Jul 04

Livermore Wine and Cycle Tours

http://www.livermorewineandcycletours.com/

Please note the details of the tour described below may be subject to change. Check with Livermore Wine and Cycle Tours to confirm the details of your tour, should you decide to take one.

Livemore Wine and Cycle Tours runs half-day tours of the Livemore Valley Wine Country. You can either bring your own bicycle, or rent one at Livermore Cyclery. If you rent, they’ll handle the transportation of the bikes to and from they cycle shop.

To kick things off they host a gourmet antipasto lunch at Campo di Bocci in Livermore, right outside of Ruby Hill in Pleasanton. There you will start off your sampling of some great Livermore Valley wines, along with some great food, and possibly a quick game of bocci ball.

Event Room - Campo Di Bocci in Livermore

Event Room - Campo Di Bocci in Livermore



Outdoor Bocci Court - Campo Di Bocci in Livemore

Outdoor Bocci Court - Campo Di Bocci in Livermore

Ready to Ride - Livermore Wine and Cycle Tours

Ready to Ride - Livermore Wine and Cycle Tours

We visited two wineries, Deer Ridge and Tenuta Vineyards. The bike ride had some steep grades, and crossed some busy streets, but overall it was non-strenuous. It will be most enjoyable if you are in shape, but it’s not a requirement.

Deer Ridge Vineyards
http://www.deerridgevineyards.com/
From Campo di Bocci we took the 3 mile ride to Deer Ridge Vineyards, where we enjoyed some barrel tasting. The owner Carl was our host and provided a very interesting take, including history and information on winemaking.

Deer Ridge Vineyards - Livermore Valley Wine Country

Deer Ridge Vineyards - Livermore Valley Wine Country



We sampled the following wines:
2009 Sauvignon Blanc, Somoma Valley, Private Reserve ( we also sampled a single grape version)
2007 Chardonnay, Estate – Unoaked
2003 El Dorado Zinfandel, Private Reserve
2004 Cabernet Sauvignon, Estate
2007 Moonstruck ®, Estate – Private Reserve

Barrel Tasting - Deer Ridge Vineyards

Barrel Tasting - Deer Ridge Vineyards

We received a 15% discount and many people purchased the Moonstruck, which we were told would sell out fast.

Tenuta Vineyards
http://www.tenutawinery.com/

Tenuta Vineyards

Tenuta Vineyards

The next 3 mile trek took us to Tenuta Vineyards. We started off in the main tasting room and sampled our choice of wines, and then were taken on a short tour of the plant on our way to the barrel tasting room. We passed through a room were another group was custom blending their own wines as a team building exercise. Our entertaining tour guide also mentioned that the winery was being considered for the subject of a reality television show.

Bottling Machine in Production Area - Tenuta Vineyards

Bottling Machine in Production Area - Tenuta Vineyards



We sampled a variety of wines and ended up purchasing futures on an amazing Chardonnay Port. After the tour we sampled a Caberney Port with some cookies, and finally a couple of olive oils with some bread.

Finally we took the 3 mile ride back to our meeting place at Campo di Bocci, or tour was finished. Overall an enjoyable half-day introduction the Livermore Valley Wine County.

Sep 28

Tips on Using Ant Baits

Ant baits contain small amounts of pesticide mixed with a food substance that serves to attract the ants. Ants take the bait back to the nest, and share it with the rest of the colony. In this way the entire colony can be eliminated. Here are some tips that will help you better utilize your ant baits:

  • Don’t use ant spray around the bait. It will repel ants, and they will not be attracted to the food substance in the bait.
  • Use baits with boric acid, borax, fipronil, hydramethylnon, or arsenic as the active ingredient.
  • Keep several different baits on hand because ants can change their food preferences. If one bait isn’t working, you may want to try another before deciding on an exterminator.
  • Don’t use baits outside when it is raining.
  • When ants are gone, remove the bait, so you don’t attract more.
  • Baits will take 2 to 5 weeks to kill the entire colony. If the ant trail becomes thick after placing the ant bait, that is a good sign. It means that they are carrying a lot of bait back to the nest. After a few days to a week, the trail should get smaller, until it eventually disappears, along with the colony!

May 16

Affordable Stock Photography Comparison

The revolution in self-publishing in recent years, combined with the ease and affordability of digital imaging technology has not only been a boon for photographers but also for designer. The widespread availability of affordable, quality stock photography has put professional-looking publications within the reach of a larger and larger number of businesses.

In this article we will compare three providers of affordable stock photography:

iStockphoto.com

Bigstockphoto.com

Shutterstock.com

For the sake of comparison we have chosen two images – a blue toaster, and the skyline of Sacramento, California. We’ll compare the quality and number of availble images, pricing, and ease of search.

Blue Toasters

iStock Photo – 13 matches – all relevant

iStockphoto - best choice

iStockphoto - best choice

Big Stock Photo

8 matches – all relevant

Big Stock Photo - Best Choice

Big Stock Photo - Best Choice

Shutterstock – 24 matches – most relevant – no photo’s of blue toaster available

Shutterstock - Best Choice

Shutterstock - Best Choice

Sacramento Skyline

iStockphoto – 96 matches – all relevant

iStockphoto - Best Choice

iStockphoto - Best Choice

Big Stock Photo – 21 matches – most relevant

Big Stock Photo - Best Choice

Big Stock Photo - Best Choice

Shutterstock – 65 matches – all relevant

Shutterstock - Best Choice

Shutterstock - Best Choice

Pricing

Comparing pricing for pay-as-you go options, all providers were in the same ballpark, with small images costing less than $5 apiece and large images costing less than $10 apiece. Shutterstock was the highest priced for the large images, but also offered a “super” size, which is 8000px wide.

Analysis

Both Shutterstock and Big Stock Photo served up some irrelevant results. When digging through hundereds of thumbnails to find just the right photo, this can be a big waste of time. iStockphoto seemed to serve up a higher number of consistently high quality, relevant photos, and was in the middle of pricing. We were not happy at all with the selection of photos served up by Big Stock Photo, and although Shutterstock did have some good images, Compare 4 Consumers recommends iStockPhoto.com for your affordable stock photograpy needs.

May 03

Spa Tubs

Whirlpools combine water and air to create the therapy system. The high flow configuration can be custom tailored to your specific needs by selecting options such as back jets, an in-line heater, or custom jet placement. Each system can be hand crafted.

The easiest way to search for spa tubs is by size, style or manufacture. The following is a list of top twelve manufactures with a wide variety of sizes and styles. Warranties vary with model and manufacturer.

  • American Bath Factory
  • Aquatic Industries
  • Laurel Mountain
  • Americh Whirlpools
  • Pearl
  • Jacuzzi
  • Jetta
  • Maax
  • Swirl Way
  • St. Thomas
  • Safety Tubs
  • Water Dance Baths

Unique features are the website focus for each of the different manufactures. Safety Tubs offer Walk-in-tubs for the handicap bath solution. Jetta has a “Stay Hot Guarantee”. Their environmentally friendly foam insulation combined with a warm air induction system allows the tub to stay within 2 degrees even after 30 minutes.

Laurel Mountain claims unparalleled quality, dependability, ease of installation and service ability.

The most common motor size is 2HP. Elite series are 3HP and custom units can be much larger. The standard length is 60” but Pearl offers two models at 59 ¾”. Width can vary greatly with the shape configuration. Acrylic colors are available depending on model and manufacturer.

Apr 04

Walnut Creek DUI Defense Lawyers

The Law Office of O’Connor, Runckel & O’Malley specializes in DUI/DWI Drunk Driving Defense cases in Walnut Creek, California. The partners of this law firm are former Deputy District Attorneys and a Superior Court Judge in Contra Costa County, with the experience of hundreds of criminal jury trials. They are now dedicated to protecting the rights of those accused with DUI, DWI and Drunk Driving charges.

Don’t put your life in the hands of a lawyer with limited courtroom experience. In Walnut Creek, O’Connor, Runckel and O’Malley is definitely the best choice for a DUI Defense law firm.

Apr 04

Appliance and Plumbing Product Research: Wall Ovens

According to consumer reports, the price of electric ovens can have little to do with the performance of the appliance.  Wall ovens range from $4-7,000 for high end double wall units but can go much higher. Self cleaning single wall ovens at the low end can be purchased in the $500 range.

The top five manufactures sited in the 2009 Buyers Guide are Thermador, Viking, Bosch, GE and Electrolux. The top ten brands and models included Kenmore, Frigidaire and Whirlpool. KitchenAid Superba was rated twelfth. The ratings for these appliances reflect capacity, baking, broiling and self-cleaning ability of the specific model. All rated models are electric but gas wall ovens are also available.

I have chosen to focus on two wall oven models in the mid price range with an overall score of “very good” in the 2009 Consumer Report Buying Guide and one higher priced unit.  I have also included information on the KitchenAid 24” double convection oven and the GE Profile Advantium SpeedCook Wall Oven.

The most common size for today’s wall oven is 30 inches. Most styles and models are also available with a 27 inch width and some as wide as 36 inches.  I am currently working on an older kitchen where the existing cabinets require a 24 inch double wall unit. The availability of the smaller width will be addressed with each of the five brands/models individually.

Consumer Reports claims that the higher price for a Bosch and the Kenmore (Sears) gives you well rounded performance and a temperature probe. GE is cheaper but the cooking/heating is not as even. Frigidaire Gallery is also cheaper but less capacity.

Mar 29

Personal Injury Attorneys in San Francisco

O’Connor, Runckel and O’Malley is a law firm with offices in Concord, San Francisco and Sacramento, California. Using their over 45 years of experience as Deputy District Attorneys and a Superior Court Judge for Contra Costa County, they represent clients in a variety of personal injury claims from automobile accidents to dog bites.

If you are looking for a personal injury lawyer because you have been injured due to someone elses negligence, you should check out their attorney website here. And the consultations are free. How can you beat that?

Jan 01

Raid Ant Bait vs. Grant’s Ant Stakes

Grant's Ant Stakes

Grant

When the weather gets cold and dry, you can be sure that ants will be looking for a nice place to stay and forage for food. When that place is your house, you have 4 basic methods at your disposal to reduce the nuisuance, or get rid of the pests:

  1. Keep your house clean and free of food crumbs and spills, and garbages emptied.
  2. Spray the ants and ant trail with insecticide
  3. Locatate and destroy the nest
  4. Use ant bait to poison and destroy the entire colony

Keeping your house clean is a good idea, but may not be completely effective. Ants will also be attracted to water, so your house will hold some attraction as a home for the colony.

Spraying your house with insecticide leaves a residue that can be harmful to humans and pets, and will only kill a small number of the ants. It will be an ongoing battle, as the ants can easily rebuild their numbers before you can kill them all.

If the ant nest is easily visible outside, locating and destroying the nest is a good plan. For household infestations this is not always possible, but for some species, such as carpenter ants, it is the only solution.

For most species, however, using ant baits is the easiest and most effective way to control an ant infestation. The two leading ant baits on the market are Grant’s Ant Stakes and Raid Ant Bait.

raid ant baits

raid ant baits

In our test, Raid Ant Bait looked promising. The bait is hidden inside small structures, so it isn’t exposed to pets or children. Unfortunately, placing the bait along baseboards, and directly in the ant trail did not generate a lot of interest in the ants. In fact, the (black) ants treated the ant bait as any other inanimate object. Several Raid Ant Baits were left out for a week, and had no effect on the ant infestation.

Grant’s Ant Stakes, on the other hand almost immediately caused an ant feeding frenzy when placed in the ant trail. The feeding lasted for about 3 days, after which no more ants were observed. Grant’s Ant Stakes appeared to be effective, as advertised.

Compare4Consumers recommends Grant’s Ant Stakes for your next ant infestation. For carpenter ants or termites, or if this product is ineffective, please consult your local exterminator.

Tips on Using Ant Baits

Dec 10

Pleasanton Rooters – Sewer Drain Cleaning Plumbers

Yesterday after I returned home from work, I experienced the dreaded event that all home-owners eventually encounter. A backed up sewer line. Toilets were full and didn’t flush properly. Shower and bath had standing “water.” Just what you want to experience at 8 PM in the evening.

This was the first back-up we’ve experienced since moving to Pleasanton, so it was time to find a new rooter. A Google search resulted in an awful lot of Roto-Rooter listings, so I clicked on one, which brought me to the main website http://www.rotorooter.com/. Under “Request Service” I entered my zip code and selected “Contact Local Branch.” The brought up the following listing:

Roto-Rooter Independent Franchise
(925) 605-4311


Exactly where it was located, I have no idea, but the quote was for $204 per hour with a one hour miniumum. Ouch. I remember having roots ground out of my sewer drain being less expensive, but that was a few years ago, and in Hayward. Nobody would be available for another hour and a half, so I decided to move on.

Next up was Mr. Resuce, but their website http://www.mrrescue.net/hayward was too user-hostile, so I moved on quickly.

Here’s who I finally ended up using:

Mr. Rooter
182 Madelia Pl
San Ramon, CA 94583

(925) 416-0966‎
mrrooter.com

The operator answered immediately and said that she would contact a technician, who would be available immediately. Immediately was very important to me, with standing “water” in the shower and bath, and no rest rooms available. She wouldn’t quote an hourly rate and said they could only give an estimate after the technician had evaluated the situation.

The technician called about a half hour later, and after a bit of back and forth I was able to extricate from him that rooting the sewer line would cost $238. Still ouch, but I was dulled by fatigue, so it hurt less. Mr. Rooter charges per task, so it was the same charge no matter how long it took. To make a long story short, the technician, Steve, arrived between 9 and 9:30 and left at midnight, with the toilets flushing and the tub and shower drained. He did a good job of cleaning up after himself too. At that point I was glad I hadn’t gone with the hourly charge.

Nov 21

Test Only Smog Check Center in Pleasanton

It’s that time of every-other year again. Time to renew my automobile registration, and it came with the words “SMOG Certification Required at a Test Only or Gold Sheild station.” I’m not sure what a Gold Shield station is, but I’m all too familiar with Test Only stations. My catalytic converter went out before my last SMOG check and I spent a good amount of time at:

Epps Test Only Center
183 Wyoming St
Pleasanton,CA
(925) 931-0922

When I called this time, ‎ however, I let the phone ring about 15 times and no one picked up. I did  have a coupon for:

Clear Blue Test Only SMOG Station
3790 Hopyard Road
Pleasanton, CA 94588
(925) 462-7664

Time to price shop. Clear Blue’s normal price for my ’98 Toyota Camry V6 was $89.95, plus $10 for the certificate. Without the coupon that would be pretty steep, but the coupon brought the price down to $44.95 plus $10, or $54.95 total.

The next two places I called were a little farther away, in Dublin, but still within my shopping range:

All Smogs Test Only Center
7034 Village Pkwy
Dublin, CA 
(925) 828-7277

The cost at All Smogs was $68.95, including certificate, plus you could get 5 dollars off by bringing in a canned food donation. An appointment was necessary.

‎Last on my list was:

Discount Smog Check Center
6055 Dougherty Rd
Dublin, CA‎ 
(925) 551-0400

The cost at Discount was $45.20 plus the cost of the certificate. Not enough of a savings for the extra driving, so I chose Clear Blue.

When I arrived the technician was standing out front waiting for a customer. That was me! He collected my paperwork, gave me some to fill out, and then directed me to the waiting area. By the time I got settled, and started my reading, he was backing my car up to where I sat. Fifteen minutes, if that, from start to finish.

If you need a SMOG check at a Test Only center in Pleasanton, California, I highly recommend Clear Blue. They are located on Hopyard Road and Las Positas, right next to the Shell station, and  near the DMV.

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