Thursday, December 17, 2009

Books on Tape

I am pretty bad about sitting down long enough to read. It's not for a lack of wanting, but I have always had a really tough time with it. For as long as I can remember I have read really slow. It's not that I don't understand the words that I am reading, but just that I tend to think a lot while I am reading - visualizing what is going on in the story - "day dreaming" about what is being said. I find audio books hold my attention a lot. The agency I work for now has a service that we can use that offers free audio books - to borrow anyways. I have been enjoying those lately. In the last few weeks I have gone through 2 books and working on my third. I have gone through the Enron Story and "Always Looking Up" by Michael J Fox. I am working my way through "The Audacity of Hope" by Barack Obama. Question I have lurking, is that do audio books still enable one to be considered "well read"?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Sometimes ...

In Life... Sometimes you are the hammer & sometimes you are the nail. I have heard this quote many times, but for some reason it just made me giggle tonight.

This week picked up from a jog to a run at work. I have had a relatively easy transition into the job. I have been working with the agency as a contractor for the last few years. I transitioned into a different division, but the parties involved are about the same. Long story short, the transition has been one of the easier ones that I have made. This past week, I've been asked to start to transition into a lead role for one of our team's "groups". The Customer Liaison Team. This team's principle responsibility is the "odd" requests. This is exactly the niche I have been looking for. I really hate doing the same mundane tasks day after day ~ and trying to keep them interesting. So come Jan 4 (after the Christmas Break) I will be the lead for this team, which I think will be pretty cool.

The house has been busy with tree trimming, cookie making, and just the buzz of Christmas. This has always been my favorite time of year. I love the way the house feels when it's all decorated and lit up. It'll be weird not having the big family get together this year, but we've decided that we'll make other plans instead. We will look to do a couple day outing to a ski resort and do sledding and get the kids some ski lessons. I want to do something fun. Hopefully we can make it up to see Will & Christie too. We missed them at Thanksgiving this year (first time in a LONG time that we weren't there with them).

It's late, I know there is more I want to write about, but it'll have to wait...

Night.

Monday, December 7, 2009

A Higher Power...

I believe there is a higher power in this universe, and I know for a fact that it isn’t I.

However, I have yet to find a religion or orthodoxy completely consistent with the way I have my beliefs.

I have had discussions with a lot of my friends; discussing our differences in beliefs. The majority of which rely on their faiths for strength, wisdom, and their moral compass. Their beliefs are genuine and I respect them for that. Our biggest differences are centered on how / what we define as a “higher power”.

I’ve come to accept any condition beyond my control is, in effect, a power greater than me. My beliefs are centered on the belief that man (as a symbol) controls his path and not an omnipotent being with a planned path for me.

My friends have all accepted our differences and we have come to embrace them; understanding. My family is strong. I have a wife, who I have been married to for 13 years. We have our ups and down – but work together to make things work. My kids complete our “circle”. We are bringing up 3 healthy and intelligent kids. All of them have their independent personalities. They differ in their likes, dislikes, wants, and desires. Individually we are all strong. Together we are invincible. It is important to me to impart on the kids that they need to protect their family. They will have their ups and downs in life, and through it all their parents, siblings will be there for them. This brings me to the impasse that we are at with my brother’s family. We have our ups and downs, but seem to be less accepting of our differences. They have a strong family connection through his wife’s family and through their growing connection to their religion. It’s tough to say that we have grown apart. I admit that since our blow out, I have thought everyday about calling. I have done it before, so why not now? It all boils down to the definition of insanity (doing the same actions over and over and expecting a different outcome). Every time we’ve dismissed the issues that transpired between the families and returned to being cordial to each other again, it eventually fissions and another blow out occurs. I’ve decided that I can not handle that stress any more. It isn’t to be mean to anyone. It’s purely selfish for me and my family. I don’t want to handle the stress and don’t want to introduce it into my family circle.

This entry took a different direction than how I originally started it. I guess this an excellent example for why I started this blog. The best and oldest (no age joke intended) friend Matt has a great quote on his site “I learn what I think when I read what I write”.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

12 days of Christmas' get pricier

An interesting Article from CNN Money:

The total cost to buy all of the items named in "The 12 Days of Christmas" song increased by just 0.9% this year to $87,402.81, said PNC Financial Services Group.

Of the 12 items in PNC's annual cost of Christmas study -- which tracks the prices of everything from calling birds to French hens -- three fell from last year while five increased in cost and four remained steady.

"This year's PNC Christmas Price Index again reflects the patterns in the broader economy," said James Dunigan, managing executive of investments for PNC Wealth Management.

The index got the biggest boost from a surge in the price of gold, which is at a record high near $1,200. That sent the cost of five golden rings up 43% this year.

Declines in bird prices were the main drag, with partridge prices falling by half, and the price of geese down more than a third from last year.

French hens, however, bucked the trend. Prices for the imported poultry jumped 50% to $45 for three.

With the nation's jobless rate above 10%, many of the index's labor related components stagnated. The cost for 10 lords-a-leaping, 11 pipers piping and 12 drummers drumming were all unchanged from last year.

However, an increase in the federal minimum wage helped boost the cost for eight maids-a-milking, the only unskilled laborers in the study, by 11% to $58 from $52.40 in 2008.

And "The 12 Days of Christmas" aren't any cheaper for online shoppers. The cost to buy all 79 items mentioned in one verse of the song from online retailers came to $31,434.85. That's about $10,000 more than the $21,465.56 it would cost to buy all of the items off line.

"In general, Internet prices are higher than their non-Internet counterparts because of shipping costs for birds," Dunigan said.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Family Matters

I've always thought of myself as a family centric person. I am the provider to and the protector of my family. I am a fairly easy going person. I like to have fun, joke, and generally have a good time. Sure, i'll poke fun at my own, but when things get mean spirited and those attacks come against me or my family - I am not so much nice. In recent years, I have noticed that my patience (which many will attest has never been my strong suit) has had a noticeably shorter fuse. So my willingness to deal with B.S. has finite borders. My wife's and my relationship with my brother and his wife have had many ups and downs. I like to feel that there were more ups than not, but that may be a purely from my perspective. There have been a couple falls out this past year. Every time there is a fall out, I feel like I lick my wounds from the "battle" and we have a sudo-make up and go back to being cordial with each other. Pretending like we are okay.

Well no more.

This past Thanksgiving we had the whole family together for the first time in a LONG time. I was really looking forward to having everyone together. Well things were less than smooth. For whatever reason, we found ourselves at odds with My Brother and his wife over many things. We planned to get family pictures done on the Saturday before everyone left. I talked with my brother about the where and when - and it turns out that we "had" to do it his wife's way. I believe the quote was " this is where we are going to be, you all are welcome to join if you like, but this is where we'll be." Crap like that just pisses me off. This is just a sliver of my issues with them, but here is not the place or time for the airing of those grievances. I planned to have my family (wife and kids) not go to the pictures at the "time and place" that was directed to me. My dad really asked that I participate and that he would really appreciate it if we were in the pictures. So for him, and him alone, I sucked it up and went. The photographer that was there was nice. She took some decent shots (shown below). We were all gathering back by the cars and trying to determine where we were going to go next. Tony and his wife wanted to go to a place called Adventure Land (or something to that effect). My sister and my family were looking to take the kids to Chuck-E-Cheese's. Both parties wanted to do what they wanted to do. The next thing i know, Tony's wife flips a switch and starts calling us ungrateful and how she doesn't want anything more to do with us. I am not really sure how we are ungrateful - or what specifically I am supposed to be grateful to her / them for... but at this point I don't really care.

I too am done.

I haven't communicated (through any means) with my brother since the blowout on Saturday. I have made a pact with myself not to speak with them until after the New Year (which new year I honestly haven't decided). The timing sucks since we normally have a few "traditions" like Christmas Tree Hunting that we partake in, but I guess that's just the way the cards had been dealt this time.

It'll be a different Christmas this year. My parents won't be coming out here for the first time in memory and we won't see my brother and his family ~ we will just have to find something special to do as a family. Maybe we'll go to a ski resort or something like that.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Thursday, October 29, 2009

A look back

The last couple of days I’ve had writers block for a post. So since we are quickly headed to the end of 2009, it seems like a good time to review over my “resolutions” for 2009. Let’s see how I’ve measured up this year.

1. Spend more time with Family and Friends – Well I think I’ve accomplished this one for the most part. We managed to get out for a vacation with my brother’s family locally to Busch Gardens & Colonial Williamsburg in Williamsburg, VA. So that was more than we normally do – so we’ll count that as a win.
2. To be more lighthearted and have more fun – Don’t think I have accomplished this. I am not really sure how I could have measured this, but I know that I have been pretty stressed over this past year and haven’t felt particularly light hearted about anything.
3. Fit in Fitness & Tame the Buldge – heh… Well I didn’t do either. I trained for the MS ride which I felt was a huge accomplishment for me. The 60 mile ride this year definitely kicked my butt. I got out a few times with the cycling group panhandle pedalers and did the local rides (about 22 miles) which were nice. I really like riding with that group, too bad our schedule was so busy that I couldn’t fit in more rides. So for this one I will call it a tie – because I wasn’t stagnant, but not as active as I would have hoped.
4. Learn to Snowboard – Well, this didn’t happen this year because of the logistics of bringing a baby to the ski resort.
5. Spend more miles each month on my bike – The long and the short of this is that I didn’t get on the bike as much as I would have liked. Boo…
6. Get Organized – I am not really sure what I meant by this, but I will count this as a win. I feel that I am pretty organized for the most part. I’ve put forth more of an effort to keep the home calendar updated with my activities and my work calendar updated with the home events as well. So we’ll call this one a wash too.
7. Go away on vacation – This was accomplished with item # 1.
8. Finish the basement project – not yet, and it’s not looking good for 2009. The project is about 98% there. There are a few punch list items that I don’t think I will get to this year.
9. End 2009 with less pounds - Well if I am going to accomplish this I better get a move on. I am still in the same neighborhood that I was, but I really need to get a move on if I am going to loose... heh
10. Stick to more than 50%.... and the winner is... well it appears that I am at a tie right now, so we'll have to make a push to satisfy #10

Friday, October 23, 2009

Cost of Living

Found an interesting book in the break room today called “Remember When”. It has all sorts of information about the year I was born. In looking through it, I came across a page titled “Cost of Living” and was amazed at how much the average prices have changed in 35 years. Here are some that I wrote down.

New House - $27,600
Average Income - $11,859 / year
New Car - $3,853
Average rent - $165 / month
Tuition to Harvard University - $2,800
Movie ticket - $1.75
Gasoline - $.55 / gallon
Postage Stamp - $.08
Bacon - $.83 / pound
Eggs - $.45 / dozen
Ground Hamburger - $.64 / pound
Milk - $1.20 / gallon

Wow – How times have changed. It makes me stop and wonder sometimes about why the cost of living has gotten so out of control. Modern Technology and such is great - but at what cost. If you have to make 10 times the amount of money to keep up with the changing times, is it really worth it? Tough times ...

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Song still in them

“Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them” ~ Henry David Thoreau

I really love that quote. I want to do everything possible to avoid going to the grave with the song still in me. Let’s unpack this a little – What does it mean to go to the grave with the song still in you? In my mind it means failing to find your true passion and purpose in life. It means never discovering your potential and pushing your limits. It means that your dreams die when you do. What is the point in living life if this is how it is going to wind up? I want more for myself, my family, and for my friends. I believe that each and every person has a unique and perfect song they were meant to present. It does sound a bit corny and idealistic, after all how many of us (me included) find themselves daily doing things that you don’t have a passion for, but do anyways because it’s “what you have to do”? Why shouldn’t we strive for an ideal life? Why accept defeat before you enter the game?

I want to work to squeeze every drop of satisfaction and significance out of life as I possibly can. “sing my song” as the case may be….

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Sit for Ideas

Many of the greatest thinkers, inventors, and entrepreneurs in modern history scheduled time to simply “sit for ideas”.

Andrew Carnegie would spend hours sitting alone in a room, un-distracted, to solve problems.

Thomas Edison would go down to the water’s edge each morning, throw out his line (with no bait) and then watch the bobber for an hour until his thinking was ready for the day.

What is your version of “sitting for ideas”? Mine has been my commute for a while – now that I am not commuting as far, I don’t get nearly the time to ponder solutions or new ideas. I think it is important to figure out a way to get away from all of life’s distractions and allow your mind to solve problems, create, and simply replenish itself.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Facebook

Facebook has been a great tool for catching up with old friends. Don't get me wrong, my friends aren't old, but rather friends that i have known for a while (heh).

I am sure i could ramble on about it, but I am tired and wanted to hit my blog a day quota...

Night - I'll write more tomorrow.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Sad Day in Mudville...

It was a sad - sad day in Mudville today. Like many of the last few weekends, I sat and watched with great anticipation of a Redskins win. and unfortunately they provided the same results that they have the last few weekends. The defense made a great effort - didn't allow a single touchdown the whole day. The offense, well they were miserable. They had their few glimmers that they had a clue of how to play, but for the most part they looked like they were playing a pre-season game.

The skins definitely make it difficult to be a

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Eagle has flown the coop


Well the kitties have a new home. Michelle worked on Friday to find some place that would take them. She found a rescue in Chantilly, VA that was willing to take all 3. Friday afternoon one of our neighbors came over and "adopted" one of them. So that made it easier on the rescue since they only had to take 2 rather than the 3. We took the ride out to Chantilly today and met up with the lady from the rescue. She was nice and seemed like she was going to take care of the kittens (well as much as you can judge someone in the few minutes). She said that she thought that they were closer to 2 weeks rather than the 3 - 4 that the Petco person told us. It was nice having the kittens here. It would have been nice to keep 1 or 2 of them. It would have been a tremendous amount of work, since they weren't able to feed or clean themselves, and it would have made things terribly hard around here for a while. I hope they grow up to be healthy and have a good home.

It's been raining the last few days. I am tired of it already. We want to decorate and I still have some fall cleaning to finish - I hope it stops soon.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Choices...

For the last couple of years we've been toying with the idea of a move to Colorado. The timing has been junk. When we have had the opportunity to sell the house - I wasn't able to locate work out in Colorado. When I found job opportunities in Colorado, the housing market tanked and we wouldn't be able to sell the house for enough money to make the move.

Life feels irritatingly difficult. I'm stuck with how to make these tough decisions. I think to analytical at times and get mired in the details. I am not sure if I am supposed to be more "free willed" and make the move for desire and let everything else work itself out.

The Positives:
I like the area. Michelle's family is out that way. Her mom could use the help. Her mom loves to spend time with the kids, so baby-sitting would be a bonus. My sister and her kids are out there. We enjoy the area. The school systems are ranked higher than our current area.

The Negatives:
I don't have a job "network" there. The housing market is still pretty depressed here so the equity that we could walk away with is pretty sad. My brother and his family are out here - although he's usually a tough one to get together with since their schedule is pretty hectic with his in-laws family business. I like the area here too - Washington DC, New York, Beaches, Disney, etc..

So what's a boy to do... yeah, that's a tough one... I think our long term desire is to move and set up in Colorado so we can be closer to family. I'm just stuck on how to get from point "a" (where we are now) to point "z" (where we want to go).

Thursday, October 15, 2009

3 little surprises

I came home today and Michelle told me that she had seen a cat in the area and wanted to leave some milk out for it since the weather has been particularly nasty lately. I took the saucer of milk down to the drainage pipe that runs under our driveway since that's where she's seen the cat hiding out. The big surprise when I leaned over to place the milk inside the opening was to see a fuzzy head. I looked closer and it actually was 3 fuzzy heads.

I went in to get Michelle and the kids to show them what I had found. Since the our area has frost warning tonight, we made the decision to bring them in and keep them warm. Here is where the drama begins tonight. Albeit, I brought most of it on myself. I didn't want them to find their own bathroom, so I made the trip to the store and bought a cheap litter box. After dinner we thought we would go to Petco and look at what we should be feeding them. When all was said and done, we have spent $30 on these cats that we aren't looking at keeping.

Ugh - It's always something around here.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Change is inevitable…

Recently I have gone through another job change. Unlike a lot of the stories you hear these days, this was a voluntary change. The biggest motivation behind the change is commuting. For the last 2 and half years I worked as a senior consultant with Deloitte & touché, LLP. Deloitte was a good company to work for from a benefits perspective. They did a lot for their employee work / life balance (or at least that was my experience). My 2 biggest beefs with the Deloitte experience stemmed from the commute and the politics surrounding advancements. Commuting was a way of life for me for many years. The employers that my IT Security job function was located with all required some sort of commute. For the better part of the last seven years I have been commuting 70+ miles / way. That commute was not fun. I learned first hand what road rage is and the many miles took their toll on my body as well.

Through an alignment of the stars and planets (being in the right place / right time) I have gotten a position with the Department of the Treasury. I have moved over from being a government contractor to a full time government employee. The biggest upside (outside of job security) is my commute. Door to door is 14 miles. WooHoo. In a week of commuting to the new job – I drive less than I did in 2 days of commuting to the old one. So far the position is interesting, and the options that this position will provide me is hopefully worth the aggravation of changing jobs.

Friday, October 9, 2009

I'll have to get better at keeping up.

I appears that it's been quite a while since I've actually posted. I've been bouncing around twitter and facebook - but I think I'll try and start to blog more.

Till then.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Things You Own End Up Owning You.

This is a repost from a site that I read (http://www.Mytwodollars.com) through Google Reader. It strikes an iron close to how I have been feeling lately...

The title of this post is one of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite movies - Fight Club.
The quote is from Tyler Durden, (and without telling you too much in case you haven’t seen the movie) who is anti-establishment and anti-consumerism…making it one of those movies that every person who feels the same should see just for his quotes alone! I have quoted another line from the movie in my Money Quote Friday series a while back - “You are not your khakis“…so you can see what kind of guy he is - a lot like me in a lot of ways. I guess that is why I identify with the movie so well, as I too don’t believe that what you own or buy makes you who you are or can make you happy. It’s just stuff! Even if you can pay cash for everything you own and not pay on credit, you still have to store, clean, move, maintain, repair, and replace your “stuff” eventually, so it gets you either/or both ways!



But back to the title of the post - “Things you own end up owning you“. To me, this means that your stuff can own you in a few different ways, depending on your personal situation:
  • Your stuff can force you to live in a place you would prefer not to, just for a high-paying job.
  • Your stuff can make you keep a job you don’t like, just for the money to pay the bills.
  • Your stuff can make you send your kids to a specific school, when maybe they would be better off at a different one.
  • Your stuff could make you pay for a storage facility or continuously move to bigger houses, just to keep a roof over it.
  • Your stuff could make you take on a second job just to impress your friends.
  • Your stuff could require you to work well into your retirement years.
  • Your stuff might cost so much every month that you cannot take your family on a vacation or send your kids to summer camp.

I could go on and on, but I think you get the gist of it, right? Even if you have the money to buy something in the first place, guess where that money normally comes from? Work. And the more stuff you have, the more money you need to make and/or continue to make to support your lifestyle. I am not innocent of this behavior; far from it. I used to live high on the hog too, even though it was a lifestyle built on a pyramid of debt and minimum payments just waiting to collapse. And now, even though I make way more than I did when I was 25 years old, I spend less - on housing, on cars, on clothes, on stereo equipment, on my entire lifestyle. I have a nice place to live, I have a car to drive, I have clothes on my back, and I have food on the table. No need for much more, especially since it allows me to work for myself in a small, remote mountain town. But because of the changes, I do still have a little extra money to take vacations or make special purchases when I need to without going into debt. I learned from my mistakes, and I am hopeful that my mistakes can help you learn too before your stuff ends up owning you like it did me.

After all, it’s just stuff - and this is life we are talking about. You get one shot - do it right. It took me years to figure that out…hope you get it faster than I did!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Happy Birthday Logan


Logan turned 1 today. This past year seemed to fly by. It seems like yesterday that we were walking the halls of Frederick Memorial Hospital with Michelle in labor. We have been through so many changes as a family since then. The economy has fallen into a traumatic tail-spin - I am happy that my career choice has left me in a position that I haven't been laid off (knock on wood) - That being said, the cost of living has definitely not dropped :-/

Logan has brought us a lot of happiness. He acts in similar ways to how our girls acted, but then there are ways that you can tell that he is all boy. He love playing in the dirt, loves climbing and getting into things, just a rough and tumble little boy. Hard to believe that he is a year old, I am sure I will be teaching him to drive any day now...

I did a google search for some dates of interest on his Birth date:

In 2003 - R&B singer Rubben Studdard beats out pop vocalist Clay Aiken during the second season of American Idol.

In 1980 - The Star Wars movie "The Empire Strikes Back" premieres.

In 1927 - Charles Lindbergh arrives in Paris, after flying his airplane, The Spirit of St. Louis, nonstop from New York to Paris.

In 1881 - The American Red Cross is founded by Clara Barton.


Logan shares a Birthday with:

Mr T. - 1952 (funny since Logan was born with a Mohawk and still can sport that pretty awesome style)

Richard Hatch (Survivor) - 1946








HAPPY BIRTHDAY LOGAN - I Love Ya!

Monday, May 4, 2009

When you find yourself moving in the wrong direction

When you find yourself moving in the wrong direction, stop moving. How many times in your life have you recognized you are doing something wrong, but just kept doing it because stopping, or turning around, was too difficult. We have all had those moments. But the practice of simply stopping, taking an inventory of where you are and where you need to go, can often times make the difference in success or failure.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Seven Ways To Fund College Without A College Savings Fund

The stories are endless. Joe and Sally saved their entire lives for their kid’s college education, but the recent market downturn has cut their college savings fund in half. Often times this report is followed up by a tearful high school senior explaining their dream of attending an Ivy League school has been crushed.

I’m a father of two kids, and I know how it feels to want to give your kids everything. But I honestly think parents are unnecessarily beating themselves up over these college fund balances. Parents and college-bound kids are going to have to make some tough choices between now and next fall, and the toughest of those choices will be dealing with the financial reality that a large portion of their college funds are gone.

These days most families turn to student loans, particularly those who lost half the value of college savings in a matter of months. Their story is a cautionary tale for those invested in risky investments too close to a financial goal, but since they all recognize that now there is no sense beating them over the head with portfolio allocation instructions. No, we are where we are, and we have to figure out where to go from here. Because I generally dislike student loans, the following tips will intentionally leave Sallie Mae out of the mix.

Seven Ways To Fund College Without A College Fund

1. Reconsider your choice of school. I sound like the guy who doesn’t read his own articles. I made the mistake of getting hung up on an out-of-state school because my best friend was going there, and I liked the football team, and it was my favorite college town. Big mistake. While I do have the ultimate souvenir from those days away at college (my wife), I also came home after 2 1/2 years with a pile of student loans and credit card debt. After enrolling in a local university it was obvious the quality of education was just as good, and the tuition was considerably less. Lesson learned.

2. Ask for help from friends and family. One of the more interesting concepts I have seen lately to formalize this process is a type of social investing market lead by Freshman Fund. Students and parents tie the child’s Freshman Fund account to existing 529 college savings plans, and then share the student’s profile with family and friends. Contributions are collected and deposited directly into the 529 plan behind the scenes (no need to share account numbers, etc. with extended family).

3. Apply for every scholarship under the sun. I mean that quite literally. If I were a high school junior facing rising tuition costs and a small balance in my college savings fund I would make it my part time job to apply for as many scholarships as possible. I would enter writing competitions, join various associations, and basically spend every free moment researching scholarship opportunities. Even if you applied for 1,000 scholarships and 990 of them turned you down, there is a chance those remaining 10 could finance a year of school (or at least offset some of the costs of that first year).

4. Get a part time job. This one is a little controversial because some argue that part time work detracts from the college experience, or leads to lower grades. I started working my freshman year to cover books and miscellaneous expenses, and later worked even more hours to pay for an apartment and utilities. Admittedly, it was a drain, but I appreciated things far more than if my mom paid for everything. I think it helps kids to have at least a little financial skin in the game.

5. Work full time for tuition reimbursement. Many companies offer tuition reimbursement plans to their employees. Start by researching companies in the field you are ultimately interested in studying. Most company websites offer a list of perks included in their benefits package, and if you have questions about tuition reimbursement eligibility contact the company’s human resources office (or recruiter) usually listed on the job search page.

6. Live at home and stay local, or commute a short distance. Room and board can add significant costs to already inflated tuition costs. If you are short on cash you might be able to pull off tuition-only and stay and stay on the “Mom and Dad” meal plan. As a compromise, at least consider living at home your first year or two and then look for a reasonable off-campus option for the final years at school.

7. Take a year off to save up the cash. Again, not a popular option for most high school seniors eager to get started on college life. But families need to be realistic; if the money isn’t there it just isn’t there. And with many people being laid off, or at least fearing they may be laid off, most parents are reluctant to try to cash flow tuition at an expensive school. It might make sense to take a year off, work full time while living and home, and save every single dime you earn towards the next year’s tuition. I wish I had chosen this route - in fact, I ultimately did. I went to school right away for a couple years, returned home and worked for a couple years, and then wound up working my way through my remaining time at school.

Again, I want to stress to those parents and students out there who might be reading this that it is not healthy to play the blame game. Many parents are mad at themselves for not rolling funds into cash last year, and many students are equally mad at parents for losing so much of their college fund. Being mad at yourself, or resentful towards your parents accomplishes nothing. Now is the time to pull together as a family and work to find a solution that works best for everyone involved.

High school seniors, resist the temptation to take out huge student loans. I know the money is there, and you don’t have to pay it back for a few years, but you will have to pay it back. When you graduate college you will be filled with the excitement of getting started in your career, and finding your first home. Don’t spoil it by tying a noose around your neck and hanging four years of student loans from it. Those loans will limit your options, and are often the gateway to other forms of debt such as credit cards and car loans. Make the sacrifices now so you don’t have to make them later. I promise, ten years from now you won’t regret it.

Post from: Frugal Dad

Monday, April 6, 2009

Funny Story...

About 2 years ago (shortly after joining Deloitte) I entered and won tickets to a Nationals Baseball game. They got lost in the internal mail on their way to me. Deloitte gave me new tix, but the original ones never showed up. I received a letter through our internal mail on Friday. It was the tickets from 2 years ago...

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Been a while -

It's been a while since i have posted anything of substance. I originally started blogging so that I would have a venue to get the thoughts out of my head and down on paper (electronic anyways). I tend to think way to much into things and get lost in my own thoughts a lot.

I have begun training for this years MS Bike Ride. I plan on riding 60 miles this year. Last year i rode the 30 miles and still had plenty of legs left when i finished. I think the benefit that i had last year were some of my training rides i went on were way tougher than the actual ride. Trails End Cycling is where i purchased my road bike from. They host weekly training rides that start from the shop and go for either 35 or 75 miles. They have a no drop policy which makes the rides nice since no one is left behind. The 35 mile ride is the one i went on and it kicked my butt. It did, however, set my level of training. Needless to say it was overkill, and I finished in the top 5 of the 30 milers. This year since I have signed up for the 60 mile route, I am feeling the pressure to kick up the training a bit more. My first training ride out of the gate this year was a 30 mile route on the WO&D trail. We started at Trails End (since that's where it sits) and rode out to Goose Creek (Near Ashburn, VA). This point is right at 15 miles from the shop, so it made a convenient turn around point. Total training ride took me 2.5 hours to complete with an average speed of 12.5 mph and a top speed of 23mph. It is safe to say that 30 miles was probably a bit too aggressive for my first ride out, but on the plus side - I finished it. I felt like garbage towards the end of the ride and all that evening. I thought that i pushed my self too hard and that was my body's way of telling me to F' off (heh). Another day went by and I was feeling worse. I decided to make a trip to the doctors office (something I rarely do). Turns out that I had Strep Throat. That would explain why i felt the way i did. I have been on a self directed break till I feel a little better - best not take too long though.

Denver or Bust ? We have been looking at a Denver move for a couple years now. We don't have much of a support system in the area that we live in now and the abundance of possibilities that would be available in the Denver / Boulder area just seems to good to pass up. The schools are newer and seem better funded than the ones we have here. The communities all have rec centers and the extra-curricular options leave the kids with more decisions than they could want. My mother and brother - in - law live in the area. My sister and her kids live in the area as well. The have all shown interest in spending time with us and being part of our kids lives. My wife went to H.S. in that area and still has friends that never left and still keeps in touch with. It would be nice for her to have a support group to help her out as well. finding a job 1500+ miles away has proven to be a challenge. I had a couple nibbles so we started to talk to Realtors to see what our house is worth and how long it would take to sell. My wife did the majority of the talking with the Realtors. It turns out that our area has been hit by the economic recession / depression pretty hard and we have lost close to 100k in equity. The upside is that we are still in the black. The down side is that it still isn't enough for us to sell and come out with the money that i wanted to have. My desires is to sell the house and use the equity to clear all of the household debt, have 75k for a down payment, and have 20k for a "decorating" / move-in budget. I just don't know how to do it if those things can't be accomplished. I am willing to bend a lot on the decorating budget, but the other items feel like show stoppers. It is incredibly frustrating and has left a bitter taste in my mouth. I am uncertain on what the best option for this is.

The Infirmary - There has been a funk floating through our house. Everyone in our house has been sick in some fashion over the last month or so. It has made life hard on everyone. I will be really happy (and so would my wife) when we are all finally able to shake whatever it is.

Thrill of the Hunt - The job market in the area has been okay. My job has been solid over the last 2+ years that i have been with this employer. The crappy part of my day comes with the 70 mile commute that i make ever morning and evening going to and from work (140 miles / day). I floated my resume around and had quite a few offers. There have been only two that I have taken seriously. The first was a position doing the same kind of work, but for a manager I had worked for previously. He and I get along great, and it would be nice to work with him again. The second I have fretted about a long ago as this morning. It is a job with a small firm that has won a DoD contract with the Coast Guard. This position would put me 14 miles from home (each way). Wow that would make for a great commute. After a lot of deep soul searching, I have decided to pass on the opportunity. My current employer has really treated me right and has a ton of incentives to stay.

Indoor soccer has ended. This was the first time that i have coached solo. I am usually helping another coach. Indoor soccer was my idea to keep Elizabeth moving over the winter so she wouldn't have such a big hurdle when we started back up with Spring soccer. Indoor soccer was enjoyable, but i am really happy it is done. The way the county had the league set up made it less than desirable to coach for. I don't think i will do that league again.

There are a ton of other topics i want to get off of my mind, but i just don't have the time right now...

Up Next...
Katelynn & School
Elizabeths Birthday Party
House Chores
Wine

Thursday, February 26, 2009

5 Quick & Easy Tips For Improving Your Pinewood Derby Car's Speed

Found a nice blog about the Pinewood Derby. I have a couple years before i need to worry too much about it, but hey - I can always get a head start.

Original Post @ (http://blog.wired.com/geekdad/2009/02/5-easy-tips-for.html)

It's that time of year again. In schools and churches and community centers around the globe, Cub Scouts are gathering to put their building skills to the test in the annual Pinewood Derby race.

Thankfully, our Cub Scout pack has a category just for dads, so I can build my own car. My son -- although I help with the more difficult and dangerous tasks -- is largely on his own. I believe it's important that his car be his own. That's not to say I haven't searched long and hard to find the best performance tips for making my car as fast as possible.

I'm sharing some of them here.

It's my understanding that there are as many different rule sets as there are packs, so what I've tried to do is keep these tips as universal and broad-based as possible. Be sure to double-check your pack's rules before your first cut into your pine block.

  • Put all of your weight in the back. Much has been written about the physics of pinewood derby cars, and this is one rare case in racing where heavy = fast. Aerodynamics have little effect in such a short race, but weight does and putting the weight at the back of the car will make your car faster on the flat of the track. Tungsten weights, in most cases, are best because of their high density.
  • Lube the car at the body/wheel friction point. Do not paint the car on the small semicircle point where the wheels meet up with the body (where the wheel well is on the car in your driveway). Rather, sand this point to a smooth finish with a very fine sandpaper. Next, after masking off the body's paint, gently massage some dry graphite into the wood. This will reduce friction and increase wheel speed.
  • Spend a fair amount of time on axle prep. Using a file and fine sandpaper, make sure you remove any burrs and defects from the axles, near the head of the nail. Some people will put a number of axles in a power drill and spin them to find the axles that are most straight (and eliminate any with noticeable wobble).
  • Make sure your wheels are ready. Depending on your pack rules, polishing (or sanding) the business side of the wheel can improve rolling resistance. You can also massage powdered graphite into the wheel edge to further reduce friction. There are plenty of vendors who sell improved wheels, but if your group is like ours, these are outlawed. You can also polish (with graphite again) the wheel's bore. Once your axles and wheels are finished, a good rule of thumb is that, with a flick of a finger, they should be able to freely spin for 20 seconds.
  • Finally, once your wheels are mounted, check their alignment. Find a long board and mark off a racing lane, about 6 inches across. Put the board on a very slight incline and allow your car to roll a few feet. If, at the end of this test run, your car has moved significantly to one side or the other (or the wheels have moved in or out), move the axle up or down to adjust your alignment.

That's it! These are my quick tips for improving your pinewood derby car's speed. Do you have a speed secret that you can share with us for making your car move? Let us know in the comments.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Burrito Bailout

Tuesday, February 10, 2009 at 3:53pm
CALIFORNIA TORTILLA INTRODUCES “BURRITO BAILOUT PROGRAM”
Initiative Includes Free Burritos for Recently Unemployed and Double Loyalty Points


ROCKVILLE, MD – While many companies across the nation are looking for a handout from the government, East Coast quick-casual chain California Tortilla has introduced their “Burrito Bailout Program,” a temporary response to the current economic hardships.

Anyone who recently lost their job can send a copy of their proof of termination or unemployment papers to the company and they will receive a Burrito Elito card loaded with a free burrito redeemable at any of the chain’s 36 locations. Paperwork dated from November 2008 will be accepted.

“Times are tough for just about everybody," said California Tortilla President Bob Phillips. “We know one burrito won't solve all of a person's woes but it might put a smile on their face and that is what we are all about at California Tortilla."

Free Burrito requests will be accepted from February 9 through February 27, 2009. The unemployed can send paperwork to bailout@californiatortilla
or California Tortilla’s World Headquarters at 20 Courthouse Square, Suite 206, Rockville, MD 20850. Coupons may only be requested from the Headquarters. California Tortilla will not return paperwork so customers are encouraged to send only a copy and cross out all personal information except for name and address.

In addition to the free burritos, the restaurant will award their Burrito Elito cardholders with double points on all purchases from February 16 to March 15. Members usually receive one point for each dollar spent and earn a $5 gift card after accruing 50 points. Under the “Burrito Bailout,” the $5 gift card will come after just 25 points. The offer is valid for all purchases, except for catering and gift cards.

Earlier this year, California Tortilla pledged to stock the kitchens at the DC Central Kitchen and So Others May Eat by donating 400 pounds of rice and beans to the non-profits.

Just what is California Tortilla? A quick-casual, Mexican restaurant with can’t-find-them-anywhere-else, award-winning, critically-acclaimed, outrageously-popular burritos, bursting quesadillas, fabulous salads, the freshest ingredients, spunky cashiers and so much more. Check out our website www.californiatortilla.com for all of the scoop.

Where can I find California Tortilla? We’re EVERYWHERE! Go to www.californiatortilla.com, for a listing of all our locations.

For more information, please call 301-545-0035 or visit our website, www.californiatortilla.com, be our fan on Facebook or follow us on Twitter (http://twitter.com/caltort).

Friday, February 6, 2009

Food Watch 2/5

Calorie Allotment = 2282
Calories Spent = 2310

Variance = + 1.2 %

Better than the day before, but still over. Looking at the nutrient count, i need to get my sodium under control. the USDA recommends that we consume less than 2,300 mg (approximately 1 tsp of salt) of sodium per day. Wednesday I consumed 7, 017 mg of sodium and Thursday I consumed 3522 mg. I am way off of those charts.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Yum

Need to get a smoker so i can try this...

http://www.bbqaddicts.com/bacon-explosion.html

Eating Habits

So i found an application through my i-tunes store that will help me track how much i am supposed to eat (calorie wise). I can enter in the food that i do eat, and it already has a lot of the foods pre-programmed into it so it knows the nutritional information on them.

Yesterday:
Calorie Count Allowed: 2282
Calorie Count Consumed: 2737

Variance: +19.93%

Not a great start to the effort, but at least it encourages me to input my intake and allows me an easier way to see where i could cut back / make changes.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

"We didn't lose the game, we just ran out of time."

"We didn't lose the game, we just ran out of time." ~ Vince Lombardi

Saturday was week 3 of the winter soccer league. We were defeated once again (1-4). Our record now stands at 1W - 2L. It was a good game overall. Our team had a couple good players out sick which made my strategy a bit of a challenge. One of the things i am trying to do is let the kids play the positions they want to play (within reason that is). If someone wants to play offense, I will give them a chance. I have one boy on our team who is GREAT at being a keeper. He doesn't like to play it much, but I have been trying to appease him by ensuring that i rotate him into other positions during the game. This past weekend he played the first half of the game in goal and i let him choose his position for the 2nd half. Needless to say, the other team scored 3 times during the second half. Overall everyone seems to be having a good time. They play pretty well for only being able to practice together once a week. Practices are hard for me. The county only gives us 1 hour a week in the gym. By itself that would be cool, except for the fact that we have to share the gym with the 3 other teams in our division. This means that for our hour, we get 1/4 of the gym to practice. Makes almost all of my drills that i know very difficult to pull off. I spend a few minutes today pulling some drill ideas off of the net (power of google :-) ). Hopefully if i can teach them in a different way we can strengthen our play and get some more wins under our belt. My main goal for this winter is that the kids have fun, but i know winning is nice too ;-) .

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Malicious Code Spreading Via Valentine's Day Spam

added January 29, 2009 at 12:55 pm

US-CERT is aware of public reports of malicious code circulating via spam email messages related to Valentine's Day. These messages contain a link to a website that contains several images of hearts and instructs users to choose one image. If users click on one of the images, they will be prompted to download an executable file. Reports indicate that the executable files could be named: youandme.exe, onlyyou.exe, you.exe, and meandyou.exe (please note that these file names may change at any time). If users accept the download, malicious code may be installed onto their systems.

US-CERT encourages users and administrators to take the following preventative measures to help mitigate the security risks:

  • Install antivirus software, and keep virus signatures up to date.
  • Do not follow unsolicited links and do not open unsolicited email messages.
  • Use caution when visiting untrusted websites.
  • Use caution when downloading and installing applications.
  • Monday, January 26, 2009

    Mr. Bush, it’s was a long 8 years. Here’s to you.

    1 - 1

    Saturday was our second game this season. We encountered our first loss for the season. It was a GREAT game. The teams were evenly matched. The scoring was back and forth for most of the game. I felt the disadvantage that we had was that the team we were playing had been playing before as a team, so they came into the league already familiar with each other as team mates and familiar with the coach. Most of our team has played before, but no one has played in the indoor league before. I will give it to my team. They played very well. I was very happy with the effort they gave.

    Lizzie played her first "game" as goal keeper. She didn't play the whole game as keeper, but she played the first half. She did pretty well considering the team we played. There were a few shots that got by her, but she stopped more than they made, which i will count as a victory... heh. I was proud that even though she missed a couple she didn't give up. She hung in there and finished her time.

    This should prove to be a fun season.

    Monday, January 19, 2009

    1 - 0

    I have been an assistant coach for my oldest daughters soccer team for the last couple of seasons. This year we decided to try indoor soccer through our county (Jefferson County Parks and Rec). I am a coach for one of the Division 3 teams (9 & 10 year old). Indoor soccer is played similar to outdoor so far as rules go. It just feels odd playing the game in a gym. There are 4 teams in our division. Our was Team 3. My first assignment to the team was to pick a better name. "Team 3" just doesn't instill fear... heh

    So we are now the Lightning Bolts (Bolts for short)

    Saturday was our first game of the season. We won! Wohoo! Final score was 7 - 3.

    I am looking forward to a fun season.

    Friday, January 9, 2009

    Umm.. Ouch

    Watch more Work Out Failure videos on AOL Video

    Action Plans

    So as I have been trying to think of something original to say on this blog, it has occurred to me that my resolutions are only as good as the plan to execute them (No Plan = No Results). So for this entry what I will do is break my list down into measurable metrics, meaning something that i can say "done with / accomplished that"

    1. Spend more time with Family & Friends

    This is a pretty ambiguous goal to accomplish. Some ways i am looking to spend more time with my family is to:
    - Have Dinner Together. This seems to be something simple, but from the articles i have read they stress the importance of families eating dinner together. The article stated that the more often children have dinner with their parents; the less likely they are to smoke, drink or use illegal drugs. Other reports have linked family dinner to higher grades. At dinner time, families can talk about the day’s events. They can share their successes, and also feel safe enough, hopefully, to share their failures. Additionally, kids can benefit from having this one constant in their ever-changing routines. It can provide stability and security. I am not certain how much validaty I am placing into the importance of Dinner, but it cerainly won't hurt.

    - Family Night. Fridays are our family night. Every Friday we get pizza from the mom & pop restaurant down the street and follow it up with a movie at home (nice to have the surround sound). Fridays are our night. We don’t schedule extra curricular activities for that evening and make it a priority to do something together.

    - Family Time. About a year ago we starting going out on 1 day adventures with my brother. This was fun for a couple reasons. My brother and his family are really busy so we don't get to visit very much (which sucks when you think that we live less than 20 miles apart). This year I really want to push to go out once a month as a family and do something fun. We have gone to museums, aquariums, "fun centers", etc. I will have to talk with Michelle to decide when we wnat to schedule our outings for... Maybe the last weekend of the month.

    Thursday, January 1, 2009

    Happy New Year


    Every year i think about my resolutions for the upcoming year. This year is no different. For 2009, here are my resolutions:








    1. Spend more time with Family & Friends
    2. To be more lighthearted and have more fun
    3. Fit in Fitness & Tame the buldge
    4. Learn to snowboard
    5. Spend more miles each month on my bike
    6. Get organized
    7. Go away on vacation
    8. Finish the basement project.
    9. End 2009 with less pounds than i started with (244 this morning)
    and most of all
    10. Stick to more than 50% of my resolutions.

    I hope you all have had a great 2008 and I wish you all a prosperous New Year!