- We try to give things to a family who is in need. Or we go in with another family.
- A bunch of my neighbors and our family goes Christmas caroling. We usually sing to the older couples, the sick, the widows, or older single women.
- Christmas eve, we read the story of the birth of Jesus Christ from the Bible.
- The kids get to open up one present. The present they get to open is a pair of home made flannel pajamas. They put their new pajamas on and go to bed.
- Christmas morning, I make my kids go into the kitchen. I usually make a killer breakfast. We eat breakfast before opening up presents. The kids really hate me for this. This is a tradition that started with my family.
- After breakfast I make the kids go downstairs and line up in front of the door. It is youngest to oldest (shortest to tallest). The youngest is in front. This is a tradition my parents started when I was a kid.
- After photos, the kids check out their stockings.
- After stockings, the kids get to see their Santa gifts.
- After Santa gifts, the kids get to open their own presents. Since Christmas is being funded by cash this year, it means there will be few presents under the tree. I am totally OK with that.
- We spend the rest of the day hanging out and the kids play with their new shiny toys.
Friday, December 18, 2009
I'm looking forward to the excitement on kids faces as it quickly turns to disappointment. NOT! I think my younger kids will be fine. It is my older kids that I'm afraid may be disappointed. They have been warned that Christmas is going to
So what do I want for Christmas? Stuff I can't possibly afford. A Canon 5D Mark II camera ($2,700 for the body only) for starters. Or a 2010 Mustang GT ($30k) with a 3.73 rear end and a manual transmission. That car hauls some serious .... serious ..... OK, it accelerates quickly and is FUN to drive hard. A lot more fun than my boring and reliable Camry. The 30MPG the Camry gets is a lot better than the 15MPG I would get if I had a Mustang GT. Or the Camry is just a bit over 1/2 the cost of the Mustang. I just need to keep telling myself that. Maybe some day I'll actually believe it. I don't like hearing it, but I can always hope and dream. (Note to self... I can't believe I'm actually complaining about owning a Toyota Camry. It really is a nice car. But the mid-life crisis part of me REALLY wants something fun to drive. And the Camry just doesn't have the acceleration oomph that I crave...) Or I'd like a new widescreen monitor (24") for the home PC. The 17" is nice, but it is just kind of small, especially when I work on a 28" screen every day at work.
So Christmas is going to
Funny thing is that I never heard this story in the US. The US media either ignored it or covered it up. Nothing like showing Osama the video of where we're flying so he can stay well away from those areas. Reminds me of WWII when the British had German Enigma machines and the Brits knew exactly what Germany was going to do.
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Today we get a new letter from Bank of America. It says the following:
Dear (insert our name here):
We recently notified you in October (I guess that's when we got our fun letter) of a change to your Account Agreement describing how the annual percentage rate on your account would be calculated using a variable rate formula tied to the U.S. prime rate. After careful consideration (and a lot of ticked off customers), we have decided not to implement this change. As a result, your account will retain its current annual percentage rate and remain unchanged.
We started this loan several years ago with MBNA. MBNA was acquired by Bank of America. Many years ago MBNA tried to change our interest rate from a fixed to a variable, but there was an opt-out clause. We decided to opt-out. And things were good. So when we get this change in terms even after we had opted out, it really left a sour taste in our mouths. It did not seem like they could legally change our rate like they did since we had previously opted out of going variable. I thought about complaining to the Consumer Protection Agency and others, but it just fell by the wayside. I don't know who complained or what was said. But to whomever helped change Bank of America's heart, thank you. I thank you from the bottom of my heart.
I know the banks have suffered incredible losses in the last couple of years. However, the banks have helped create the mess they are currently in by giving out easy money. We have never been late on our payment. And it is frustrating as a customer for the banks to ignore a customer's past history and literally mess with you like we're an unlimited resource ready to be tapped out by fees and interest rate hikes. Mr Banker, I'm not the problem. I pay my bills on time. Go hose those that aren't paying their bills on time. Soak them with the punitive rates and fees, not me.
One last word... I have a long, long, long memory. If you look at the cars I drive, you will notice that my cars are imports, except for my larger vehicles. Why? Because when I was a kid, I can remember all the crummy cars that came out of Detroit. There isn't a single American car that my parents had that I liked or even worked properly. Not a one. And so for the last 20 years I've avoided American cars like the plague.
Mr. Banker, I have a long memory. If you want me to continue to do business with you, you had better treat me right. If not, I will take my business elsewhere. There is one bank (Chase) that I will never do business with ever again. Bank of America, do you wish to join that club as well?
Sunday, October 11, 2009
In the article, there is a couple that talks about Chase messing around with the people's payments. My wife and I once had a Chase credit card. One of the worst cards I've ever had in my life. They messed with my interest rate. They changed my due date. Finally I was sick of them and moved the balance to another credit card. Because of that experience, I've vowed to never own another Chase credit card ever. That was about five years ago. And we haven't been back since. Their loss and my gain.
My word to the wise - choose your credit card company carefully. And if someone starts messing with you, just switch to a different bank. Hopefully, you can switch to a different bank.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Have you heard of the story of old Lazy Larsen? Oh, you haven't? Well, let me tell you about him.
Once upon a time there was an uncle that was so lazy, the people called him Lazy Larsen. He was so lazy that he wouldn't do anything for himself. He would not work. He would not feed himself. He expected others to do his work for him. The people were so exasperated with him, because he wouldn't do anything, they decided to bury him alive. So they put old Lazy Larsen into a coffin and they were taking him down main street to the cemetary to bury him. A person was going through town and stopped the funeral procession.
"Oh, no one died. Old Lazy Larsen refuses to do anything. He won't work to provide for himself. He won't do anything. So we're going to bury him alive in the cemetary."
"Oh no, don't do that. If he needs food, I have a whole field of corn that he can have and he can live on for free."
Lazy Larsen rises up out of the coffin and asks, "Is the corn shelled and schucked?"
The passer by says, "No, it isn't. But that can be done easily enough."
Lazy Larsen says, "Drive on driver, drive on."
Lazy Larsen was so lazy that he was even unwilling to accept free food that required just a little bit of work to prepare.
I should learn my lesson.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Its a pretty sweet ride. He wants $7,500 for it, which is about $7,480 more than I can afford. (sigh) The wife said I could sell my new Camry and pick up the Camaro. Uhhh... No. Not that I'm in love with my Camry, but it gets 30 MPG, and this Camaro will probably get between 15 and 20 MPG. And if gas ever goes ballistic again, I'd be toast. So I'll live to covet a different day. I'm sure he'll sell the car sooner or later. And if my finances improve and its still available, this beauty may follow me home. But knowing him and knowing my finances, the chances of that happening are about the same as me winning the lottery (I don't play the lotto). But it sure would be a lot cheaper than a 2010 Ford Mustang GT........ Less than 1/4 the cost. Almost 1/5 the cost. But when you get paid and pay your bills and then you look at your checkbook balance and its almost down to where it was before you paid your bills, you know you can't add additional overhead to the budget. As much as I would love to think I could afford this beast, I really can't. Not today. Not tomorrow. Not ever. Period. Done. (sigh)
Friday, September 11, 2009
Thursday, September 3, 2009
Whew! Yesterday I went in for an annual physical. I have some meds that need to be refilled and I thought that with my past history of random things breaking down, it was time to start the annual physical routine. The doctor I ended up visiting is higly recommended by one of our neighbors. My lame doctor that I've been seeing for nearly a decade has moved his practice further away than I want to drive. And he's gone "bad" in many different ways and at many different levels. He is a good person, just I have not been impressed with his medical skills as of late. So adios, amigo.
So I go in to see a new doctor. Wait probably an hour. He comes in and we talk about football from one of the local universities for probably 10 minutes. He writes up my prescription refill and then starts the exam. Everything good so far.
Finally he says, "OK, time to drop your drawers. Bend over the table, put your left arm on the exam table, use your right hand to pull on your right cheek. No, not the cheek on your face, the cheek on your rear end." (This guy has a pretty good sense of humor and he's making me laugh in preparation for an uncomfortable and ineveitable jelly finger exercise. Luckily he didn't empty the whole tube of KY jelly onto his finger.) So in goes the finger. I thought he was probing my stomach checking to make sure I really didn't eat any breakfast. Finally, after what seems like a weeks worth of probing (I have "Exit only" tatooed on my back side), he takes out his finger and says, "Well, your prostate is a bit on the enlarged side, but it feels nice and smooth, which is a good thing." They screen for colon cancer (test for blood in my stool) and rectal cancer (95% of all rectal cancers can be detected by digital inspection) in addition for prostate cancer. Everything "looked" good, or should I say, felt good. One of my coworkers says that he feels like he should at least be kissed before receiving "the treatment".
The doc and I talked about prostate health and what causes prostrates to enlarge. Some men's prostrates start enlarging at 35. Others at 40. Some even start in their 50s. He said, "The more you use it, the smaller it will stay." He even offered to write a prescription that I could give to my wife that would read "Sex, twice a day, for good prostrate health." We both laughed, but I declined the offer. Seriously though, he said that frequent intercourse helps clean out the prostrate and gets all the crud out that's in there. When I told the missus, she didn't believe me. I still don't think she believes me. So maybe the next time I see this guy, I'll take him up on the prescription. If nothing else, it would make for a good laugh.
So do I really want some bread with my jelly? If its grape jelly I do. But if its KY brand jelly, I think I'll pass.
Saturday, August 15, 2009
Then last year I tested a used V6 Mustang and a used 2007 Mustang GT. Those two models that I drove, well, they were uninspiring for me. They didn't have the punch like the earlier models had and I was severely disappointed.
A few months ago I purchased a new base model Camry. Nice car. Good mileage (30 mpg), but the car is uninspiring. How so? Its a bit on the gutless side. Don't get me wrong. Its a nice car. The ride is nice, smooth, and quiet. And for a four banger, it does pretty good. But not quite there for peppiness.
Today I took the Camry in to get serviced. The same dealer has a Ford franchise. A few weeks ago I was looking at Mustangs on the Internet. I noticed that this dealership had a V6 Mustang with a manual transmission. I've never driven one of those before and I thought it would be cool/interesting to drive a V6 with a manual. So I went in and asked if I could test drive it. I did and it was impressive. This was a much better copy than the used automatic I tried last summer. In fact, it reminded me of the V6 rental that I used several years back. It was a fairly decent car with more oomph than my pleasantly bland Camry.
I then asked for the keys for the Mustang GT. The rear-end had a 3.73 gear ratio. So it was geared low. Low gearing means this thing should accelerate like a beast. I had hoped that it would meet my expectations, because the 2007 GT that I drove last year was simply disappointing. I started it up and drove off the dealer lot. I put the gas pedal to the floor. The engine came to life and the engine roared. And it accelerated like a bat out of a very warm place. I smiled like a kid in a candy store... I took the GT on the same track that I did the smaller displacement Mustang. And I was simply impressed. This car accelerated impressively. The way a muscle car should accelerate. I drove the car my route and then went back to the dealership.
I walked into the dealership and went to the guy that let me drive the car. "I have two words for you.... HOLY CRAP!" The salesman grinned. He knew I was impressed with the car. I even told him that if I had the money, I'd be signing papers for the car right then. But I don't have the money. I have two car payments (and probably will for quite some time) and I won't be able to afford my toy car. I thanked him for letting me drive the car. We talked for a few more minutes and I left the dealership.
This little experience totally made my day. It definitely put the Mustang back on my fun car to drive list. And if I have an extra $30,000 laying around, I will go and pick up a copy for myself.
If you're interested, go drive one of those bad boys. Make sure you get a GT with a 5-speed manual with the 3.73 rear-end. The sticker should show the lower geared rear end. Give it a try and then let me know what you think....
Monday, July 27, 2009
The sky was getting lit up by lightning, but nothing was getting captured in the frame.
Overall, disappointing. I guess I keep trying.
I also tried my hand at the stary night. This one is probably my best one. Notice the aircraft flying past my field of view:
This photo should be rotated 90 degrees, but I don't know how to do that. So here it is. Hopefully you can see something.
Monday, July 20, 2009
I don't know what the future of space exploration will be. Congress will probably trash the next rocket series and scuttle any further projects to the moon. In all reality, the Chinese will probably be the next humans up there. Maybe they'll outsource some of their space and science projects to some hungry American scientists. But then again, maybe not. Countries learn by doing it themselves than letting someone else do it for them. That is how America became so great.
I have two wishes/dreams in my life. 1.) I wish I was old enough to remember the Apollo 11 and 13 space missions. But I was too young. I barely remember one, maybe two Apollo missions. 2.) I wish I could have been one of the 12 astronauts that walked on the surface of the moon. What an utter thrill that would have been. I would have taken a bazillion photos and stored as much moon rock and dirt as I could physically handle.
Hats off to NASA for the major accomplishment they made 40 years ago. My Garmin Forerunner 50 has more computing power than all the space vehicles put together. And hats off to the all the astronauts that had the guts to strap themselves on top of a 363 foot rocket with nearly 6+ million pounds of propellant hooked on to their back sides. You can't say you wouldn't be a little worried if you had 5 million pounds of kerosene below you waiting to blow you to little tiny bits. (5 million pounds of kerosene is approximately 625,000 gallons. If you ran that in a diesel car that got 40 miles to the gallon, you would be able to travel 25,000,000 miles with that much fuel...... Instead, it was all burned up in about 168 seconds to travel a total distance of about 72 miles. That's about 0.0001152 miles to a gallon..... :-D )
Sunday, June 14, 2009
Monday, June 8, 2009
The doc sent me back with Benecar HCT 20/12.5. The first number is the actual Benecar. The second number is the hydrochlorothyazide (hence the HCT), which in my opinion is a nasty drug. First, if you look at HCT, it has a list of side effects and interactions that makes the Federal Stimulus Bill of 2009 look like a postcard in comparison. You can't take any ibuprofen. You can't spend any time in sun. And the list goes on. When the doctor prescribed it, I protested. I didn't want a diuretic. I go to the bathroom probably 3,719 times a day as it is. I don't need a drug making me go 18,268 times a day. And as the son of a pharmacist, I knew that a diuretic meant that I had to take potassium, which the doctor did not prescribe. (Remember this little bit of information....)
A few more words on diuretics...... Think of a diuretic this way. Take a sponge. Get it wet. Then squeeze the sponge until it is bone dry. That is a diuretic. Or think of Moses. Think of him smiting a rock and having water pour out of it. That is a diuretic. Diuretics were used by Moses in the Bible to obtain water from rocks. Seriously. That's how powerful a diuretic is.
So the body needs salts and elements for it to work properly. Under normal circumstances, the body does a pretty darn good job at keeping all those various minerals at the right levels. One of those elements is potassium. Well, now enter the diuretic into the mix. Hydroclorothiazide (HCT for short), leaches off potassium. Benecar is supposed to be potassium sparing. Together they should even out so your potassium level stays "normal".
Well, one Sunday I wasn't feeling too good. So I stayed home from Church. My wife comes home and starts undressing out of her Church clothes and my heart starts beating irregularly. Yes, my wife is pretty, but I've never had heart problems because of her changing her clothes. We dial 911. Heart is still beating irregularly. I lay down. I remain conscious but scared beyond belief. "Where is that ambulance?" The ambulance arrives, but my heart rhythm goes back to normal before they show up. They draw blood. They hook me up to an IV and they take me in. After all the labs, what's the verdict? You guessed it. Low potassium. The "normal" potassium range is from 3 to 5, or 3.5 to about 5 point something. It depends on who you talk to. My blood potassium was a 2.9! OK, not good. Actually, really not good.
Now here's the kicker. I go into my doctor. The same doctor that prescribed the Benecar HCT. I tell him what's going on. He says to me (and this is a direct quote as near as I can remember it), "I don't know what to do for you...." Dude, doc, you nearly killed me with this crap and you don't know what to do for me? Hmmmm...... Maybe take me off the diuretic? He wanted me to come in for a treadmill test and he wanted me to wait several weeks and come in and see if my potassium levels go back to normal. Doc, if they are freaking low now, I'm sure they're going to be low in a few weeks. Are you just begging for a malpractice lawsuit from my future widow? Do you really want to be invited to my funeral?
So the next day I go looking for a new car. While I'm at the car dealership, I have another arrythmia episode and I spend some time in the ER. I'll have to blog about that fun experience. Long story short, I recovered before they got an EKG of my heart so I am back to square one. The potassium levels were up to near normal levels, but they weren't there. One interesting thing the ER doc said is that one of the drugs I was taking (generic Allegra for allergies) can cause cardio issues. So I immediately went off all my prescriptions except for my blood pressure. The first heart episode happened on a Sunday. The second espisode happened on a Friday.
The following Monday I went to a cardiologist. Guess what? He knew what to do. And that is to change my freaking BP meds so I don't have a third heart problem or something that will eventually kill me.
The new meds are Azor 5/20. The 5 is a calcium channel blocker. The second number is the main ingredient in Benecar. The calcium channel blocker has a nice side effect - it can cause swelling of your feet and thus water retention. And guess what? Yep, you've got it. I've got swelling of the feet. So what does the cardiologist want to do? He wants to put me back on the Benecar HCT (no freaking way, Jose) and give me potassium pills to compensate for the low potassium in my system. No, no, no, no, NO!!!!!!!!! Listen to me... That junk about killed me before. I don't want to die from this stuff before I turn 43. I'd like to live to be 83. I want to see my kids get married. I'd like to see grandkids. So let's not tempt fate again, OK?
The cool thing about all this is the 10% I get to pay. My federal tax return went to medical bills. I am grateful that I had the money to pay for the bills. But at the same time, I sure could have used that money to stimulate the economy. I guess I did. I helped a bunch of rich doctors and hospitals. Not really where I wanted my money to go to, but at least we're good. And I thank Divine Providence for taking care of me.
Monday, April 27, 2009
I've had Vonage for little over a year now. Things were good up until a few months ago, and then the voice over IP router thing they sold me started having issues. I used their online knowledgebase to see what they had and nothing helped. I took packet captures (yeah, I'm a geek, but that's my profession) and there were definately some problems going on with the hardware.
So instead of calling their technical support line, I just call my local CLEC (phone company) and setup a second phone line.
I called Vonage after the fact and they were going to charge me $70 to disconnect. That $70 is to recoup the $70 rebate they gave me on their phone router thing since I was canceling before 1 year. They said if I waited a month, I wouldn't have to pay $70. They also gave me a month's worth of free service, which I didn't use.
So I waited. And the month went by. And I didn't cancel. So they charged me for another month's worth of service. So I called. Want to cancel. No refund of monthly charge, which is $30. And they want to charge me $40 to cancel my service (that was a part of your terms of service - if you cancel less than two years after you started with us). So I'm screwed.
Well, I'm going to dispute the charges with the credit card company. I hope that I can do something there. Dang stinking Vonage. Customer no-service. I'll be glad to get rid of them once and for all.
Sunday, January 4, 2009
The week of Christmas 2008 marked the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 8 mission to the moon. Apollo 8 sent astronauts to orbit around the moon. You can read details of the mission from Wikipedia's entry on the even here.
I love the space program. Every time I read about Apollo and what those first space pioneers did, I get teary eyed. Just incredible that it was 40 years ago that we sent men to the moon. And they came back!