How To: Create Your Own Instagram Display

After many, many, many people asked for an insta-wall tutorial, I finally got my act together … and had Kamel write something up. Ahh teamwork! You’ll want to bookmark this page for future framing projects! And thank you Kamel for writing up this awesome tutorial. <3

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Before starting out, I would highly recommend picking out frames, or your preferred display method. This will save you lots of angst later on. So head on over to your favorite frame shop (we like Aaron Brothers, especially during their legendary penny sales) and buy up as many frames as you would like for your display. Selecting the frames or how to show your prints is pretty much up to you, but for the purposes of this tutorial let’s go with a square shape, mat-less easy frame. When I say easy, I mean the kind that doesn’t have those nasty fingernail killing metal tabs that are my absolute worst nightmare. Once you find your frames, decide on how many prints you’ll want to put up, and buy them all. Trust me, it gets harder to come back later only to find your frame is sold out, discontinued, or worse slightly changed so it no longer fits in with the rest.

Okay on to the printing!

1. Instagram can save relatively high res images, enough to print rather large. However, on their website, you’re only shown a “web friendly” size. So when you pick your favorite shots, you’ll need to locate the locally saved versions from your mobile device. (Note: In order for instagram to save local, high res images, you need to enable this in the app’s settings > Save Original Photos.)

2. If you hadn’t selected that, no worries, you can still get semi-decent sizes from gramfeed.com. Just log in, find the photo you want, click on it and pick download. Or if you rather do this in bulk, go to instaport.me. Photos downloaded like this should print okay up to 8×8 with some visible pixelation. But then again, these are low-fi’ed instagrams for crying out loud, so don’t stress over sharpness too much. =)

3. Now that you have all your images on your computer, head on over to your favorite print shop to get prints made. We like using Costco due to their amazing low prices on high quality prints. Plus you can set up your order online, and pick it up at the store about an hour or so later. Easy Peasy. During times when we don’t want to go to costco, we go with mpix.com, which also has pretty great prices and super high quality. ProTip: hit up retailmenot.com first to see if there are any coupons for mpix.com, they usually have some posted.)

4. During online printing, make sure to select the size that will fit in your frames, or with your previously chosen display method. We like going with 8×8, but you can do any other size. Costco offers 8×8 or 12×12, though from experience, we’ve found it really hard finding square frames larger than 8×8. Mpix.com is a little crazier since you can do 4×4, 5×5, 8×8, 10×10, 12×12 or if you’re feeling NUTS 20×20! But again, frames maybe hard to come by.

5. Once you’ve selected your size, and prior to finalizing your order, make sure to locate and untick the “apply auto corrections” that usually gets added by default. This option is cool if you’re printing images straight out of the camera with no editing whatsoever, but with instagram photos, you’ve already treated the images, so applying auto correct, might make the printing machine freak out and try it’s hardest to “fix” the filter that was applied. This results in images that don’t look the way they did on your mobile device.

6. Pay the man, and wait patiently for the prints to be done.

7. Pick up your prints, or receive them from the mail courier and have a look.

8. Don’t be shocked if they look darker in real life. This is normal. Remember, when you look at photos on your device, you’re pretty much staring at a box of bright light. For prints, you’re looking at light reflecting off the paper, so the image will vary slightly depending on the quality and temperature of the light sources around you. But, you’ll get used to it after a few glances. (Note: if the photo really is too dark, don’t be afraid to brighten it up a tad using your favorite image editor, export/save it at it’s highest setting to avoid compression degradation, and print again. It is worth the extra money for something being displayed on your wall.)

9. This is an optional step. Place the prints on the ground and arrange them in a way you think works best. This is usually how Lauren curates our wall art every time we move. This last time she switched out the instagrams while still on the wall, but the idea is the same. This is a personal choice, so I won’t give any “tips” – just do what looks good to you and screw the haters.

10. Put those suckers in their frames, or whatever display method you chose (thumbtacks, foam board, clips, magnets, etc…) and set up your work of art. Stand back, and TADA! Enjoy your insta-wall. =)

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Let me know if you have any questions about creating the grid system on your wall, or anything else in the comments, and I’ll try my best to help you out.

The Reason for the Season

A little over a year ago, I remember waking up early to a Lauren who felt like she was having contractions. She was. And hours later, she became a mom.

The road to get there was probably the most amazing thing I have ever seen Lauren go through. From the moment we interrupted BIRL magazine planning for her to tell me she was pregnant to the moment where I found myself holding her leg and counting to 10 while she pushed out a crazy baby boy. She went through so much, it was unbelievable. And to this day I’m still super impressed and proud at everything she rocked.

She would walk over mile everyday to take her train home while being 40-50lbs heavier. She would still make her own lunches and go to work everyday, even though she was fatigued or grossed out. She would still travel, even though the TSA would always give her shit about requesting to opt out of scanners. I can’t believe we went on like 10 plane rides and to another country while she was pregnant! What were we thinking? Haha

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But that’s what I love about her. She was still up for any adventure that came our way. She still is. And that’s part of what makes her an amazing mom.

This year, I’ve seen her be the most incredible mom ever. She is such a badass and Gabe will one day, hopefully, agree. She’s always done anything and everything to take care of our son, even if it meant interrupting snooze time or be peed on. She will always put our son first and can become a mean momma bear if she has to. She will make the time to make baby food from scratch, even if all she wants to do is lay down and play Kingdom Rush. She will not put up with Gabe’s annoying tantrums, even if he’s acting like the world is ending, she holds strong and doesn’t give in. She will get in on Gabe’s random dance parties no matter how tired or busy she is. I love it. And I love Gabe’s random dance parties. That kid is going to be an amazing dancer one day, just like his dad. Haha

Anyways, I love the mom that Lauren has become. Modern, fair, cool and sexy (yeah hot mom!). And if it wasn’t for her, Gabe and I wouldn’t have made it this far with all our sanity intact. So Lauren, thank you for being an incredible new mom. Thank you for all the help and amazing teamwork and support. I’m so proud of you and cannot wait to celebrate many other mothers days with you. Today is your day! You’ve earned it.

Happy Mothers Day!

Saturday Edition: The Aunties Part 3

This is Kamel. He sometimes writes on Saturdays:

When we were kids my sister and I used to talk about what we would do with each other’s kids. She would always say that she would send her kids over to my house so they could get their techie / video game fix so she would’t have to spend too much money. She figured I would have all the things they would want, haha. And I would send my kids to her home so they could get healthy nutrition and learn to draw. We were around 12-15 ish when we started talking about ourselves as future aunties and uncles.

Flash forward to last week; my sister finally met her first real life (not pretend life) nephew.

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After a couple of months of just texting over pictures pretty much non-stop, she was finally able to hold him.

She came over with her girlfriend, Lara, who made us delicious food. and homemade Jam. (Mmm. Jam.) Thanks, Lara!!

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They spent a full week in the bay area and in that time they were able to get some mad bonding time.

We went on walks. Made fatty quesadillas. Handled Gabe’s Social Security issues. (Mommy issues come later.) And played TONS on the quilt Kathleen made him.

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She kept being shocked at how much darker she was. It’s true… I did somehow make a white baby. Regina’s little vanilla wafer.

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Gabe had a blast too. Lots of attention, love and happies.

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We even managed to play Catan.

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While at two months it’s too soon to live out any of the things we used to talk about as kids, it was still an extremely successful visit.

Thank you for coming Tia Regina! We can’t wait to hang out again soon.

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Friday Video: Are You The Wiggle King?

A perfect example of my marriage and how we are both 80 year old deaf people. Also Gabe cuteness for good measure. Happy Friday!

(PS. Best experienced with volume, so headphone it up if you can.)

Saturday Edition: Lauren it’s Your Birthday, Happy Birthday Lauren!

Hi Lauren!

I’m hijacking your blog to write you a happy birthday post. I hope you don’t mind.

This is the first year that it will just be the two of us… well, almost. It will just be the THREE of us. Still, this year we don’t have to deal with you having the flu. Or, being away at a work trip. Or, with your parents in Vegas. This will be the first year it is just me and you having a really, really nice day.

What a year this has been, no? We have a baby. Can you fucking believe it? I can hear you singing to him as I type this.

I can’t wait until midnight for when I get to be the first person to wish you a happy birthday and tell you I love you. I also cannot wait to give you your presents. Because, as you know, the BEST part of presents is actually giving them. And as stressed out as I get with presents, I’m doing pretty good so far, with only 2 known duds which were quickly remedied. haha.

Today there will be a road trip. Visits to our wineries. GIANT COOKIE CAKE! Presents. Pictures, lots of pictures. And of course lots of love (and lots of diapers and feedings). And if in the end, we have to bail and head back home before we even get anywhere, the fact that we are just cruising and enjoying a nice day alone means everything will still be okay no matter what. I love hanging out with you, even when it’s just us sitting on our couch with me yutzing about online, while you’re on your computer typing away and making your idle faces.

You’re my favorite person. I wish I could have the writing abilities you have for just a few moments to let you know in fancy pants writerly ways how much you mean to me, and how much fun I’ve had since I’ve met you. I loved last year with you, and I cannot wait to see what this year brings us! I cannot wait to see what crazy shit you’ll have me do this year. As much as I think it can’t beat a hot air balloon or rock climbing classes, I’m sure you’ll think of something that will continue to keep me on my toes and ready to go on wacky adventures with you.

I love you.

Happy Birthday.

Now lets have cookie cake:

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PS. Once you’re feeling better about your post baby body, I will get you a dozen cupcakes and I will publicly challenge you on this blog to see if you can actually eat them all in one sitting. because I think that is BS and you can’t. NO ONE CAN!

Saturday Edition: Becoming a Dad

This is Kamel. He sometimes writes on Saturdays.

On the two appointments prior to Gabriel being born, we were late. The first time was because I ended up almost going all the way to Palo Alto since I was laughing and chatting away with Lauren. The second time, I started out by turning right instead of left out of our garage. In my head, we were going to Target, not the hospital. We semi-joked that what if when Lauren went into labor, we ended up at Target. hahaha. (Lauren didn’t find that as funny.)

At that last appointment we … well Lauren … was already 1 day past due. Funny how people say “we” when talking about their pregnancy. I used to say we, until I experienced it all. I did nothing. This was all her. If I would’ve had a single symptom or had to go through just one of the things my wife went through, right now Lauren would be writing the sad Kamel obituary post. Anyways, at our last appointment I worried the baby would come 1-2 weeks late, but the nurse gave Lauren some magic internal touch and potentially triggered her body into starting the big show.

The next morning Lauren woke me up a little before 4:00am to let me know she was having cramps. I got a little excited, since I knew this could mean we would have a baby that day! A few moments later we were timing them. Once I saw they were somewhat regular, we called the giant phone number we put up on our fridge that said, “IF YOU’RE IN LABOR, CALL THIS NUMBER”.  As Lauren was explaining her situation to the person over the phone, I of course, was downloading a contraction timing app on my iPhone.

They told us to wait about an hour to see how she progressed. In the meantime Lauren took a shower and blow dried her hair (really?), then I took a quick shower and gathered our stuff. Lauren called again and reported her pain wasn’t so bad. They told her to hang out at home for as long as she could. But! 30 minutes later the pain looked like it was so bad, she couldn’t wait any longer.

The entire drive I was trying not to make the car bounce too much and I was trying to not go to Target or Palo Alto. Once we got to the hospital, I was super excited to finally be able to park in the Expectant Mothers in Labor spots! Win.

I grabbed all our bags, and very slowly started walking towards our final destination because Lauren refused to be dropped off at the front. Every 3-6 minutes Lauren would have to pause to be in pain for about 1 minute and 14 seconds. During that time, I snapped a few pictures here and there without her even noticing. I couldn’t talk to her or touch her because it made it all worse, so I just documented.

We made it to the labor and delivery area where a bunch of super nice and amazing ladies greeted us. The hospital had the nicest, most helpful staff I’ve ever experienced. This made things much easier later on. While Lauren waddled her way into the bathroom to change into her snazzy gown, I took some more pictures of the room, the bed and what seemed to be a baby bed/oven that was set to “preheat”. Once out, she laid down on her bed and the nurses started attaching her to the first set of tubes.

Lauren asked them to keep the medical details to an absolute need-to-know minimum. And even then, just to tell me instead. This was really hard for me, because I love knowing all the details! I wanted to know what the tubes were, how they worked, what the machine was, what the numbers meant, etc… Instead, I just sort of guessed what the number meant and Lauren and I used those to measure out her contractions. When one would come, I would see the value go up, then back down afterwards. So that had to be the contraction measurer thingy.

Now all I could do was watch and keep everyone informed. I have never sent so many texts in my entire life. On a super busy holiday month, for example, I send and receive about 30-40 texts tops, vs Lauren’s 1500-2000. I also kept trying to make Lauren feel good. On many occasions making her laugh, which is not a good idea since it hurts her, but I can’t help it sometimes things are just funny for us. I got her juices and toast with butter and jam. I kept her people in the loop (hi ladies!). I watched her go through what looked like the most painful contractions ever – The really bad ones shot up to 70-75 in the contraction counting thingy! Normal range was low 20s, and mild contractions when we arrived were in the 40s.

She quickly got the the point were she needed the legendary Epidural. Oh boy, this would be the first time she would have to face the big scary needle thing they always showed in movies. We waited for what felt like 26 days for the anesthesiologist to swing by. Finally he arrived and had with him a small packet. He started out by introducing himself and then started going into the details. Before he got a sentence in, Lauren stopped him because she didn’t want to know (I did though! but it was okay). We knew it would make pain go away, and that is all that mattered at that point.

Three things about this shocked me. One, he said the process would take about 10-15 minutes! Two, he had to do this while she was sitting up, hunched over and could not stop for contractions. Great! Third, the actual Epidural process is not what they show in movies.

The anesthesiologist (I can only spell that word with the magic of spell check) started to pose us like he was going to take an artsy photograph. Lauren sitting on her bed, hunched over with loose shoulders. I was to stand right in front of her, with her forehead resting below my chin and my head over her left shoulder. The perfect view for me to see the whole thing! The good doctor man was ready to make magic and we were ready to see if she could actually go though this.

(Lauren Warning: If you don’t want to know about this – skip this paragraph and move on to the next one.)

He opens his packet and to my surprise, there was not GIANT syringe! Just a kit of needles, wires, tubes, valves and thingies. After preparing the spot in her back, he said the biggest lie all doctors say right before they are going to puncture you with a needle: “Okay, Lauren, this will feel like a quick mosquito bite”. In what planet, do doctors live on, where mosquito bites feel like that!? The needle, while not that exaggerated 12 incher I’ve seen in movies, was still longer than average. He put it in her back, and started wiring and tubing her up. He installed a little latch, with a tube and wire. Taped it all over her back and up her shoulder. He then assembled a little plastic thingy at the tips and hooked her up to a machine. My poor cyborg wife meanwhile was still feeling the very real and very painful contractions as this set up was taking place. I was still holding her, and being super proud and impressed that she had not passed out or given up on this.

Two minutes (Lauren Edit: It was NOT two minutes, but nice try Kamel.) after he started, he told us he was all done! Lauren really liked him when after the first few drops came in, she had a contraction that she “could feel a little bit still” but in the machine I saw numbers in the mid 70s! Lauren 2.0 was now online. The guy gave her a little button she cold press when she felt too much pain and the machine would give her the juice. He told us not to worry, we could press it once, or 1,000 times, the machine would never give us more than what was needed.

At this point she had tons of tubes, wires, IVs, catheters all over her. And the machines were spitting out all sorts of numbers and beeps. So, her parents and I took a break to go get food.

They say you can start pushing at 10cm, when we left for lunch, we figured she still at 5cm to go, so we had time…. Nope. She texted me right before we ordered and she was at 8cm! We still ate our food, and made our way back up. Her parents came just in time to wait in the waiting room, and me just in time to get the show on the road.

Baby Gabe was almost here. Lauren was at 10cm, the machines were saying all sorts of things, and the staff said it was go time. I thought I was going to be slightly over my wife’s shoulder, holding her hand and breathing with her just how we learned in our classes. BUT, we never actually took classes, and that’s not what the nurse had in mind. Instead, the nurse asked me to help her get this baby delivered! How exciting! I finally, had something to contribute!

I was tasked with holding up my wife’s left leg up at the same height as the nurse would hold up the right leg. We would both help Lauren push her legs back, and then I would have to encourage her to push. This was accomplished by me just counting up and making it somewhat of a game to see if Lauren could make it to 10 with each push.

“1! 2! 3! 4! 5! 6! 7! 8! 9! 10!” I said that a lot. Each time, looking down and seeing some amazing things happen. I saw our son slowly poke out. I saw Lauren do an amazing job. I saw her heart monitor freak out after every push, beeping and making the nurse and later the doctor nervous. Which made me nervous. But in hindsight, come on, it’s not like she was resting here. Of course her heart rate would go up. It would also go back to normal after each push, which made the doctor feel better (and me too). Lauren was fine the whole time – minus when she was literally busting her ass to make this baby happen.

Oh yeah, at this point Lauren’s amazing doctor, who had been with us since we first found out we were pregnant was now with us. She was also pregnant with her first child and she kept telling Lauren that she hoped her own labor would go like this – easy and quick. This made me feel even better that everything was going great.

So now more pushing. Gabriel’s head was almost all out. The Doctor was sitting in front of Lauren with a big laundry bag between them. I wondered what this bag was for. Surely not for the baby… I later saw what it was for. Yikes.

Anyway, Lauren gave her final pushes and suddenly, pop, baby head. Hello! Baby head facing down. Lauren squealed a bit when it popped out. She then asked the doctor if she had to push again, and the doctor said nope, she had it from here. I saw the doctor twist and yank our son out. The moment he slid out, Lauren again let out a quick yelp! I bet it felt like pulling out a booger… one of the long ones that feels like it comes from your brain, something Lauren later confirmed. haha.

They turned the baby around, and wow, it was so incredible! At this point I lost my shit, and remember being super excited and going all over the place. I saw him open his eyes, look in my direction and reach his arms out. I heard him cry, I heard Lauren cry, I heard all the nurses get super excited but also never skipping a beat. They cut his cord and set him in the baby oven they had preheated just for him. From here I looked over at Lauren, and then down at the doctor, who seemed to still be working on my wife.

(Lauren Edit: I just deleted an incredibly graphic paragraph about the doctor removing the placenta. YOU CAN THANK ME LATER! …. eesh Kamel.)

At this point I looked up at Lauren and didn’t bother telling her about what I had just seen. Instead I was super excited about baby! But even more excited… and don’t laugh… that my wife didn’t die! Yay!!

The nurses all told me I did a great job. They told me they loved that I was a part of it. They said they often have husbands who don’t even want to be inside the delivery room and instead opt to wait outside in the waiting room. What? Who are these lame husbands? Why would they not want to be in the same room at least?

Baby Gabe was born at 1:35pm. Within a few hours Lauren was breast feeding for the first time and we were both excited. I remember thinking, as I took a picture of Lauren holding our baby, how amazing her hair looked! In all post delivery mom pictures I’ve seen, messy hair was a common theme. But not Lauren, she blow dried it while in labor. Hahaha… I love that lady.

I texted everyone and their mothers a picture of Gabriel and then went to get Lauren’s parents who were waiting and waiting outside. After some hardcore baby-cuddling, her parents left, and it was just the three of us. Our little family.

Every now and then a nurse or doctor would come in to congratulate us, and unplug Lauren from one of her machines. Eventually she was almost all cleared up. She even handled the reverse epidural like a champ. I could never do an epidural.

Eventually we were all moved up to recovery and from there, we began the first two training days of life with Gabriel. But that is another post all together as those days were pretty epic.

Saturday Edition on a Holiday: Hasselblad 501CM, The First 3 Rolls

Kamel sometimes writes, usually on Saturdays, or when something fun pops up. More of his photos and for-sale prints can be found at Kamelperez.com.

I started out my photography life with film. During my art school days, everything was on film. I learned how to shoot, develop and print film. It was so much fun and very hands on – much more than on digital. From only having 12-24 shots per roll, to risking ruining everything if one small detail went unnoticed during development, to having to spend hours printing dozens of test strips to get the print just right. Hours would go by to get a single print. Lots of chemicals, washes, waiting for drying and lots of playlists on the iPod.

Then came digital and removed all of the waiting, the science, the touch and feel of printing. Removed the risk. I could take thousands of photos, and blast through them in Photoshop. Narrow it down and end up with a small collection of work. This was great for shooting weddings as it made everything so much faster. But the quality suffered a lot. The images didn’t look as good, just good enough. The time saver and convenience were a blessing and I generally love shooting on digital, but I always did miss film. Especially the larger formats, 6×6 being my absolute favorite.

During the years after school, I would every now and then rent a Hasselblad and go shooting. I would drop off my rolls to get developed and scanned at a low resolution and be left somewhat unsatisfied. Shooting was just as amazing as ever, but I no longer had any control because I no longer had access to a dark room. The small scans were all I could afford, since scanning at high res could cost up to $40 per roll. Even then, it was up to the discretion of the lab tech as to how it would be scanned.

So for my birthday as you all know, Lauren got me my own Hasselblad 501CM and for Christmas I got an EPSON V600 scanner from her parents. Yay!

This meant I could finally shoot 6×6 whenever I wanted, drop them off for a quick “develop only” (which is a 1 hour thing), and then scan them exactly the way I wanted to scan them. I could then take the giant files into Lightroom (I tried Aperture again for a few months, but went back to the better app) and get close to the printing experience I used to love.

In the end, while I can no longer spend entire nights in a lab making C-Prints or B&W fiber based prints, this new workflow will do just fine. I get to have the best of both worlds. The quality and aesthetics of film with the ease of the digital post processing world. To keep it fair, I only made same minor changes – things I would make in a real lab – removing dust, balancing exposure and color balance.

Here are some of the highlights of my first 3 rolls of Medium Format film:

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Out of the 36 shots, I ended up with these 14. Not bad. The more I shoot, the more I remember and the easier this becomes. More photos to come in the next few months! Especially with all the new life changes coming…

Saturday Edition (On a Sunday): The Epic ebay Battle

This is Kamel! He sometimes writes on Saturdays (and sometimes on other days too… like Sundays). Enjoy!

So I’ve been using ebay for about 11 years now and every now and then I use it to sell random crap. When I go on these selling spurts, they are usually quite successful. Turning the crap into cash is really nice. Plus, frees up space! In all of those transactions, there have been 3 bad ones. Ebay is a little tricky because it’s all about getting money from a random stranger who you are trusting a teensy bit to pay you, and then they are trusting you to send them the random crap they bought.

Before the holiday break, I helped my friend sell her broken iPhone 4. The phone had a completely shattered screen (as they do) and scuffed up, but it still worked. I listed it for 99 cents with no reserve for 5 days ending on a Saturday and opened it up to the entire world (as you should). Bidding kept creeping up and up to the point where Lauren and I worried the winner would think he was getting a brand new iPhone (Lauren Edit: Kamel worried about this, I gave 0 fucks). But I had made sure my auction was super clear with the words “broken, cracked, as is” in the title and in the description, plus a lot of photos to boot. I also made it clear: No refunds.

Anyways, bidding ended at around $274 not including fees. For a broken phone! The power of the internet at its best! But then I checked where we  had to ship the phone to. Russia. Great.

Now, I’ve shipped things to Russia before and have never had an issue, it just takes forever! And their customs is shady, and I have heard of some scary spam stories on the message boards. (Lauren Edit: hehehe… message boards… oh Kamel.) As per my auction, I was to ship to Russia via USPS International First Class Mail. Foreshadowing moment: This was my first mistake.

On December 18th I went to the Post Office and shipped the phone to the Russian dude. I couldn’t add tracking info because he did not choose to pay extra to add it. (This was probably the first red flag in hindsight). But I did have the Customs Form Number, which can be used as proof of shipment and can be partially tracked. The estimated time for delivery was around 20 business days, or January 18-21 ish. When I got home, I let the buyer know he could expect his package on or around those days (because I am awesome, and thoughtful and have a 100% rating…. booya).

Weeks went by and I never heard back from him, so I assumed all was okay. Then one day on January 4th I received a strange email from him. He said:

Hi. It took a long time after the payment. IPhone I got. Tracked number you gave. I ask you to give the information.

What? In my head, he was saying, “Hey sorry it took me a long time to pay you (he took a week to pay me), I got the iPhone and tracked it with the number you gave me. Could you confirm?” I think… The language barrier was obviously an issue, and I wasn’t totally certain what he was trying to say. Because I wanted to make sure that all was well, I replied asking him to confirm if he had, in fact, got the iPhone. At this point I was surprised that it seemed to have arrived much earlier than anticipated. I was a little relieved too, since there was a chance that customs in Russia would have delayed it even beyond the 20 business days. But I wanted to make sure that he wasn’t asking for further tracking information.

The very next day, without responding to me at all, he opened a dispute against me with ebay claiming he had never received the iPhone. Ebay – because they have almost ZERO seller protection and nearly always side with the buyer – automatically put a hold on my paypal for the amount he paid until I responded. This is 100% typical ebay protocol, so I responded the same day letting them know I had shipped the item, and thought he had gotten it based of his first email. I even went to the post office to double check that things had gone through. The post office assured me that it was way too soon (being only Jan. 4th) and that the recipient needed to wait until at least the 20th to be at all concerned. I gave ebay the customs number, and all of the info the post office had told me. He would get the phone (or he already got it).

The next morning, the buyer did not accept my response… because? I’m not sure. Maybe he is just a scamming douchebag. So ebay automatically refunded him the entire amount for the phone closed the case. What the fuck.

So, because I fucking hate customer service bullshit like this, I appealed the decision immediately, saying that, 1. Not enough time had gone by (For the 100th time) and the item should arrive within a few weeks. 2. A refund at this point is ebay basically facilitating a theft, since when the seller gets the phone (if he really hadn’t) he has no obligation to claim he got it. And 3. The decision felt automated and I wanted a human being to review it. (Lauren Edit: RIGHT?! Arrgghhhh. At this point I am pretty disgusted with ebay’s customer service. Especially when they make an ass load of money, dependent solely on the successful transactions between strangers!!)

Two days went by (while Lauren seethed and I was full of the regrets for not paying the extra 30 dollars for the tracking numbers, even just to protect myself) before ebay sent me a notice saying they had reviewed the case (yadda  yadda), and … decided to keep their original decision.

They would not give me back the money and would not pursue it any further.

Once again ebay has proved terrible service for sellers. In the end, ebay will always side with buyers because, “the customer is always right” which I know from working in retail is a BULLSHIT statement. Sometimes the customer is an asshole.

At this point in my story, ebay removed options to appeal any further, and sent me an email saying I should move on with my life, in a polite yet robotic sort of way. BUT, as Lauren knows all to well, when does that ever stop me? So I picked up the phone and called ebay.

The first gentleman I spoke with was clueless on how to handle this and kept reading script lines to me in broken English. Ebay outsources their customer service which means… it basically has no customer service… The man kept saying that the decision was final and buyer protection wins out. I reminded him that ebay also has seller protection and asked if I could speak to his supervisor. He transferred me over to his supervisor, who I could barely understand (again). I told him that based on the initial email, the guy sounded like he did received the phone, but since I questioned it, he took it as an advantage to file a fraudulent dispute. The supervisor at ebay did not care, and said that a seller can do that and get a refund without being obligated to show proof or send the item back – IF! I could not provide him with a proof of delivery. I reminded him that on my auction page, I mentioned that international sales will not get tracking, and the buyer agreed to that. Plus, I did have proof of shipment, and at this point it was still WAY TOO EARLY to receive it in the first place! He apologized but said the decision was final. He said I could talk to a supervisor in the ebay resolution center in the US, but that it would probably be a waste of time. I did not care about this supposed “waste of time” deterrent BS, and asked him to transfer me.

The lady back in the US heard my story and said she would review the emails and get back to me in a minute. She came back and said (finally) in her opinion it did indeed look like he got the phone, but once I questioned it, the crazy Russian  filed a dispute to take advantage of me. And then, just like that, after days and days, and many raised voices on my part, she finally reversed the decision and placed the money back into my account. HA! I win!! All hail the conquering hero!!

She apologized for my troubles, but said it happened because disputes are automated and just go through the motions without a person reviewing them. But it was good that I called. She also apologized for the first line of support, but explained that they are not trained on how to handle these escalations and cannot access my messages (Then why are they the first line of support at all?). No further action was needed on my part, her decision was indeed final. Case closed. Booya.

A few days later I saw the funds go back into my account,  BUT not from Russian dude. The funds came from ebay itself. Which means Russian dude probably got to keep his money and the iPhone. Which sucks!! This is setting a precident where people can scam sellers on ebay, and shadiness reigns supreme.

But hey, in the end. I win one! Epic battle closed.

Saturday Edition: Dad.

This is Kamel. He sometimes writes on Saturdays.

A while ago Lauren asked me to write a post about becoming a dad, similar to her post about becoming a mom. The first draft I wrote up was awful so it went unpublished. Why? Because it wasn’t really that thought out and it really didn’t talk about what I feel about entering this new stage in our lives. (And this really pissed off Lauren.) But then I realized why. It’s because I’m not there yet.

Lauren has already started becoming a mom. From the moment she became pregnant, she was already going through major changes. She was already taking care of the baby. She has had way more experience with this than I have, and the baby isn’t even born yet. I haven’t changed yet. I’m still the same old me. My body isn’t getting bigger (except it is, but in the post holiday noms kind of way) and I don’t have a surge of hormones going through my body. But most importantly I have no physical connection or responsibility directly related to the baby just yet. My time as a dad has not started.

Big changes have come for me in lots of other areas. But those are mostly the spouses’ standard issue duties. Taking care of the wife, making sure she is always comfortable (she never is), making sure all appointments are scheduled, bills paid, house kept clean, etc… So in my mind, I’m way more positive about the incoming baby. I feel like we are ready to be badass parents, something I’ve always thought about. I know (I’m totally just guessing really) that when the baby comes, Lauren will get all her energies back and with the two of us in care mode, we will rock this shit. But really, I have no idea what will happen. That’s a little scary.

My worries are somewhat different that Lauren’s. I worry the delivery won’t go as planned. I worry her or the baby will get hurt. I worry that scheduling guests to visit post baby might get a little wonky due to the complete unpredictability of a baby’s birth. But I’m not as worried about the “dad” things now.

I’m betting that once the baby is out, and I can hear him, see him, smell him, and touch him, the “dad” in me will kick in and everything will be different. The majority of the feelings Lauren has been having for months, will now be better understood by me.  My body and mind will go into “shit just got real” mode. I know this will happen. It has to.

I’m really excited about becoming a dad. I honestly can’t wait. I feel like we’ve been talking about so many things, making so many plans and doing our own thing to become pretty good parents that now I am ready to start. I just can’t wait to see our son.

Saturday Edition: Long Time Watcher, First Time Voter

I have been fascinated with politics and elections for a long time now. While normal boys would get excited about their Superbowls and World Cups, I would get excited for Presidential Elections. The first one I can remember was 1992’s Bush v Clinton election. I remember, as a little kid, watching both candidates on TV. I remember the ads, the news shows, the saxophone playing on Arsenio. I remember Ross Perot acting all crazy during debates. We even had mock elections in school, where I voted for Bush (he isn’t as bad as people made him out to be, honestly, watch the HBO doc 41). My elementary school vote didn’t count, but it was so cool to actually vote. At the end of the night, Clinton ended up winning and he ended up being a pretty fun guy. (Lauren Edit: Classic Kamel Understatement.)

Because I was only a resident (and under age), I couldn’t vote back then. But even when I turned 18, I still had the problem of not being a Citizen. Something I fixed much later in my life. No matter, I still was a huge fan of elections, politics and campaigning. I will NEVER forget the giant clusterfuck my home state of Florida caused in the 2000 election. And having been living in Miami at the time made it so much more real. TOO CLOSE TO CALL… for like a month. Lawyers, and recounts and hanging/dimpled/pregnant CHADS. Katherine Harris’ smug face, loving all the power she had. Our governor Jeb Bush siding with his brother. My aunt, amongst others, telling us they voted for Nader. Anyway, there is an amazing HBO movie detailing all of this called Recount. Watch it sometime.

Well two things happened during that whole thing. One, I believe that was the decisive moment when the country split itself in half for the next 10 years. And Two, I, more than any other moment wished I would’ve been a citizen, registered and had voted. The loss by only 537 votes in my state made me feel like every single vote matters! Beyond a shadow of a doubt.

Sadly, due to many other factors (Lauren Edit: and by “factors” he means laziness… and stubbornness… true story), I didn’t become a Citizen until much later. Just in time for the 2012 election. So exciting. This time, I had the power to vote.

The night before the election, I was so excited I couldn’t sleep. I kept checking all the polls, the news, 538. I double checked my California props just in case I had written down my choices wrong a few nights prior with Lauren. After Lauren went to bed, I kept on watching CNN and Fox News on my iPad while reading Nate Silver’s blog. The news channels called it razor thin, while 538 called it a clear Obama win. I had a feeling the stats were accurate and the media was just pretending it was tight. It didn’t matter, I couldn’t wait to vote. So I shut down all my iDevices (Lauren Edit: Barf at this term.) and tried to sleep.

I couldn’t sleep. I tossed and turned, and worried and stressed. Knowing we had to wake up at 5:30am to shower and be in line at our local polling place before 7am. The pressure! The thrills! Ahhh!! What if we were late? What if the lines were just like in Florida at 9 hours long?! (Oh Florida… you old so and so, up to your old tricks.)

Lauren woke up at some point to pee and I told her I couldn’t sleep because I was worried, and she was like awww you’re nervous for your first time voting. And then she patted me, laughed, rolled over, and passed out.

The alarm went off, and up we got. Showered, dressed and readied for voting and for work. Lauren would like me to point out that she was wearing her very cute maternity skinny jeans in patriotic blue.

6:45am and out the door we jumped. We walked over to the voting place, just two blocks away, and I got super excited all over again. And of course me being me and Lauren being Lauren, pictures had to be taken.

We got in line and I was pleasantly surprised by the turn out in our little hood. We were asked what precinct we were in and right away, had no idea. This is where I started to panic! I’M ALREADY DOING IT WRONG. But no worries, Lauren went and found the right one while I started sweating and losing my mind.

Lauren went in first to her little e-booth (Lauren says electronic voting is like a PlaySkool toy) and began pecking away at her candidates and props.

Then came me. They asked me for my name, found it on the list. Amazing. My name finally in a voting list! They asked if I wanted to vote electronically or with a Paper Ballot. Since I have always, always dreamed of voting on a paper ballot, paired with my  inability (Lauren Edit: and irrational fears considering how many SCREENS we have in our HOUSE) to trust the voting computers at all – I went with paper.

I went over to my little booth which was decorated with American flags and such and I started going at it. First up: President. Not Romney, not Roseanne Barr. Gary Johnson… I wish… Obama, there he is! Bubble in! The ballot was so much bigger than I thought, so many more questions than just President – thank god we had done our homework.

When I was done I walked over to the ballot box, tore off my receipt and dumped it in!

I VOTED!

I was super excited all day, watching CNN. I wore my sticker on my jacket and still haven’t taken it off. It was a fun day.

At the end of the day, science won over the GOP’s fantasy world. Karl Rove even had a meltdown on Fox News. It was fabulously surreal to watch, and if you have 18ish minutes, PLEASE watch this, it’s mesmerizing:

The best part, later in the evening, was generally evil, bitchy Megyn Kelly asking Rove,

Is this just math that you do as a Republican to make yourself feel better? Or is this real?

Days after, listening to the conservative shows and Fox News, I started to get a positive feeling. I’m hoping that an election cannot be one from now on with made up stats, attacking gay marriage, immigration, treating women as 2nd class morons, while sending a message that focuses mainly on appealing to the evangelicals and super rich. This election was the one about change. Republican turnout was around 2 million less than in 2008, and this makes me excited for the possibility of 2016. The best case scenario is a better, more diverse GOP, where both candidates are solid, and where differences in policy are just differences – and has nothing to do with trying to please corporations and big business, perpetuate inequality, or threaten women’s health.

I really hope that in 2016, the Election is one where no matter if the candidate is Republican or Democrat, I have a hard time choosing. (Like Santos vs Vinick.)