Looking into the sun (with glasses)

I remember the first – and perhaps only – eclipse I ever saw.  It happened in August 1979, when I was on fifth grade.  I remember getting out of the classroom to look at the sun – despite warnings that we shouldn’t.  Somehow I managed not to blind myself (though I developed myopia not too long after that, hmmm….).  Since then I have been more responsible and have not looked directly into the sun – until yesterday, that is.  You see, Mike mentioned a few weeks ago that the kids and him had gone to some science event in which they had glasses they could use to safely look at the sun.  I looked them up and found out that they are super cheap (though only sold in bulk) so I decided to get him a set for Christmas.

The glasses are quite simple, they are made of paper with black polymer lenses which filter all of the harmful ultraviolet and infrared light, as well as practically all the ambient light.  Put them on and look anywhere but at the sun, and you’ll see pitch black.  Then sun, however, looks like a perfect orange circle.  When I looked yesterday I couldn’t see any sun spots, but now that we have the glasses I can look often until I see them 🙂

These glasses are going to be perfect for the annular solar eclipse that will take place on May 20th this year.  It won’t hit the Bay Area, but the 20th conveniently falls on a Sunday making a trip up north (Redding is near the center path for the eclipse) easy enough.  As if that wasn’t enough, on June 5th Venus will be transiting between the earth and the sun! It’ll be the last time that this happens while we are alive, so I’m sure it’ll be worth seeing it.

I got the glasses at the Rainbow Symphony Store.  They are usually 85-cents each, plus very reasonable shipping, with a minimum purchase of 25.  But if you don’t care what the frames say (which I didn’t), you can buy them for 40-cents each with a minimum purchase of 50.  With shipping, this came out to less than $25.  The store’s website is very simple – very 1990’s – but I liked the vibe of it, and the glasses came very quickly.

Buying glasses & contacts online

I finally got a new eye prescription a few weeks ago (and I’m sad to say that I finally need bifocals), and decided to order both contacts and glasses online.  I’d done the former many times before, but was a little bit weary about the latter.  Whenever I’ve gotten glasses  I had to have them fitted.  But I figured I wear contacts all the time, and I only needed the glasses for emergencies, so how bad could it be?  The answer was “not too bad, but not that great either”.

I ordered the glasses from 39DollarGlasses.com because the glasses were cheap.  Frames + lenses start at $39 + $5 shipping, but with coupons I got my glasses for a total of $33.  Right now they’re running a $15 off promotion, so you can get a pair for as little as $29.  The glasses themselves arrived very quickly. I placed the order on a Saturday, and they were delivered early in the week, maybe even by Tuesday.  The frames themselves are clearly as cheap as they can be, they are not very flexible and I think they will break easily.  The prescription seems to be accurate, but I can’t really tell.  They do feel a little bit weird, but that may be because they are narrower than I was expecting so the frames are in my field of vision, that’s disconcerting and annoying.  Still, for a pair of glasses to wear very occasionally they’re OK.  I’d order from this company again, but next time I’d make sure to look for VERY BIG glasses 🙂
I ordered the contacts from AC Lens.  This company did not have the lowest prices, but some of the companies with lower prices weren’t well reviewed.  When you order from AC Lens, they order directly from the manufacturer who then ships to you. For that reason, the service is not as quick as it’d otherwise be.  I also ordered the contact lenses on a Saturday and they arrived the following Saturday.  I wasn’t able to use a coupon when I ordered, but they have them occasionally so check before you order.  The contact lenses I got were the ones I ordered, so I can’t comment on customer service.

Buying cheap Teva shoes online

For years, I used to get the most horrible foot ache whenever I walked any sort of distances. It didn’t matter what type of shoes I wore. Then, almost a decade ago I discovered Teva sandals, and then shoes, and I have wore nothing else since. The problem with Teva is that the shoes are very expensive, usually in the $70-90 range. While they are well made and last a long time, I do walk a lot – so a pair of shoes won’t last me more than a couple of seasons. An additional problem is that the shoes are rather ugly – some newer styles are cute, but not as comfy as the traditional ones. Still, I’m just not ready to pay full price for Teva’s so I’ve resorted to buying them at online discounters. Note that these usually sell either discontinued styles or returns.
The best discounter I’ve found is Sierra Trading Post. I’ve gotten several pairs of shoes from them and the shoes have always been in brand new condition. Shipping is quick and efficient. Prices are great, in particular when you use a discount code. On the minus side, if you do have to return your shoes, you will have to pay shipping -which can be about $8. So make sure you know what your size is – not all Teva sytles are consistent.

Amazon.com
sometimes has great deals on Teva as well. However, they usually only have these great deals in unpopular sizes or colors.
This time, I as looking for Pretty Rugged Leather sandals in a size 8. The newest model retails for $80, even last year’s model sells for close to that at most retailers. The only retailer that had them for a reasonable price ($40 + shipping) was 6 pm.com. I was very uncomfortable about ordering from them because they get terrible reviews, but the prospect of saving 50% off finally got me and I did. Fortunately, the shoes I received were fine. They were clearly a return, they had been tried on and all the packaging material was not there, but they were in perfect condition.
For those interested, 6pm.com is the sister company to Zappos.com, an online shoe store that is known for great customer service, quick and free shipping both ways and no-hassle returns. 6pm apparently sells the shoes that are returned to Zappos.com. The problem is that Zappos has a great return policy, you can return your shoes up to a year after you buy them, and clearly people return shoes after they’ve used them quite a bit – and these very used shoes can find their way into 6pm, as one shopper/blogger documented on her blog. Fortunately, that did not happen to me, but beware before buying from them. Also note that you have to pay return shipping.

Birthday Party @ Chuck E. Cheese’s (Hayward) – Review

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I just had Camila’s 6th birthday party at the Chuck E. Cheese restaurant in Hayward, CA, and I thought I’d report back for those thinking of throwing birthday parties there. She had a lot of fun and I think it was a good birthday experience. Wouldn’t be my first choice to do it again, but it’s so easy and painless that I wouldn’t fight it either.
We decided to hold Camila’s party at Chuck E. Cheese because she’d gone to a party there and she really wanted it. I was a bit concerned that it was too cheesy (pun intended) and could get expensive, but it worked out very well – probably because we had a very small party (total of 8 kids and 6 adults). I think any more than that and it could get a little crazy. The kids had a lot of fun and Camila was happy. I also only ended up spending about $150, which is probably what I would have spent if I’d had the party at home (though I’d probably had invited more kids). You can do it a bit cheaper than that, but not much.
Chuck-e-Cheese has a couple of different party packages, though they mostly vary on what goodies the birthday child gets. Offerings and prices also vary by location, apparently in other parts of the country they are much cheaper than here. Here, the cheapest package was $14 per kid and it included a reserved table, plastic crown & medallion for the birthday kid, as well as 30 seconds in their “ticket blaster” (a machine that drops tickets on the kid, which the kid can then try to pick up, and 2 small slices of pizza per kid and a drink. That’s it. No cake or anything else. They have a minimum of 4 kids per party, and I saw no reason to make reservations for more than 4 kids – as I’d have to pay $14 for the other kids just to get two measly pieces of pizza. So I just reserved for 4 kids and 8 adults, and ordered items not in the party package for the rest of the kids and adults. That worked out very well. If you sign up for their mailing list, they’ll give you a coupon for a large 1-topping pizza, 4 drinks and 40 tokens for $20, and you can use the same coupon 3 times. A couple of pizzas were enough for all the adults & extra kids, and they brought us extra cups.
The party was in every other way painless. We got there, were taken to our table (at the back of the room, where the party tables are) and met our hostess. We placed all our orders with her (she’ll take the coupons), and she brought everything we needed, from tokens to napkins. We got a birthday cake ($16 for 1/4 sheet) and a piñata ($20), and she dealt with that too (lightening the candles, cutting the cake, setting out the pinata, etc.). In other words, I didn’t have to do anything.
The food was pretty good, Chuck-e-cheese’s pizza is definitely edible and the cake wasn’t worse that most supermarket cakes.
Now, we had our party on a Sunday at 1:30 PM. Chuck-e-cheese was super crowded at the time. By 3:30-4, when we left, the place was pretty empty. So I’d say to go with a mid-afternoon party if you can. Doing it on Sunday and reserving online gives you 100 free tokens!