for the use of their table as well (First step…denial).

After the semester was over, I didn't feel like driving to that Starbucks because it was in a Target and out of the way, but then a Starbucks popped up almost right around the corner from my office and a co-worker asked me a few times if I wanted some coffee. We went a couple times, (at this point, I still wasn't happy about paying that much for coffee) and in fact the first time we went, I got something based on his recommendation and we sat and played a game of chess (which I won).

Before our trip to Las Vegas, I had made a trip to Starbucks about on a monthly basis, nothing big. Each time I would get something different, and by using my stunning good looks, quick wit, and boyish charm, I managed to get a few free drinks. Back to Las Vegas. This is when it really went downhill. I think Cristi and I had Starubucks every single day and on some days, even though we were walking several miles a day would go out of our way to get to one of the devil shops of coffee.

In conclusion, I now have a "fave drink" and highly recommend the "Grande White Choclate Mocha on ice, easy on the ice with just a little extra white chocolate". Before it's too late, I also recommend they remove the cocaine from your drink to hopefully keep you from getting addicted like I have.

My name is DJ Walker, and I'm in love with overpriced coffee drinks from Starbucks.

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- Camp 2006

So here's a selection of 120 pictures that I picked out from the roughly 2200 pictures included on the camp cd that was sold on the last couple days of camp. Of course, if the picture contained a decent shot of a Walker family member, odds are it got selected. Game guys/gals also got special treatment and the others are pictures that either I thought were taken very well, or contained a really good action shot. If you want to see more pictures of you in particular, send me an email at GravyTrain6(@)gmail(dot)comwith your name obviously so I can pull out your pictures.

Also, if I have spelled your name wrong, or left your name out of a picture, let me know so I can fix it. Just send me an email and let me know which picture and how you should spell your name.

Leave a comment if you would like to see the pictures from this post.

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