Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year's Eve

Tonight, around the globe, people will be out celebrating and ringing in 2012.  It will be a time of reverie, fireworks, and consumption of a lot of adult beverages.

I will not be among those out celebrating.  Instead, I will be working my part time pizza delivery gig.  I am scheduled to work from 5pm to midnight.  Usually on a Saturday night, I leave the pizza joint around 11pm.  However, with tonight being New Year's Eve there is a good chance it will be a little busier than a typical Saturday night.

I am hopeful that I will be able to get off work close to my normal time so that I can be home before the magic hour.  Not because I want to necessarily ring in the New Year, but so that I can be home safely before the party goers head back out on the road.  To be honest, I can not remember the last time I actually watched any of the New Year countdowns.

If you are among those who will be out enjoying the reverie, please be safe and careful.  Whatever you do, if you and those you are with partake of alcoholic refreshment, please do not drink and drive.  Instead, take advantage of the many sober ride programs that communities will be offering tonight.  The life you save may be your own and others.

This public service announcement brought to you courtesy of Dickster's Random Thoughts and the pizza guy, who happen to be one and the same.  Have a safe and happy New Year.
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Friday, December 30, 2011

What a Deal!

Credit CardsImage by 401K via FlickrA few years ago, due to a series of unfortunate events (some self inflicted and some beyond my control) I got into a little bit of financial problems.  Consequently, I ended up in some very deep credit card debt.  I tried a number of things to get it under control, but eventually had to file for bankruptcy.

It was a tough time, but a necessary time in my life.  An important lesson was learned, and I have been able to get to the point where I am living within my means.  It is still a bit difficult at times, especially during this time of year or when an unexpected expense comes up.

Slowly but surely, I have been rebuilding my credit.  The bankruptcy was discharged almost three years ago.  I have been able to get a couple of new cards for emergencies that have a fairly small credit limit unlike those I had before that had a limit of several thousand dollars.  I definitely do not want to go there again.

Every now and then, I get credit card offers in the mail telling me that I have been pre-approved for their credit card.  A lot of these are cards for people trying to rebuild their credit.  I take a close look at the offers and definitely read the fine print.  They pretty much all get ripped apart and thrown away.

A lot of the offers have a high annual fee that automatically is charged to your account when you accept their offer.  I have seen some fees as high as $300 which wipes out most of the credit limit they are offering, so you are always behind the proverbial eight ball.  Of course, all of them have high interest rates.

The other day, I opened one offer that said I was pre-approved for a minimum of $300.  The card had an annual fee of $75.  The interest rate, however, was what really stood out to me.  It was 34.9%.  Wow.  I think I could get a better rate from the loan shark down the block.  One might even go so far as to call it "usury."  Needless to say, that is one offer that went straight to the trash.
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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

End of the Adgitize Era

In July of 2009, my blog was coming up on its first anniversary.  At the time, I was posting periodically and struggling to get any kind of regular traffic coming to my site.  During that first year, I probably average 300-400 visitors per month.  In a very good month, I might crack 1000 visitors.

During those early days of blogging, I started to notice that some of the other blogs that I had discovered were advertising and displaying ads from various blogging communities.  One of the first ones that I signed up for was Entrecard, primarily because it was free.

I tried Entrecard for a while, but quickly grew tired of the results I was getting from them.  It was in July of 2009 that I started to notice some display widgets for another network called Adgitize.  Adgitize billed itself as "World Class Advertising on a Blogger's Budget."

I started to check out Adgitize to see what it was all about.  There were a couple of different options available with them.  You could sign up to be an publisher only and display their ads, you could be an advertiser and buy an ad for $14 per month, or you could do both.

One of the things that I liked about them was that they had a sort of revenue sharing platform.  You could earn points by performing various activities such as visiting other blogs, publishing posts on your own blog, points for traffic, and points for being an advertiser.  The more points you earned, the more cash you could receive.

Now, one who participated in the Adgitize network would not be able to quit their day job and just Adgitize, but a little reward was nice.  I started off as a publisher only in early July of 2009.  In those early days, I was probably earning a couple pennies each day.  I realized that it would take a long time to hit their payout threshold of $10.

So, after a couple of weeks, I decided to take the plunge and bought my first ad with them for $14.  I noticed two things almost immediately after placing my first ad; first the traffic to my blog increased tremendously to the point where I was receiving at least triple the visitors prior to advertising.

The other thing that I noticed was that my total points and therefore the amount I was earning also increased significantly.  On days that I did not write a blog post, I went from earning a couple pennies to earning $.15-$.20 per day.  When I published a post, my earnings went up to $.50-$.60 per day.

It didn't take me long to figure out that if I participated in the various activities in the network and published a blog post most days that my $14 advertising fee could perpetuate itself in revenue from the network.  Most months, I would earn enough from my points to pay for the next month's ad.  I have been an advertiser with them ever since.

That is, until now.  Like a great many of us bloggers who have faithfully been a part of the Adgitize network and know full well the awesome benefits that being a part of their network, I was saddened to receive an email from Ken Brown, who started and runs Adgitize, informing us that Adgitize will be closed for business when the year ends.

Like any business, Adgitize needs revenue in order to survive.  For a while, it looked like Ken and crew had a winning formula.  The number of advertisers was growing pretty steady for several months.  Eventually, it peaked and came down a bit.  Unfortunately, over the last few months there has been a steady decline in the number of advertisers until it reached the point where the business could not be sustained.

Judging from some of the comments on the Adgitize blog from my fellow bloggers that are part of Adgitize, we all hold Ken Brown in high regard and are saddened to see Adgitize close.  Ken did a tremendous job of creating a community on Adgitize where we could share blogging tips and get to know one another.

In a day where customer service is somewhat lacking, Ken was very attentive in addressing concerns that any of us had.  Ken and his service will definitely be missed by those of us who have interacted with him over the last three years.  I wish him much success in all his future endeavors and hope to be able to work with him again.
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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Obama Sutra: An Illustrated Guide to 57 States of Ecstacy

I think it is fair to say that I am not a fan of Barack Obama.  However, I am a fan of satire and humor.  I also enjoy humor that pokes fun at the current President of the United States.  The laughter helps to ease the pain of the state of affairs in politics these days.

There is a daily conservative web comic with commentary called Hope and Change cartoons put out by Stilton Jarlsberg.  Jarlsberg is also the author of the business book parody Who Cut the Cheese? which is a parody of the best selling business tome Who Moved My Cheese?

Jarlsberg has released his latest book The Obama Sutra: An Illustrated Guide to 57 States of Ecstacy.  The title of the book is a play on The Kama Sutra sex manual and Obama's famous gaffe from the campaign that he had visited 57 of the states in the country.  Not bad, he was only off by 7.

The book is filled with 57 cartoons filled with sexual innuendo based on events that have occurred during the past three years of Obama's presidency.  Several of them are laugh out loud funny, though I doubt that any of my liberal friends will see the humor in it.  The book ends with explanations of how each of the 57 cartoons came to be.

As Jarlsberg states in the closing of his forward to the book in regard to President Obama:
Whether we agree with his politics or not, we must all admit that no one has done more to arouse the passions in living memory.  No one has inspired more orgasms in the mainstream media and liberal circles.  And no one has left so many Americans feeling screwed in such a wide variety of ways.
I leave you with a couple of examples of the cartoons that appear in the book

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Monday, December 26, 2011

Music Monday-Darius Rucker "Candy Cane Christmas"

We were in a store a few weeks ago when they were playing this song over the store speakers. My son instantly recognized the voice of Darius Rucker, one of his favorites. I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas and Happy Music Monday!

Come join Music Monday and share your songs with us. Rules are simple. Leave ONLY the ACTUAL LINK POST here and grab the code below and place it at your blog entry. You can grab this code at LadyJava's Lounge Please note these links are STRICTLY for Music Monday participants only. All others will be deleted without prejudice.

PS: Because of spamming purposes, the linky will be closed on Thursday of each week at midnight, Malaysian Time. Thank you!
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Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas

I would like to take this time to wish everybody a very Merry Christmas.  I hope you are able to spend the time with those you love and that you are able to reflect on the true meaning of the season.

We have a very simple Christmas planned with, hopefully, very little stress.  We will open our presents in the morning.  Around lunch time, we will go over to my in-laws to exchange gifts and have lunch.  Then, we will head home to spend the rest of the day at home.

Since Christmas is on a Sunday this year, my office will be closed on Monday.  My sister is having a little get together for everybody that afternoon, so we will probably exchange gifts with my parents then, though we do reserve the right to possibly head over to their house some time Christmas evening.

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Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve

Cover of a 1912 edition of the poem, illustrat...Image via WikipediaTwas the night before Christmas, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.  Well that's not entirely true.  I am stirring and will be stirring for a few more hours before I lay down my head for a long winter's night.

I spent most of my Christmas Eve day delivering fresh hot pizza for my part time job.  Usually, I work from 5pm to midnight on Saturdays, but with this being Christmas Eve, we are closing a little earlier than usual.  Since I needed the money, I volunteered to work early today.

I started my day at 11:30 and worked an 8 hour shift.  I decided to wear a Santa hat on my deliveries today in hopes that it would spur folks to be a little more giving, if you know what I mean.  I don't know if the hat made a difference or not, but I did do pretty well tonight, even if we were not especially busy.  After work, I ordered a pizza to take home for dinner.

The great thing about working one of the earlier shifts was that I was able to get off in time to get home for one of my favorite Christmas Eve traditions.  I walked in the house just in time to catch the first airing of the 24 hours of A Christmas Story on TBS.  I am enjoying a few glasses of wine while watching my favorite Christmas movie of all times.  I will probably watch it 2 or 3 times in the next 24 hours.

Christmas Eve is one of those nights that each family has their own sets of traditions.  We currently do not have a lot of Christmas Eve traditions in my current household.  Of course, I watch A Christmas Story each year.  With the advent of the internet, I also track Santa's progress on NORAD as he makes his journey around the globe.

When we were growing up, we had a few family traditions in my home.  For years, when all of my siblings were still living at home, we would go to The Italian Inn restaurant in Hyattsville MD for a big pizza dinner.  There pizza was unlike any other that I ever had.  It was thick and heavy with toppings, but not think like a deep dish pizza.

Another tradition we had was that we could open only one present on Christmas Eve.  Every year, one of my grandmothers always bought each of us a new pair of pajamas.  We would open that gift on Christmas Eve, and wear them to bed that night.  As kids, we always new we were getting them and always disappointed to get them.  We wanted toys. Of course now I would welcome such practical gifts.

Most of our traditions over the years have been pretty simple, just the family enjoying time together.  What more could you ask for?  What kinds of family traditions have you and yours enjoyed over the years on Christmas Eve?
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Friday, December 23, 2011

Not So Best Buy

Best BuyImage by Ron Dauphin via FlickrThanks to Best Buy, it will be a Merry Christmas for my son this Christmas.  Unfortunately for a lot of other people, Best Buy will end up being the Grinch that Stole Christmas.  Best Buy was overwhelmed with online orders this year and recently announced that several order, even some placed in November, would be cancelled an unable to be shipped in time for Christmas.

Just prior to Thanksgiving, I had posted that I was considering trying to take advantage of the Black Friday sales in order to buy my son either an xBox 360 or a Playstation 3 for Christmas.  A friend of mine who stops by here on occasion suggested I look at Best Buy's website because they were going to have a lot of the Black Friday deals online with free shipping.  So, Thanksgiving morning, I found one of the systems on line, ordered it, and received everything I ordered within a week.

Earlier this week, my friend posted that he was Scrooged by Worst Buy.  He actually had placed his order on November 19th, well ahead of the game.  When he was wrapping presents a week or so ago, he noticed that this particular item was nowhere to be found.  He searched his emails, found confirmation of the order, but could not find a shipment confirmation.  Upon logging into, he discovered his order had been cancelled.  So, my friend was left without a key gift just one week before Christmas.

His experience was the first I had heard about issues with Best Buy and their online ordering.  However, the proverbial excrement has hit the fan as more news stories have broken about Best Buy's ability to fill orders placed online.  Today, I have heard stories on the radio and the local evening news about people who have just been notified that their orders will not be filled with just a few days before Christmas.  One person posted that she ordered the same item that I did, one day later, and was just notified that her order was cancelled.

Naturally, Best Buy is getting a lot of bad publicity for their inability to fulfill orders in time for Christmas.  Even more disturbing is the reports of bad customer service in the aftermath of their screw up.  Thankfully, I didn't have an issue with my order.  I only had two items, so I tracked it daily from the time the order was placed until received.  Hopefully the folks who were disappointed by Best Buy's poor performance were able to find the gifts somewhere else, but a lot of people will probably think twice before ordering from them again.

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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Snapdragon Stadium

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Snapdragon by Qualcomm for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.

I am of the age where I remember when sports arenas and stadiums were named for the city they were in, the person who built it, or for some historical figure.  I don't recall when they started selling the naming rights to stadiums to businesses, but it is obviously worthwhile both for the teams and for the companies that buy those naming rights.

In 1997, San Diego computer chip manufacturer Qualcomm bought the naming rights for the stadium in San Diego, CA.  From that day forward, Jack Murphy Stadium has been know as Qualcomm Stadium, home to the San Diego Padres, the San Diego Chargers, and a couple of college football bowl games.  That is, until now.

From December 18th through December 28th, Qualcomm has renamed the stadium Snapdragon Stadium.  Snapdragon processors by Qualcomm are the digital brains inside mobile devices made by smartphone manufacturers like Samsung, LG, Nokia, and HTC.  During this period of time, Snapdragon Stadium will host an NFL game between the Chargers and the Baltimore Ravens and two college bowl games, the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl and the Bridgeport Education Holiday Bowl.

This is a great opportunity for Qualcomm to promote their Snapdragon processors for smartphones.  After all, we are doing more and more every day with our phones, so they need a powerful processor.  My Droid Incredible utilizes the Snapdragon processor.  My phone is so much more powerful and faster than any previous smartphone that I have had in the past.  

Much like Intel did with processors for computers, Qualcomm is looking to build awareness of their Snapdragon processors for smartphones.  My initial experience with a Snapdragon powered phone is so positive, that I will want it in future phones.  Renaming Qualcomm Stadium to Snapdragon Stadium during this holiday period is a great first step in building brand awareness for their Snapdragon processors. 

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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Ready to Tighten Our Belts

English: President Barack Obama discusses his ...Image via WikipediaTo use a sports metaphor, barring a last second Hail Mary, it looks like most of us will start the New Year off a  little lighter in our wallets thanks to the idiots in DC.  I am not signalling out either side in this fiasco, as all parties involved deserve to get a lump of coal in their stockings.  Perhaps they should be sent to their rooms without supper. At the very least they should be whipped 100 times with a wet noodle.

Last year at about this same time, Congress and Obama concluded a deal that extended the Bush era tax rates.  Along with that, Obama asked for, and received, a 2% payroll tax holiday for 2011.  That  payroll tax break along with keeping the income tax rates steady came at a most opportune time for me personally.  My health insurance premiums, like a lot of folks, went up significantly.  The 2% tax break just about covered the increase in my share of my health insurance.

Now, I am all for keeping more of the money that I earn in my pocket as opposed to sending any more to the government, though I have to say I wonder about the practical aspect of cutting the tax that funds social security.  We keep hearing about how social security is in trouble because we are spending more than we are taking in.  It doesn't seem logical to cut the payroll tax if that is the case.  Of course, with 47% of people not paying income taxes, the only thing left for Obama to cut for those folks is the payroll tax so that he can keep buying those votes for the Democrats.

Originally, Barack Obama called for Congress to extend the payroll tax holiday for another 12 months through 2012.  Both the Senate, controlled by Democrats, and the House, controlled by Republicans, stated that they wanted to extend the tax break.  Unfortunately, neither side could agree on how to pay for it.  Once again, they wait until the very last second to try to address the issue.  Obama called for Congress to put off their Christmas break until after an agreement was reached.

The Senate proposed a total of three bills that included a 12 month extension, two from Democrats and one from Republicans.  All of them failed to pass in the Senate.  For their part, the House of Representatives did pass a 12 month extension which Harry Reid and the Senate promptly killed.  The Senate then passed a bipartisan bill that only extended the tax break for two months.  That bill was voted down by the House which is where we stand today.

After the House passed their bill with a 12 month extension, Boehner took the President's admonition to delay the Christmas break until a deal was reached to heart and kept the House in session, or at the very least on call in case there was a need for a vote on a bill.  Harry Reid and the Senate, bolted town as soon as they passed their two month extension.  Boehner is calling for the Senate to come back to work things out, but now Obama and Reid are basically saying, "screw you!"

Even though the House passed a 12 month extension, albeit with conditions the Democrats found unpalatable, it will end up being the Republican House that takes the brunt of the negative PR.  The Republicans are correct in that a two month extension really doesn't do any good for anybody.  The reality is that with a two month extension, we will find ourselves in the same spot in February.  It is the Democrat controlled Senate, and supported by Obama, who refuse to come back to work on an agreement.  Still, the news media will report it was the Republicans who are responsible for the failure of extending the tax break.

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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Pink Eye

acute conjunctivitis Day 3Image via WikipediaOn Friday, I was having a little bit of trouble with one of my eyes.  It was a little bit irritated and watering a lot.  I tried using a little Visine eye drops, but it didn't really help much.  Saturday morning, I woke up and my eye was a lot more irritated and the eyelid was swollen and red.

I immediately started to think that I was suffering from conjunctivitis, also know as pink eye.  Thankfully, my doctor's office is open for a couple of hours on Saturday mornings.  I called them to see if there was any way possible for the doctor to see me that morning.

Once I finally got through to my doctor's office, the person who answered the phone asked me how soon I could get to the office.  I told her 15 minutes, and she asked me to come in right away.  To my surprise, nobody was waiting in the waiting room and took me right back in.

Instead of seeing one of the normal doctor's in the practice, they told me that I would be seeing a nurse practitioner.  I didn't really care because I have seen nurse practitioner's in the past.  This particular practitioner recently joined the practice and works one or two Saturday's a month to give the other doctor's a break.

As I had said previously, I have seen nurse practitioners before without any problems.  I was somewhat disconcerted, however,  when after introducing herself she left briefly and came back with her big diagnosis medical book.  She said she had another full time job during the week and only did the practitioner gig one or two days a month so she wanted to make sure she asked me everything for the diagnosis.

She ended up agreeing that I had pink eye and prescribed some drops for me to use for treatment.  I am 50 years old, and I have never had anybody bring a medical book into the exam room while at the doctor's office.  Has anybody else ever experienced this sort of thing?
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Monday, December 19, 2011

Music Monday-John Mellencamp "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus"

I saw Mommy kissing Santa Claus underneath the mistletoe last night. I really just wanted to have a song that contained mistletoe in it so I could relate a story about mistletoe.

I was working in a grocery store while in college.  There was a woman who graduated a year ahead of me that was a coworker.  During Christmas, she would wear a hat that had mistletoe on it so that she was always standing under the mistletoe.  Struck me as desperation if you ask me.

Come join Music Monday and share your songs with us. Rules are simple. Leave ONLY the ACTUAL LINK POST here and grab the code below and place it at your blog entry. You can grab this code at LadyJava's Lounge Please note these links are STRICTLY for Music Monday participants only. All others will be deleted without prejudice.

PS: Because of spamming purposes, the linky will be closed on Thursday of each week at midnight, Malaysian Time. Thank you!
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Sunday, December 18, 2011

A Married Man's Guide to Christmas

English: Christmas Time at Glendale Shopping M...Image via WikipediaBy now, most of you know that I am married and have a special needs child, so I am both a husband and a father.  While I am both of those things, I am first and foremost a guy.  As a guy, I typically enjoy guy humor, especially when it come to the subject of marriage.

One of my favorite "guy" books of humor was Dave Barry's Complete Guide to Guys.  It is a laugh out loud book about guys because there is so much he describes that I can relate to.  For example, in the men's room there are certain rules.  If you enter the men's room and see a series of urinals you take one on the end of the series.  If another guy is using a urinal, you go to the opposite end of the urinals.  If by chance you have to take one next to another guy, you stare straight ahead, and by all means you do not talk, unless it is a comment about how cold or deep the water is.

I was in the mood to read something a little lighthearted and holiday related.  I found A Married Man's Guide to Christmas written by Robert Henry.  In this tour de force, Henry tackles all of the thoughts, feeling, and fears of the typical married man faces as he approaches the holiday season.  There are all the household projects that have to be completed because the wife requires the perfect Christmas decor as seen in the holiday magazines.

In addition to the hazards of decorating the outside of the home, Henry talks about the married man's fears in heading out to the mall to find the right gifts for the little missus, in spite of all her hints.  There is frequent discussion of the need of large quantities of alcohol in dealing with the holiday season.  Even more alcohol is needed when dealing with all of the family members on both sides of the family that you would never want to see outside of the holidays.

I found  myself laughing out loud at several spots in the book because so much of it is true.  When describing why he always says he doesn't want anything for Christmas, here is his response.
You see, the problem is...I'm a guy.  We are by nature low-present-maintenance creatures.  We haven't worn the clothes we got last year because when we reached into the drawer, they weren't on top.  And we can't figure any reason to dig lower because, frankly, we  didn't care about what we were wearing in the first place.
I can really relate to this because this is my philosophy for deciding what I will wear each day.  If it is on top of the clean pile, that's what I put on.

One of my pet peeves in life is people who wear to much cologne.  In the chapter in dealing with those relatives that you would rather not see, but must during the holidays, Henry has this to say about one particular in-law:
Fred needs to die.  I suggest drowning him in cologne, an act for which he has provided a substantial head start.
A punishment that several people I know needs to have inflicted upon them.

All in all though, Henry says that despite all these things, us guys love Christmas.  In spite of all the travails of the season, we wouldn't change a thing.  We can take some comfort that millions of married men are going through the same things as we all are.  The book itself is very short, and was literally laugh out load funny.  It was a very enjoyable break from the stress and strain of the holiday season and daily life.
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Saturday, December 17, 2011

White Elephant Gift Swap

Christmas gifts.Image via WikipediaYesterday, I shared with you a few of the things that I do not particularly care for during the Christmas season.  I forgot one.  It is the White Elephant Gift Swap, also known as the Yankee Gift Swap.\

Most of you probably already know what this is or have participated in one, perhaps under a different name.  For those who haven't, everybody brings a wrapped gift.  Participants then draw numbers.  The person with #1 then picks any wrapped gift and opens it.  Then, the person with #2 can choose to take that gift from person #1 or choose from another gift on the table.  And on it goes until everybody has a present.

There are a number of different variations to the rules of the game.  Some people put a limit on the number of times a gift can be swapped or taken.  Other folks allow the person who selected first to then have an opportunity to swap their gift for any of the gifts that had been opened during the festivities.

Yesterday, my department at work had our annual Christmas luncheon.  The luncheon part was very nice.  We had lunch at a rather nice restaurant near our office.  There were about 40 of us at lunch.  We started off with appetizers of calamari, caprese, and duck spring rolls.  They had wine available for the three tables, a cabernet and a Chardonnay.  For my main entree, I had a grilled shrimp caprese salad.  It was awesome.

In order to not disturb the other patrons in the restaurant, we decided to have our White Elephant Gift Swap at the office before heading out to eat.  We were rather pressed for time, so one rule we implemented was that any gift could only be stolen one time.  Another rule that we had was that we could not buy a gift for the swap.  We had to regift something we had at home or use a sample that we had in the office.  So at least it didn't cost me anything.

Herein lies the problem with things like the White Elephant swap.  On occasion, you can get something nice.  However, most likely you won't.  Plus, if you are fortunate enough to get something good when you open a gift, you are probably going to end up getting it taken from you.  If you opened something crappy, you can pretty much guarantee that nobody will take it from you.

Our swap had very few gifts that I would have considered "nice."  There was a nice bottle of Cabernet and a bottle of Jose Cuervo Gold Tequila.  There were some nice travel sized lotion sets or a cookbook that would have made a nice gift for my wife. There were some nice food gifts that ended up changing hands including the gift I gave of a gift box of KIND bars.

The majority of the gifts, however, might best be classified as "tacky."  One person received a Statue of Liberty t-shirt that had a battery pack attached to it.  The image of the statue would light up and flicker when turned on.  Then there was my favorite gift of a Christmas hat covered in lights shaped like a roasted turkey with little Santa hats on the drumsticks.  It got a lot of laughs.

I ended up getting some sort of gourmet snacks that somebody must have received from a sales rep.  It will probably end up in a food box donation box if I can find one, or in the trash.  We had a few good laughs during the event, mainly because of the reactions to some of the gifts.  I think most of the people were probably disappointed in their gifts.  Fortunately, it didn't cost us anything to participate.
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Friday, December 16, 2011

Here are a Few of My Least Favorite Things

Santa Claus Conquers the MartiansImage via WikipediaEarlier this month, I share a few of my favorite things about Christmas.  Now I thought that I would share a few of my least favorite things.  Some of these things I downright hate.  Fortunately, there is a lot more that I live about Christmas than I don't like.

For years, I always found the Barking Dogs version of Jingle Bells to be highly irritating.  That song, however, is not my least favorite Christmas song.  No, that dubious distinction belongs to Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.  To me, there is absolutely nothing joyous and festive about that song.

Speaking of Christmas songs, I do enjoy when the radio stations start mixing Christmas music in with the regular programming.  More songs get added to the playlist each week, culminating in nothing but Christmas music on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  It is the perfect formula in my view.

For the past few years, one of the radio stations that I listen to on occasion takes a different tack when it comes to their programming.  Rather than mixing in some Christmas music with their regular programming, they start 24 hours of Christmas music prior to Thanksgiving.  That is way to early for me.

There is no shortage of Christmas movies to choose from this time of year.  With so many to choose from, there is bound to be a few clunkers out there.  Santa Claus Conquers the Martians usually tops a lot of polls as the worst Christmas movie of all times, however, I vaguely remember enjoying it when I was a kid.

I also tend to stay away from Christmas films that mock the holiday or are basically horror films set at Christmastime.  They do not qualify as Christmas movies in my mind.  I will say that there is one film that is revered at this time of year that I have never cared for and that film is It's a Wonderful Life.

The last thing during the Christmas season that I do not like is the crowds.  As we get closer to Christmas, it becomes increasingly more difficult to deal with the crowds.  People in the shopping centers and in particular the shopping center parking lot become increasingly more aggressive.  It hardly brings to mind tidings of good cheer.

There really is so much more to like about Christmas than to dislike.  These are just a few things that tend to get my goat.  How about you?  Is there anything that causes you grief or anxiety this time of year?

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Thursday, December 15, 2011

You'll Shoot Your Eye Out

If you have ever seen the classic Christmas movie A Christmas Story, you will recognize that line as the response poor Ralphie gets the opportunity to tell any adult in his life what he wants for Christmas, his cherished Red Rider BB gun with a compass and a sundial in the stock.  The poor kid can't get a break.  Even Santa Claus tells him he will shoot his eye out.

The movie has been a favorite in my family for years, partly because it is such a nice, nostalgic story and partly because the protagonist Ralphie (portrayed by Peter Billingsley) bears a striking resemblance of my younger brother when he was that age.  There are so many scenes that are ingrained into my memory.  I don't know if it is a "guy" thing or not, but so many of my male friends and colleagues count it as their favorite Christmas movie.  I know it is mine.

I have a friend and colleague at the office who is about 18 years younger than I am.  He also is a big fan of the movie.  So much so that whenever one of us sees something at the store that is symbolic of scenes from the movie, out come the cell phone cameras and a quick text message is sent.  I have sent him miniature versions of the leg lamp, and earlier this year a Christmas stocking in the shape of that very same leg lamp.

The other day at work, it was his turn to send me something.  It was an email with a link to for the Christmas Story Red Ryder BB Gun boxer shorts you see pictured above, a pair of red boxers emblazoned with images of Ralphie, the BB Gun, and the quote "you'll shoot your eye out."  I love them.  I am seriously thinking of ordering myself a pair of them.  Of course being guys, we were just doubled over in laughter at the potential double entendre associated with boxers and "you'll shoot your eye out." Us guys can be so juvenile at times.

In addition to the Red Ryder BB Gun boxer shorts, they also had the Christmas Story It's a Major Award boxers shown here.  For those who have never seen the movie, Ralphie's father (the Old Man) entered a puzzle contest and was notified that he had won "a major award."  The crate arrived and after prying off the lid, out comes a life sized leg lamp clad in fishnet stockings.

That lamp was the focus of several funny scenes that culminated in Ralphie's mother "accidently" knocking over the lamp and breaking it into several pieces.  The Old Man was devastated at the loss of his greatest achievement, his major award.  While we didn't laugh quite as hard at the double entendre of a major award being on underwear, the thought was still there.
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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Life in the Cubicles

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Contest Factory for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.

I work in what I affectionately like to call a cubicle farm.  Rows and rows of cubicles with liitle to no privacy where you can hear just about every conversation in an adjacent cubicle.  I really don't mind working in a cubicle, but there are times when I miss having my own office, especially when a neighbor is particularly loud or if there is a particularly pungent odor like too much cologne or somebody eating their lunch nearby,

Recently, I took a new position within my department.  As part of the move, they moved me to a different cube that is a good bit larger than my old cube.  In my new position, I no longer needed to be adjacent to the rest of the department, so they moved my replacement into my old cubicle.  My old cubicle was pretty small, and with the boxes of candy and snack samples piled up it would have been a perfect candidate for the Pimp My Cube Contest

The Contest Factory is looking for the worst, most pathetic cubicle or office space.  Simply upload a video of your work area and tell the story of why you deserve to have them come in and pimp your cube.  It could be the cramped space, it could be messy and unorganized, it could be the furniture, or old technology, or all of the above.  I had an old CRT type monitor in my old cubicle that took up about 2/3 of the desk space.

After you submit your video, tell all your friends and have them go to the site to vote for your video.  The contest is currently running, and ends on January 30th.  If you win, then they will come in and pimp your cube.  Just by voting, you are also entered into a drawing for a $200 gift card. If nothing else, you may even find somebody that has a worse looking work area than you do.  Wouldn't that make it easier to go to work each day?

Visit Sponsor's Site

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Slackers Guide to US History

If you read here regularly, you know that I really enjoy reading.  Ever since I got my Kindle from Amazon, I have been reading a lot more reading these days.  One of the other things is that I have a tendency to stay a little bit on the frugal side.  I regularly peruse the free and discounted books for something interesting to read.

Since getting my Kindle, I have downloaded over 100 books; most of them free.  I have found several good reads in that time.  Recently, I even found one of my favorite Christian theology books for free; RC Sproul's The Holiness of God.  It currently is still free for Kindle so if you have one, go to the Amazon page and downloaded before it goes back to regular price.

I do most of my reading during my lunch break at work or before going to bed at night.  On those occasions when I have to travel for work, my trusty Kindle always makes the journey with me.  It usually takes me about a week or two to finish most of my books.  I have finished reading over 20 books on the Kindle. I have been able to discover a lot of books that I have enjoyed reading that I would not normally have looked at a second time.

It is rare that I start a book and not finish it.  This month I found one.  I enjoy learning about our history, and I enjoy lighthearted treatments of those kinds of things.  It is one of the reasons that I have enjoyed the Politically Incorrect Guides so much. So, when I saw The Slackers Guide to US History by John Pfeiffer and Don Stewart I thought it might be a nice, lighthearted read.  I was wrong.

When I first saw The Slackers Guide on Amazon, it had some pretty good ratings (4+ stars average), so I downloaded it.  The book was supposed to be a humorous look at US History, but I found it was anything but funny.  Most of the attempts at humor were extremely sophomoric, and in some cases downright racist.  I made it through a few chapters to see if got any better, but it didn't.

I stopped reading the book, and started reading A Married Man's Guide to Christmas which I will finish in the next day or so.  I will probably review that in the next few days.  I am not sure if I will ever go back to the Slackers Guide to finish it, but I kind of doubt it.  Since downloading it, the ratings on Amazon have dropped considerably, with most people rating it at 1 star.  Thank goodness it was a free download, it wasn't even worth that.
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Monday, December 12, 2011

Music Monday-Mannheim Steamroller "Silent Night"

Silent Night is my favorite Christmas Carol. This instrumental version by Mannheim Steamroller is haunting and the images in the video are lovely.

Come join Music Monday and share your songs with us. Rules are simple. Leave ONLY the ACTUAL LINK POST here and grab the code below and place it at your blog entry. You can grab this code at LadyJava's Lounge Please note these links are STRICTLY for Music Monday participants only. All others will be deleted without prejudice.

PS: Because of spamming purposes, the linky will be closed on Thursday of each week at midnight, Malaysian Time. Thank you!
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Sunday, December 11, 2011

Jobs, Energy, and Taxes

English: South fa├žade of the White House, the ...Image via WikipediaWhat are two of the most pressing concerns of American citizens these days?  Without question, first and foremost is jobs.  The current 8.6% unemployment rate is understated with the number of people that they have stopped counting thanks to the fuzzy math performed by government in general.

Another critical issue would be the cost of energy, gasoline in particular.  While gasoline prices had been falling in recent weeks, they are still higher than at any other time at this time of year.  With the price of oil recently going back over $100 per barrel, I have already seen the price of gas go back up about $0.10 last week.

Meanwhile, the current resident at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave in Washington DC wants to extend the 2% payroll holiday that is currently in place.  He repeatedly calls upon the Republicans to put party aside and do something for the good of the middle class.  One of his favorite words to use is the word "compromise."

The President has the opportunity to do just that, compromise.  The Republicans are giving pass legislation that will extend the current payroll tax holiday.  In exchange, they are asking the President for approval of construction of the Keystone pipeline from Canada to Texas which would address the two pressing matters of jobs and energy.

We constantly hear from politicians about how we need to lessen our dependence on foreign oil from countries that are basically hostile to us.  The pipeline would provide 20000 good paying union jobs, a key Democrat constituency, and provide us with a reliable source of energy, at a lower cost from one of our key allies and trading partners.

Sadly, for this President, the word compromise only applies to Republicans giving him what he wants.  He has come out and stated that any bill to extend the payroll tax holiday that is tied to approval of the pipeline will be vetoed.  Yet another reason why OMG no longer stands for "Oh my God," but rather "Obama must go."
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Saturday, December 10, 2011

Political Ads-Getting Down & Dirty

In eleven months, it will be time for another election cycle.  That means we are soon going to be inundated with political ads on television and radio.  Since the Iowa Caucuses are just a few weeks away, those fine folks are already getting their share of political ads along with the usual Christmas shopping ads.

Now, I do not claim to be an expert on political ads and what is most effective in gaining the support of the electorate.  However, I do know what I like, and I especially know what I don't like.  I prefer ads that are positive and uplifting as opposed to negative attack ads.

Negative attack ads must work on some people, because they are so prevalent during every election cycle.  For me, however, they are a major turnoff.  With Newt Gingrich currently being the front runner among the GOP candidates, he is getting targeted in ads in airing in Iowa.

First, take a look at this ad from the Romney campaign in this "With Friends Like Newt" ad.

Next up, Ron Paul has his own attack ad against Gingrich.

Compare those ads with the "Rebuilding the America We Love" ad from Gingrich. Gingrich seems to be channeling Ronald Reagan's "Morning in America" ads. Which ads do you prefer?

The purpose of this post is not to express support for Gingrich.  He is leading in the polls and is the natural target for these ads.  I have not decided who I will vote for in the Maryland Republican primary.  By the time the Maryland primary rolls around, it might not matter.  I do want to raise the question though, do negative or positive ads sway you one way or another in deciding who to vote for come election time?

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Friday, December 9, 2011

Hurry Less, Worry Less at Christmastime

English: large wooden Santa Claus and "no...Image via WikipediaAre you one of those people who sometimes dread the whole holiday season?  I know there have been times in my life when I just wanted them to be over.  You get overwhelmed by the constant barrage of holiday events and activities.

Is it any wonder that we can get stressed out by the holidays.  It all starts with Thanksgiving, moves quickly to Christmas and ends with the New Year.  They really are three distinct holidays with their own special meaning and significance, but they all seem to run together these days.

I remember when there was a bit of a break between the different holidays.  Christmas decorations wouldn't go up until after Thanksgiving.  Now, the stores start putting up Christmas decorations in early November.  I even was at one mall that had Santa Claus out two weeks before Thanksgiving.

Personally, I want to relax and enjoy each of the holidays for what they represent.  I don't want to get caught up in all of the hustle and bustle.  Usually it is a case of easier said than done.  Fortunately, I found a pretty good little book called Hurry Less, Worry Less at Christmastime by Judy Pace Christie.

The book is filled with nice little tips and techniques to simplify the holiday season.  There are great suggestions on how to cut back in some areas without feeling guilty about it.  At the same time, she teaches you how take time to focus on what is truly important and how to integrate new traditions with your old traditions.

It all starts with imagining and writing down the type of holiday you want.  She encourages you to realize you can't change everything at once, but to focus on that which is most important to you and try to change a little bit at a time.  Then each year becomes a little bit easier to move towards your goal of a relaxing holiday season.

Unbeknownst to me, I had already started to incorporate a few of her ideas into my own holiday activities, but I never formally thought about them.  I learned to cut back on the number of gifts I bought for people outside of my wife and son and not feel guilty about it.  I have started my own traditions with my wife and son.  I try not to feel guilty if I can't or choose not to attend every holiday invitation.

My holidays aren't always stress free and without drama.  There are times when I still spend too much or get too involved in activities.  But I am working on it.  Here is hoping that you can have a less worrisome and less hurried holiday season this year and for years to come.
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Thursday, December 8, 2011

Good News From School

Bottles of St. Louis-based BBQ sauce Maull'sImage via WikipediaWhen my son was home from school for the Thanksgiving break, I was deeply concerned because he has still been losing weight.  All told since he started at the school 13 months ago, he has lost over 40 pounds.  He probably would have benefited from losing some of the weight, but he had lost a little too much.

When my wife took him back to school last week, she had a conversation with his teacher and the school nurse. There have been a couple of things going on. After breakfast each morning he would often lie down and go back to sleep until about 11 am.  He would also have a lot of undesirable behaviors such as dropping to the ground, hitting others, and throwing things like his glasses.

My son has never swallowed pills, so we have always had to crush his pills and mix them with his drink or food. One of his medications is supposed to be an extended release formulation.  Since we had to crush the pills, he was not getting the benefit of the extended release.  The nurse was concerned that getting all of the medication at once, combined with the weight loss was possibly causing some of his problems.

We contacted our son's psychiatrist, and he faxed a new medication order over to the school cancelling that one particular medication.  The plan is to see how he does without the medication.  If he does well, then we will keep him off of the medication.  If he continues to have issues, then we will look into putting him on another medication that is not extended release.

On Friday, they stopped giving him that medication.  On Monday, we received an email from the school nurse  that he had been better behaved and been eating more, as long as the food was covered in BBQ sauce.  She also informed us that he was using his spare pair of glasses because a lens had popped out of his primary pair of glasses and they could not find it.

Today, my wife drove out to school to take a new spare pair of glasses out to them.  She talked with everybody involved with our son at school, and they say he has been doing a lot better.  He has not dropped to the ground once, he has been focused and doing his lessons, and he has even eaten fish sticks (with BBQ sauce.)  He has never eaten fish before.

When my wife saw him in his classroom, he was not laying down like he usually does but was actively working on his lesson.  He even asked his aide for assistance.  The other good piece of news is that since he has been off the medication, he has actually gained a pound.  It has only been one week off of the medication, but so far so good.  I love the fact that he is eating a bit more and behaving himself. Hopefully this is the start of something good.  
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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Back to the Drawing Board

Pharmacy Rx symbolImage via WikipediaCurrently, I am on four different medications for various ailments and/or conditions.  I also take a daily dose of Vitamin D for a low Vitamin D level in my blood.  To save myself time and trouble, I have all four of my prescriptions set up for automatic refill at my pharmacy.

One day last week, I noticed that I was getting low on one of my medications and it had not been filled yet by the pharmacy.  I called to check on it and was told that I was out of refills but that they would send something to my doctor for a refill.  No worries, I had enough to last until yesterday and figured I had plenty of time to get it filled.

As of Monday afternoon, the prescription still had not been filled.  I called the doctor's office to check on the status of getting the refill and was told that the doctor wanted to see me before writing a new prescription.  The timing of this was not very good due to a lot of things going on at work, but I ended up having to take the morning off to visit the doctor.

The visit was rather non-eventful.  He went ahead and wrote three new prescriptions for medications that no longer had refills.  He reran a couple of tests that he ran last summer when I have my little scare that led to me going on the CPAP machine.  He also decided that he wanted to run another series of blood tests to compare them to the ones he ran during the summer.

There are a couple of things from the last blood tests that needed to be reviewed.  First, he wanted to check to see if my Vitamin D level has improved since I started taking the supplements.  Another concern is that my blood sugar level is a little elevated, and he wanted to make sure I wasn't pre-diabetic.  The last concern is my cholesterol level.  My total cholesterol has been in the acceptable range but my bad cholesterol has been a little on the high side.

There was one other thing that we talked about that I really didn't need him to tell me because I already knew.  I need to lose some weight.  I had done so well last year losing about 25 pounds.  Unfortunately, I started to fall back into my old habits and gained all of the weight back.  So now, just in time for all the holiday feasts and goodies, I need to start watching what I eat again.
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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

What Should I Do?

I got a pleasant little surprise the other day.  I received an extra money that I wasn't expecting in the form of a gift card.  I am not really sure what I want to do with it.  I have a few different ideas going through my head, but none that are currently jumping out at me right now.

I have already finished my Christmas shopping, so I don't think that I will be using it for presents.  One thought that I had was using it to get my son an extra game or two for his big Christmas present of a Playstation 3.  Right now, he will have two gifts to open, the Playstation and a Madden 12 football game for it.

Another option would be to use it for a couple of things that I need or that we need for the household.  I could use the money for some new shoes or some new clothes that I could use.  Both cars are pretty close to needing their oil changed, so it could cover a couple of trips to Jiffy Lube.

The found money could also be used to do somethings that my wife and I do not get to do very often.  We like to go out to dinner or lunch every now and then.  Usually, we go someplace fairly inexpensive like a Red Robin or other casual restaurant.  There is a seafood restaurant that we love that is fairly expensive that we do not get to go to very often.  Coincidentally, when we eat there the tab usually ends up being around the value of the gift card.

One final option would be to do something that I rarely get to do for myself; to splurge on something for me.  Last year at my office Christmas party, we received an American Express Gift Card.  I had been thinking that if we got something like that this year, I could use it on something I would not normally buy for myself, like a very nice bottle of scotch.  Our party is in two weeks, so that still could happen.

I have gotten to the point where I really hesitate to spend money too quickly when I get it.  It would be nice to splurge on something just for me, but part of me thinks that as soon as I do some expense will come up unexpectedly.  So, should I do something practical either for me or others, or should I splurge on something just for me or dinner with the little missus?     

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Monday, December 5, 2011

Music Monday-Brad Paisley "Kung Pao Buckaroo Holiday"

Since Christmas is just three weeks away, the next few Music Monday's will be dedicated to Christmas themed music.

In my house, we say "Merry Christmas."  The other thing we are not, is politically correct, at least not to extremes.  We do not set out to offend anybody, but it grieves us when we hear about all the attacks in the news and media against things Christmas.  Thankfully there are groups and movements aiming to Keep Christ in Christmas.

Brad Paisley and friends, Little Jimmy Dickens, George Jones, Bill Engvall and the rest of the Kung Pao Buckaroos take a humorous look at Christmas political correctness run amuck.  I heard this song for the first time the other night and laughed so hard I had tears in my eyes. 

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Come join Music Monday and share your songs with us. Rules are simple. Leave ONLY the ACTUAL LINK POST here and grab the code below and place it at your blog entry. You can grab this code at LadyJava's Lounge Please note these links are STRICTLY for Music Monday participants only. All others will be deleted without prejudice.

PS: Because of spamming purposes, the linky will be closed on Thursday of each week at midnight, Malaysian Time. Thank you!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Herman Cain Suspends Campaign

speaking at a press conference in Scottsdale, ...Image via WikipediaYesterday, Herman Cain announced that he was suspending his campaign for the Republican Presidential nomination.  For the past few weeks, Cain has had numerous allegations of sexual harassment come out from his days as CEO of the National Restaurant Association.  The most recent allegation was that he had been involved in a 13 year affair.

For his part, Cain has steadfastly denied any impropriety in any of the allegations.  As an early supporter of Cain, I have been been willing to give Cain the benefit of the doubt because the allegations seemed to be so out of character for the man.  Those who have known Cain for years have vigorously defended the man's character and steadfastly refused to believe the charges.

However, since the first story broke about the harassment allegations, Cain's poll numbers have been dropping steadily.  Fighting all of the various charges against him, took Cain off message.  More and more time spent defending his reputation meant less time discussing and putting forth the ideas like the 999 plan that led to his rapid rise in the poll from afterthought to frontrunner.

I have to admit, that in the last month or so, my own support for Cain had faded.  However, the allegations of impropriety have had nothing to do with it.  There have been a series of mistakes made by Cain and his campaign from the initial handling of the harassment charges to some areas where Cain showed his biggest weakness in regards to foreign policy issues.

I still think very highly of Herman Cain.  He seems like a tremendously positive, optimistic, and likable person.  Putting forth his 999 tax plan helped changed the course of the political debate for the Republican nominees.  In the end, I think Cain will do OK, whether it be in continued political life or if his participation in the debate process leads to other opportunities.  I wish the best for Herman Cain and his family.

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Saturday, December 3, 2011

I Love Coffee

English: A photo of a cup of coffee. Esperanto...Image via WikipediaI love coffee, but it hasn't always been that way.  I guess you could say that it was an acquired taste for me.  When I first started drinking hot, caffeinated beverages in the morning, I started with tea.  Drinking tea was an adventure for me.  I really got into trying all of the different varieties of tea available in the grocery store.  My favorites have been Earl Grey and English Breakfast teas. 

Eventually, I moved on to drinking coffee in the morning.  My approach to drinking coffee mirrored my sense of adventure when I went out to discover coffee.  Instead of going with the standard ground coffee that you can get in the grocery stores, I ventured out to the gourmet coffee shops to see the wide variety of coffees available.

I bought myself a nice little coffee grinder and bought my coffee in whole bean format.  Grinding my beans gave me a fresher taste to my morning brew.  I tried all kinds of different coffee; Kona from Hawaii, Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee, coffee from different parts of Africa and South America.  Eventually, I moved on to Starbucks drinks.  This time of year, I love Egg Nog Lattes.  It is a rare treat for me these days, as I have moved back to drinking grocery store coffee.

I have been thinking a bit more these days about going back to more variety in my coffee.  Every now and then while browsing the store shelves, I look at the wide variety of Keurig K-cup coffees that are available and think I would like to get a Keurig machine to replace my little 4-cup Mr. Coffee coffee maker.  Since I am the only coffee drinker in the house, the Keurig machine and the 4-cup Mr. Coffee is perfect for me for the small amount that it makes. 

In addition to the K-cup coffee, I was browsing my local Giant grocery store last week and looking at the variety of coffees that they had available in their coffee aisle.  They had Kona blends, Sumatra blends, different South American and African blends.  They are a little more expensive than the Columbian ground coffee that I have been getting, but not that much more.

I don't think that I will ever go back to grinding my own beans again, but I would like to add some variety back into my coffee drinking.  One of the few things that I would like for Christmas this year would be a Keurig coffee maker.  With their My K-cup filter, I can also use my favorite ground coffee to make a cup as I need them. 

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