Saturday, April 30, 2011

William, Kate, and the Local News

T-shirt of William and Kate's weddingImage by Ben Sutherland via FlickrI was hoping by now that I would be able to stop hearing about the royal wedding of Will and Kate.  Unfortunately it seems that no matter where I go, I am still being bombarded with people talking about the wedding.  So many of the other blogs and news sites that I visit all have something posted about the wedding.  At least there have been baseball games and NASCAR on television today, so at least in that aspect it has slowed somewhat.

I did not watch the wedding on television yesterday.  I had absolutely no desire or interest to do so.  For weeks, all I could see on the broadcast news was stuff leading up to the blessed event.  To be perfectly honest, I was sick of hearing about them.  In fact, yesterday morning I was slightly perturbed that my local news broadcast was preempted for coverage of the wedding.  I would have much preferred to hear my local weather and traffic info.  I could not even turn on Fox News last night when I got home from delivering pizza because they were rebroadcasting the wedding.

I have no animosity towards Prince William and his lovely bride.  I wish them much health and happiness for many years to come.  It is just that I personally do not understand the fascination that folks have with the royal family, much like I don't understand the fascination people have with the Kennedy clan.  Besides, didn't the US fight the Revolutionary War to get out from under the tyranny of the royals?  Just kidding folks, don't get your knickers all in a bunch about it.

Speaking of local news, there is something that has been bugging me of late.  I realize that the nature of local news broadcasts allows for the occasional human interest story or fluff pieces.  I do not really have a problem with that per se.  Some of it I find highly worthwhile, like Barbara Harrison and her Wednesday's Child stories on the local NBC affiliate.  Instead, I am talking about the newscasts pimping the television shows on the network under the guise of news.

For instance, every week, the local Fox affiliate does a bit on the newscast pimping their show "Glee."  They have a radio host come on and they discuss that night's episode and talk about things to look for on upcoming episodes.  Aside from the royal wedding, I have been seeing a lot of promotions on NBC for their new show "The Voice."  The day of the premiere, the local NBC affiliate did their fair share of pimping of that show.  Maybe it is just me being cranky, but those types of things just don't seem to fit a news broadcast.
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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Autism Awareness Month

Autism Awareness RibbonImage via WikipediaSince April is almost over, I have to confess that I have been somewhat remiss in mentioning that April is Autism Awareness Month.  As I have mentioned before, my son is autistic, as is one of my nephews.  Since my son was recently home from school for spring break, I want to talk a little bit about autism, how it has affected our lives, and a little of his progress at his new school.

Autism is a complex neurological disorder that is characterized by a impaired social interaction and communication.  Those who suffer from autism display a lot of repetitive behaviors and rote communication.  According to, it is estimated that 1 in 110 children will be diagnosed with some form of autism.  It is more prevalent in boys.  As I said, my son ani

Those with autism display a lot of repetitive behaviors.  My son likes to listen to music or watch videos.  He will listen to the same song over and over again, and not the whole song.  When watching videos he will play a few seconds, then rewind to watch those same few seconds over and over again.  I remember taking a family vacation once where we drove from the DC area to the beach in North Carolina.  For about the whole 8 hour drive, my son wanted to listen to Kenny Chesney's "When the Sun Goes Down" for just about the whole trip.  Each time he started it over, he asked me to sing.

Change to routine is very hard on a person with autism.  With our son, there are certain activities that he associates with me, and others he associates with his mom.  He also tends to compartmentalize certain things.  For example, we have been trying to get him to drink milk out of a regular cup instead of a sippy cup. He is perfectly capable of drinking out of a regular cup; he will drink water from a cup.  However, in his mind, milk belongs in a sippy cup because he has always drank milk from a sippy cup.  He refuses to drink milk from a regular cup.

My son and his water drinking is a bit of a triumph.  He stops at just about any water fountain to take a drink of water.  At home, he will often go to a bathroom sink, turn on the water, and drink directly from the tap as if it were a fountain.  During spring break, I gave him a styrofoam cup with water in it to drink from.  After he drank the water, he apparently wanted more and headed upstairs to the bathroom sink.  Instead of drinking from the tap, he refilled his cup and drank from it.  I was so proud.  We take great pleasure in these small victories.

Like any disorder, the severity and symptoms can vary from person to person.  Some people with autism are completely non-verbal.  My son, on the other hand, never seems to stop talking.  For the most part, his language is not typical conversation.  For example, if he wants to tell you something, he will usually phrase it in the question.  If he knows we are going to go to a baseball game, he will ask us, "Where are we going on Saturday?"  I will usually say, "I don't know," and ask him the question again.  He will then respond, "We are going to the Baysox game."   

These are just a few of the challenges that we as a family and so many other families are facing in dealing with autism.  There are so many other symptoms and struggles that we deal with on a daily basis.  With so many children being diagnosed with autism it is becoming more difficult for people to not know somebody affected by autism.  Still, so many do not understand or comprehend that a child with autism does not view the world the same as they do, nor are they able to understand that the behavior of an child with autism is a response to the different way they process their surroundings.
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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Even Better Deal on the Kindle

When I was young, single, and had plenty of disposable income, I was what you would call an early adopter of technology.  I was one of the first of my friends to buy a CD player and started buying as many of my old vinyl records on CD as I could afford.  I fell in love with the clarity of the music and the lack of the imperfections that developed in vinyl.

Similarly, I was quick to take the leap to purchase a DVD player.  Each new generation of video gaming consoles was hooked up to my television.  My first computer was a Commodore 64.  I even had a bulky early generation Kodak digital camera.  About the only time that I didn't have the earliest version was if there were two competing formats like Beta vs VHS video tapes.  In that case, I waited to see which format would prove to have the longest legs.

As I have gotten older, married, and have more responsibilities and obligations, the amount of money that I have to spend on new technology is much more limited.  I no longer feel the need to be the first to own the latest and greatest.  For example, in my house we still have DVDs and have yet to make the switch to Blu-ray.  We still have tube televisions rather than thinner, flat screen televisions.

I have chronicled my own internal debate about buying myself a Kindle.  For the longest time, I could not justify in my own mind the expense of buying one of those.  Then, I debated between buying the Kindle or the Nook, but cost was still an issue.  When Barnes & Noble lowered the retail on their Nook and then Amazon lowered the Kindle to $139, I finally got serious and took the plunge.

One of the reasons that I hesitate more these days is because technology prices can drop like they did when I finally went ahead and bought my Kindle.  Now, Amazon has come out with a new version of the Kindle for $25 less than the one I bought.  It is essentially the same Kindle, but it comes with special offers/advertising.  I don't regret buying my Kindle when I did, but I would have gladly accepted ads on mine to save another $25.
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Monday, April 25, 2011

Music Monday-Trace Adkins "Brown Chicken Brown Cow"

I am a big Trace Adkins fan. I can say that this is probably not one of my favorite songs by Trace, but it is definitely one of his funniest. I hope you agree. If nothing else, you may never look at the Muppets the same way again.

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, April 24, 2011

Easing the Pain at the Pump

Pay-at-the-pump gasoline pump in Indiana, Unit...Image via WikipediaIt is not new news to anybody that drives that gasoline prices are soaring.  As we speak, prices seem to increase on a daily basis and are rapidly approaching the record prices set a few years ago.  The main difference being that the current president doesn't seem to catch the same flack from the media that the former president did when prices rose three years ago.

One of the blogs that I like to visit is The Matthias Chronicles, written by Mar Matthias Darin.  His most recent post is a very thorough examination of how the monetary policies of Barack Obama and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke have played a large part in the soaring price of filling our tanks.  He is right on the money on that aspect, but there are other contributing factors, some that can be blamed on policies of the current administration.

First and foremost is the administration's stand on drilling for domestic oil resources.  With all of the restrictions placed on domestic drilling, we are producing much less oil than we are capable of doing.  In 2008, our demand for oil declined dramatically with the soaring costs.  As our economy has slowly improved, our demand for oil has started to increase again, but we are producing less oil than we were three years ago.  Higher demand + lower supply=higher costs.

Two other big factors contributing to the soaring gas prices are the demand for oil in growing economies like China and decisions made by OPEC.  Chinese demand for oil has been growing at a double digit rate for the past few years and is expected to continue to rise.  OPEC recently cut their production rates.  Again, higher demand + lower supply=higher costs.

Yesterday, I was listening to a radio program hosted by noted economist Peter Morici of my alma mater, the University of Maryland.   One of his guests yesterday was former president of Shell, John Hofmeister.  Hofmeister testified before Congress earlier this year and said if the US were to set a goal to raise production from the 7 million barrels per day to 10 million barrels per day it would create 3 million new jobs.  With millions out of work, I guess the current administration doesn't really want policies to create jobs.

Now, back to the title of my post.  In year's past, I have never been one to shop around for gasoline prices.  I pretty much stopped at my normal stops and would fill up as needed.  I never really went out of my way to find the lowest gas prices in town.  I never thought it very practical to drive around to save a couple pennies per gallon for gas.  Now those days are gone. 

I still pretty much know who has the lowest gasoline prices in my neighborhood.  Right now that is usually BJ's Wholesale Club.  There are a couple of places that are within a couple cents of BJ's that I will stop at if the line at BJ's is terribly long, which sometimes happens.  For those times when I am not in my neighborhood, or if I don't want to hit BJ's, I have downloaded the Gas Buddy app on my phone.  It is a great tool for finding the best gas prices nearby.

As of yesterday, the gas prices in my neighborhood were in the range of $3.78-$3.91 per gallon.  I filled up my tank for a mere $3.51 per gallon.  It is not that I was privy to some special insiders deal, but rather I took advantage of a program that my local Giant has with Shell gasoline.  For every dollar I spend at Giant, I earn a point.  For every 100 points I earn, I receive a 10 cent discount on Shell for gas.  Since my Shell is a little out of the way and more expensive than BJ's, I usually wait until I have earned at least 300 points before taking advantage of the discount.  If your grocer has a loyalty program that has gas rewards, you need to take advantage of it.

I mentioned Peter Morici and his radio show earlier in this post.  One of the things that Morici detailed on the show was what makes up the price of a gallon of gas.  Most of it is the cost of crude oil, and then there is another dollar or so in taxes and refining costs.  The gas station that you buy your gas from usually only makes a dime or so in profit on the price at the pump.  Since so many of us pay at the pump with our debit or credit cards, the gas retailer takes another hit from fees charged by the banks issuing those cards.  There are a lot of stations, that give an additional discount for customers paying with cash.  That is another opportunity to save a few cents per gallon.
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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Spring Break

US Navy 100810-N-3857R-008 U.S. Naval Academy ...Image via WikipediaThings don't usually work out quite this way.  One of my son's favorite activities is going to Bowie Baysox baseball games.  He has the best time there.  So when he went away to school, we anxiously awaited for the Baysox schedule to come out to see how well they coincided with his breaks from school.  Unfortunately, the two schedules do not line up very well at all.

For us, due to my work schedule and commute, going to games on the weekends works much better for us than during the week.  My son came home Tuesday for Spring Break, and the Baysox are going to be on a road trip starting today.  So, the only two home games scheduled during his Spring Break were Tuesday night and last night.  Both nights the weather forecasts called for rain, possibly severe at times.  That is a forecast that makes my son, well, freak out.

We had watched the forecasts closely for several days leading up to games.  We wanted to get him to at least one game while he was here, preferably both.  As we got closer to game days, the forecasts were looking more ominous, especially for Wednesday night.  While we know forecasting the weather is not an exact science, there is a reason for the old saying that April showers bring May flowers.  For that reason we were hopeful that we would get at least one game in.

When I left for work on Tuesday morning, it was raining.  Thankfully, it ended by late afternoon.  I was able to get out of the office on time, and even though the commute was more hellish than usual, we were able to get to the game on time.  The skies were overcast, and it was somewhat windy, but the rain held off and we were able to see the game on Tuesday night.

We got up yesterday, and they were still calling for a chance of some severe thunderstorms.  My son does not handle thunderstorms very well at all.  I have come home during thunderstorms in the past and found in him hiding in the bathroom.  Thankfully, the rain and the storms never materialized.  In fact, the day was absolutely perfect for baseball, and we were able to get both games in.

When I started this by saying that things don't normally work out this way, I meant that normally it would have rained one or both nights.  My son has been disappointed more than once by rain delays or cancellations.  Plus there is some truth to the old saying that if you want to hear God laugh tell him your plans.  Still, I think the Good Lord looks kindly upon and holds a special place in heaven and his heart for kids with special needs.  He surely blessed my son these past two days.

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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Grandes Titulos

Most of the time, I consider myself to be a fairly mature and sophisticated man of reasonably high intelligence.  The key phrase being most of the time.  Because, let's face it.  I am a guy.  As a guy, I have the capability of being quite juvenile on occasions. 

There is no telling what might bring about these bouts of juvenile behavior.  Sometimes it can be as simple as hearing a particular word like "duty."  It can bring about a rather immature Beavis and Butthead type response.  Ha ha, he said duty (doodie).  Real mature, right?

One such incident that brought about one of those juvenile responses is the picture of the sign seen here.  Now I took about five years of Spanish in school.  While my Spanish is extremely rusty, I still know enough to understand that there is nothing the least bit risque about the phrase "Grandes Titulos en Espanol" as depicted in the sign. Especially with the English translation right below it.

However, being a guy, and being prone to juvenile behavior, the phrase "Grandes Titulos" prompted me to interact with one of my like minded coworkers.  He-He, that sign says Grandes Titulos.  After all grande means large and well titulos must mean.... well you get the idea.
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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Obama Stress Head

chinese health ballsImage by Thais Silvestre via FlickSometimes when I am feeling particularly stressed out, I pick up a pair of Chinese exercise balls, also known as Baoding Iron balls.  There is something therapeutic in rolling the balls in my hand and hearing their distinctive chime as you perform the exercises.  I have a couple of pairs of baoding balls, including a really nice set that is painted with a dragon design.

I also have a lot of those cheap little stress balls that you can sometimes find for free as promotional items.  I have some that are shaped like different sports balls like footballs.  Once I got one from a dairy company that was shaped like a cow.  I received one from an airline shaped like a plane. 

All of them take quite a beating from me as I squeeze them tightly to take the stress off.  This weekend, I found one online that I would love to get my hands on.  The Weekly Standard has available on their website The Barack Obama Stress Head.  I can just imagine having it in my hands the next time he gives one of his speeches.  In addition to the Obama Stress Head, they have the Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi Stress Heads.  I do have to warn you though, the Pelosi one is pretty scary looking.
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Monday, April 18, 2011

Music Monday-"Goin' to the CPA (The Tax Song)"

Due to a holiday this past Friday in Washington DC, today is tax day here in the US.  It would be easy to pick The Beatles and "Taxman" for my Music Monday choice today, but I posted it along with Robert Cray's "1040 Blues" last year on tax day.  Instead, I found this nice little parody on YouTube set to Springsteen's "Born in the USA."  

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, April 17, 2011

War Against Workers?

Stop the War on WorkersImage by OnTask via FlickrWhat side do you root for when you don't particularly care for either party involved in a conflict?

This morning, I headed out to do some grocery shopping at my local Giant Food store.  There were a group of people outside of the store passing out flyers and carrying placards that read "Stop the War Against Workers."  One of them approached me but I shook my head no and waved them off.  Part of me wanted to say that I support the war against workers, but I really didn't want to be confrontational.  Actually, they saw where I parked and I was afraid I would come out to a damaged vehicle.

So, when I got home from my little shopping trip, I decided to do a bit of research to see if I could figure out which group of union workers would be protesting outside of Giant.  I knew that the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, Local 400 contract was not due to expire for another year or so.  I found out that the group protesting was the Teamsters Local 730.  Since they were Teamsters, it was probably a good thing that I didn't be a wise ass when I was entering the store.

It turns out that about a year ago, Giant decided to farm out their warehouse operations from their own control to Jessup Logistics LLC, an affiliate of C&S Wholesale.  Giant made the move in an effort to reduce their operating costs by moving the operations to a 3rd party who could run the operation more efficiently.  In the most recent negotiations for a new contract, the C&S essentially told the union that if they did not accept $27million in concessions, they would close the facility and service Giant out of a Pennsylvania warehouse.

As a matter of full disclosure, when I was working in grocery stores, I was a member of a UFCW Local 400, and after I left the stores, I had to deal with C&S when the company that I was working for sent their warehouse operations to C&S for the same reasons that Giant gave; cost savings.  My dealings with both the union and C&S were primarily negative.   I have friends who used to work with C&S, and they did not have positive things to say about their experience there.

My membership in the union was not voluntary, as Maryland is not a right to work state.  I had a job with a local grocery chain who was not unionized when I began working for them.  They became unionized after I started working for them, so I had to join the union.  The one thing that always bothered me about my more strident coworkers was their attitude towards management and the union.  In my mind, I worked for the people who signed my checks; in theirs, they seemed to think they worked for the union.  

I suppose the easy thing would be for me to say a pox on both their houses.  For their part, the Teamsters Local 730 claim on their Facebook page that they got 200 customers to turn away from shopping at Giant this morning.  I was not one of them, nor would I ever be.  I remember one heated contract vote when I was a member of the UFCW.  Several of my coworkers wanted to strike, even though the union recommended accepting the contract.  I had made up my mind that I would go to work in the event of a strike.

Fortunately, I did not have to make the decision to cross the picket line at that time as the contract was ratified.  When I left the union, and took a non-union job within a company that was unionized, there were a couple of occasions when we were going to be required to fill in should the union strike. While I have no great love for C&S, I actually dislike them quite a bit, I think my disdain for the union is greater.  I find it particularly disturbing that the actions of the Teamsters protesting outside of Giant, while understandable, have the potential of hurting their union brethren that are part of the UFCW working at Giant by driving customers away.
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Saturday, April 16, 2011

Donald Trump for President

Donald Trump enters the Oscar De LA Renta Fash...Image via WikipediaI am not a fan of Donald Trump.  He obviously is a very successful business man, but his personality just rubs me the wrong way.  The Donald has been making the rounds and making it clear that he is considering a run to be a Republican nominee to face Barack Obama in 2012 for the presidency.  To date, polls are showing Trump performing well among the other possible candidates for the GOP. 

As I said, I have never been a big fan of Trump.  The idea that this man could be considered a serious contender for the Republican nominee for president makes my skin crawl.  Things that I have heard him say in the past had led me to believe that he tended to lean more to the liberal side of the spectrum than in towards the conservative side.

During my commutes to and from work during the week, I usually listen to WMAL 630 talk radio.  In the evening, I catch a good bit of the last hour of Sean Hannity's radio show, and depending on how bad traffic is, the start of the Mark Levin show.  On Friday nights, when I am out delivering pizza, I get to hear more of Levin's show.

On last night's show, Levin spent a great deal of time talking about Trump and the idea of him running as a Republican.  Levin's research and analysis further cemented my belief that Trump can not be the Republican nominee.  It started with a list of candidates that Trump had made campaign contributions to.  You would not think that somebody who proclaims to be a Republican would be making donations to the campaigns of Chuck Schumer, Harry Reid, Hillary Clinton, and Anthony Weiner, but he did.

Levin also played several sound bites of Trump spouting his praise of Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi, and his criticisms of George W. Bush.  Trump has expressed his support for universal health care.  Mark Levin has posted a summary of the things he spoke about last night on his Facebook page called "Donald Chump and his Spin."  It really shows that Trump is all about Trump and is not what the Republican Party needs. 
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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Opening Night!

Tomorrow night is the home opener for my hometown team, the Bowie Baysox.  My brother in law bought tickets for my wife and I to attend with him.  Sometimes these April games can be bitterly cold and wet, but they are calling for fairly nice weather tomorrow, so it should be a good time.

I always look forward to going to the Baysox games every year.  My son absolutely loves going to the games and all of the between inning activities that the Baysox offer.  It has become a very big part of our family life as we all have a good time at the games.  In fact, my wife and I went on our first date 20 years ago for opening day for the Orioles at the old Memorial Stadium, so baseball was a big part of our lives before our son came along to join in on the fun.

It is going to feel a little bit weird tomorrow night since my son is still away at school.  I can not remember the last time my wife and I have been at a Baysox game and not had him sitting in the seat between us while we watched the game.  My son does come home next Tuesday for spring break, and we plan to take him to a couple games while he is home.  Unfortunately, his scheduled weekends home from school do not mesh well with the Baysox home schedule, so we will not be able to enjoy as many games as we usually do.    
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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Lifeline TNT Fitness Cables

I had come to the realization when I began my quest to lose weight and to feel better that changing my diet was not going to be enough to fully accomplish my goal.  When I was younger and I didn't have a long commute, I was basically a gym rat.  I would spend a few hours a week lifting weights and participating in sports.

The last few years, as my commute got longer and my funds got shorter, I basically became a couch potato. About the only exercise that I would get was when I would do some yard work, or if I needed to shovel snow in the winter.  I couldn't afford a gym membership, and even if I could, I didn't want to spend my limited free time in the gym when I could be home with family.

I am not making excuses; it is what it is.  When I first started, the diet alone was working great.  Usually, that is how it works.  Early in diet change is when you lose weight the quickest.  Over the last couple weeks, the weight loss has been slower.  So I knew that I was eventually going to have to begin an exercise program.

The question is, what type of exercise program that would fit in with my finances and lifestyle.  I still do not have the money for a gym membership, so that is out.  I considered getting a home gym like the Total Gym or the Joe Weider equivalent, but I was concerned that it would end up in the basement collecting dust.

A few days ago while running some errands, I stopped by the local Sports Authority to more or less window shop and look for prices.  It was there that I came across Lifeline USA's TNT Fitness Cables.  They looked interesting, but I wanted to do a little research on them before buying them.  I came home and found some positive reviews so I went back the next day to buy them.  At a cost of $30, they did not break the bank, and I can workout while watching television.

I have to confess that when I was an active weight lifter that I was definitely a bit of a snob when it came to exercise equipment.  A set of resistance bands could never give as good a workout as weights.  These days, I no longer have visions of being ripped with bulging biceps.  Instead, I just want to be leaner and toned.  I have had a couple of workout with the bands, and I can definitely feel the muscles working.

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Monday, April 11, 2011

Music Monday-Brooks & Dunn "Play Something Country"

Brooks & Dunn are one of the all time best, if not the best, country duos of all time.  This is one of my favorites of theirs.

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, April 10, 2011

My Newest Toy

Photography is one of my favorite hobbies, and has been for years.  When I first got involved in photography, I used an old Pentax K1000.  I was primarily interested in sports and landscape photography.  I had a bunch of special effects filters and lenses ranging from wide angle to a 500mm mirror telephoto lens.

I dabble with photography for several years, but after a while my film cameras started to collect dust in the basement.  As film started to wane in popularity, and I was in need of a little extra cash for some other interests, I decided to sell all of my film equipment.

A few years ago, the photography bug bit me again so I invested in a good digital SLR camera.  My camera of choice these days is a Nikon D40x.  The Nikon is what I use when I want to take really nice photos, especially when I want to take some action photos at the Bowie Baysox games.

The one thing about the DSLR camera and the lenses is that it is a little bit on the bulky side.  It isn't something that I can have with me all the time.  For that reason, I have been in the market for a smaller, point and shoot type digital camera.  This weekend, I think I have found what I have been looking for.

I was out running errands yesterday and decided to stop by Best Buy to look for a camera.  Being on the frugal side (maybe even cheap side) I wanted to find a quality camera, but I wanted to keep the cost below $100.  As luck would have it, they were having a clearance sale on a Nikon Coolpix S300 for half price, only $75.

It is a 12 megapixel point and shoot camera, and unlike a Nikon I looked at a few weeks ago which used AA batteries, has a rechargeable lithium ion battery  It is small enough to fit easily in my back pocket.  I also got a rather small camera bag that could attach to my belt if needed.  Best of all, it's a Nikon. 

I am really looking forward to using this camera on an everyday basis.  There are just so many times when I wish I had my camera.  The D40x is just too much to lug around all the time, unless I am planning a day of photography.  The Coolpix is perfect for it.  On Saturday night, my wife and I have a dinner/fundraiser to attend.  The Coolpix will be with us.

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Saturday, April 9, 2011

Spam, Spam, Spam, Wonderful Spam!

Spam comments have not been much of a problem here on my humble blog.  There have been a couple of them here and there, but for the most part it has not been an issue.  For that reason, I have never felt the need to use the comment moderation settings.

One of the main reasons that I have not wanted to use moderation has been that I have enjoyed the immediacy of not having those settings.  There have been posts where readers have been able to interact with one another on the blog topic at hand.  Having that conversational aspect was one of the things that I hoped would take place.

Unfortunately, over the past three days, I have received more spam comments than I had received since I began this blog in August of 2008.  Some have been caught by bloggers spam filters, but more were not.  For that reason, I have now enabled the comment moderation functionality in my blog settings.  I will see how this goes for a while, and I will evaluate whether or not to keep those settings, but for now, it is what it is.

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Friday, April 8, 2011

More Support for The Primal Blueprint

I have talked for a few weeks now about The Primal Blueprint.  The basics behind The Primal Blueprint is that we humans have gone far away from the diet of our ancestors and that is what is causing our obesity problems today.  They tie the beginnings of our problems to us forsaking our hunter gatherer lifestyle for the agrarian lifestyle of the farmer.

The theory as outlined in The Primal Blueprint received some more support recently from Dr. David Ludwig, Director of the Optimal Weight for life program at Children's Hospital in Boston.  The LA Times reports in this article that Dr. Ludwig has recently published an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association that supports The Primal Blueprint.

Ludwig says that our problems begin well before the advent of TV dinners and high fructose corn syrup.  He states that just about every food technology innovation that comes along has basically made our diets worse for wear.  His studies tie our decline back to the development of agriculture.  The short article is a nice summation of the information contained in The Primal Blueprint.
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Thursday, April 7, 2011

Happy Birthday, Son

Cover of "The Aristocats (Special Edition...Cover of The Aristocats (Special Edition)I am in a little bit better frame of mind tonight than I was last night.  To be perfectly honest, I was kind of moping around my office a little this morning.  I was still regretting it a little bit that I had not decided to take a vacation day to go visit my son at school to celebrate his 17th birthday.

My wife went out to the school today with some cupcakes, presents, and balloons for him so that he would have some special fun today.  She told me he was very excited to get the presents.  We had gotten him two Word Girl DVDs, a Spongebob Squarepants DVD, and Disney's The Aristocats.  He was particularly excited to get The Aristocats.  He had mentioned that he wanted it just before we took him back to school after his last break.

I was able to reach my wife on her cell phone shortly before she got to the school.  Usually, my son does not want to talk on the phone at all, but I told her that I wished I had taken off work to go out with her for his birthday and I wanted her to try to get him to talk on the phone so that I could wish him a happy birthday.  To my surprise and my delight, she was able to get him to talk on the phone for a little bit.

When he got on the phone, he didn't want to talk long, but he sounded very excited.  Usually, when he wants to tell you something, he phrases it as a question so that you will ask the question back to him.  The first words out of his mouth were, "Who is coming on the 19th?"  The 19th happens to be the day his spring break starts. I told him I did not know and asked who was coming on the 19th. He said, "Daddy is coming on the 19th."  So he is very excited and anticipating his next trip home.  Me too.

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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Kinda Sad

Ryan ZimmermanImage via WikipediaI am sitting here tonight watching a Washington Nationals game on television.  It is the first game that I have had the opportunity to watch.  As I begin writing this, the Nationals have a 3-0 lead over the Florida Nationals.  The one thing about my son being away at school is that I actually can watch what I want on television, when I want to watch it.  When he is home, we might start watching the game, but after a few minutes, he may switch it to another channel or play a video game.

Still, with my new found freedom of being able to watch the game from start to finish if I so desire, I am feeling somewhat melancholy tonight.  It is not the fact that he is away at school that has me feeling a little bit in the dumps tonight.  While we definitely miss him around the house, his being away at school has become more the norm than the exception.  I guess I have gotten somewhat used to him being gone, if that is possible.

The reason for my feeling blue has more to do with tomorrow.  Tomorrow is my son's 17th birthday, and I will not be with him for it.  It will be the first time that I have not been with him on his birthday.  I was in the hospital room with him the night he was born, and I have been with him every year since then.  My wife will be going out to the school tomorrow to take cupcakes for his class and to take birthday presents for him to open, so at least the day will be acknowledged.

Since my son has gone away to school, I have taken more days off than I usually do.  I almost always take off to go pick him up from school for breaks and to take him back to work after the break is over.  For that reason, I did not think about taking off on his birthday.  I did not think it would bother me to miss his birthday.  I was wrong.  It is times like these that make me wish he would speak on the phone so that I could at least talk to him and wish him a happy birthday.
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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Biggest Loser

Jillian Michaels K-Swiss Spring LineImage by rockymountainhigh via FlickrIt is Tuesday night, so that means I will be watching "The Biggest Loser" on television tonight, much like I have since the current season began nearly three months ago.  Normally, I am not a fan of genre of television referred to as "reality television," but when I heard that former Olympic gold medalist Rulon Gardner was going to be a contestant, I decided to watch.

This is the 11th season of "The Biggest Loser," so it must get fairly good ratings on television.  I think this is probably the second season that I have actively watched the show.  It has been a few years since I watched it, but having rooted for Rulon when he won his gold medal, I had to watch this season.  I watched one full season of "Dancing with the Stars" when Kristi Yamaguchi was a contestant and winner of that contest.  That has been the extent of my reality television viewing.

Regular readers of this blog know that I am currently trying to transform my eating habits and trying to lose weight.  Since starting in mid February, I have lost about 15-20 pounds.  I still have a way to go to be at my "ideal" weight, but I am making progress slowly and steadily.  The best part is that while on my current program for nearly two months, I do not feel like I am depriving myself of anything which is half the battle.  I would like to say that watching "The Biggest Loser" is what inspired me to begin my own weight loss quest.  However, that isn't the case.  It was more a case of just feeling poorly all around.

I will say it is very inspirational to watch the contestants work towards their weight loss goals.  It can also get very emotional listening to them talk about how they got where they are and how they are doing working towards their goals.  The thing about watching a show like this is the fact that it is on television, and so often while watching television, the viewer engages in certain activities.  For me, those activities involved several glasses of red wine and a box of Cheez Its or a bag of chips.  The irony is not lost on me.

There is no doubt that there is an obesity epidemic in the United States these days.  I do not want to come across like a reformed eater trying to change everybody's eating habits, much like a reformed smoker can be the most obnoxious anti-smoking advocate, since I admit I still have a long way to go.  Still, I can not help but wonder how many people sit and watch a show like "The Biggest Loser" who do so with my old eating habits of pigging out on junk food oblivious to the irony of such behavior.  I have never been large enough to be a contestant on the show, and I hope I never do.  I also hope that I will never get as large as I was, nor be as large as I currently am.
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Monday, April 4, 2011

Music Monday-John Fogerty "Centerfield"

Opening day of Major League Baseball took place a few days ago on Thursday. Usually, baseball has a game on a Sunday and the bulk of the opening games on a Monday. I am not sure why they started on a Thursday this year, but I am always glad  when the baseball season starts.  In honor of opening day, I think it is appropriate to play the best baseball song since "Take Me Out to the Ballgame;" John Fogerty and "Centerfield."

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, April 3, 2011

Further Adventures of the Pizza Guy

Pizza DeliveryImage by crylov via FlickrI am a little bit on the sore side today, due to my part time job as a pizza delivery guys.  It isn't so much that the job was that strenuous or that it was unusually busy this past weekend to make me sore.  It is because I took a bit of a spill last night.

I was making a delivery last night at an apartment complex.  The outside area was not very well lit.  As I was coming down the steps to head back to my car, I missed a step and fell to the ground, landing on my shoulder and shin.  No real damage other than being sore today and some dirty clothes.  Pizza guys hate delivering to areas that aren't well lit.

I am not sure why, but there seemed to be an unusually high number of houses last night that did not have their outdoor lights on.  First, by not having the outside lights on, it makes it that much harder for the delivery driver to find your house.  Second, and more importantly, there is the safety issue.  If we show up at a dark house, especially both outside and inside, it gives us pause.

I also do not understand people who order a pizza, and are not there when you show up with a delivery.  Most nights, I never have to use my cell phone to try to contact a customer because nobody is answering the door.  Last night I had to do it twice.  The first call was to a woman who was in her car.  She told me her son was inside playing video games so she would call him to answer the door.

The second call that I had to make was to one of those dark houses that I alluded to earlier.  I showed up at a townhouse that had no lights on outside or inside.  I walked up to the door and rang the doorbell.  No answer, so I knocked, at least two times.  I called the phone number on the receipt, and it went straight to voice mail so I left a message.  Two hours later, he called the store to say that I never rang the bell. WTF!

One of the reasons that I was particularly sensitive to dark houses last night is that a pizza delivery driver was shot and killed in the DC area last week.  The delivery area that we have is not as bad a neighborhood as the driver that was shot, though we do have one apartment complex that we deliver to where a couple drivers have been robbed.  I get a little antsy whenever I have to take a run over to that complex, especially if it is dark out.

As I mentioned in my post yesterday, our financial situation is better than it was when I first started delivering pizzas.  Unfortunately, it is not so much better that I can afford to quit the delivery job quite yet, especially with the price of energy and food rising so much in recent days.  I am hopeful that my wife will soon be able to start substitute teaching again, but they are not currently taking applications until the next school year.  That would help a lot.
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Saturday, April 2, 2011

Saving Money

Old tires.Image via WikipediaA few years ago, we went through a particularly rough financial stretch.  I won't bore you with all of the ugly details, but suffice to say it was an extremely difficult time.  It was particularly tough on me whenever anybody wanted to do something special, especially if it was a gift for somebody or a very special event for a family member.  We just did not have the extra times.

During that stretch of time, I learned to save money whenever I could.  I went from buying Starbucks Coffee drinks on a daily basis, and sometimes twice a day, to brewing my own, usually with store brand coffee.  Forget about going out to lunch, I was the brown bag king.  Whenever I would go to the grocery store, with a few essential items, I would only buy sale items or store brand items to save money.

One of the biggest expenses a family has would be their auto expenses and maintenance.  It was tough even to have cash available for even basic maintenance.  Repairs and things like tires were even more difficult.  A financial adviser that I had spoken to had recommended buying used tires instead of new the next time I needed tires.

About two years ago, I had my first experience with buying used tires.  My initial impression was positive, so much so that I even wrote a blog post about it.  I desperately needed two tires for my wife's car.  New tires would have been nearly $100 plus all of those nice little extras the tire shops add to the final price.  When I bought the used tires, the two cost me about $80 compared to well over $200 for new.

Unfortunately, one year later, I ended up needing to replace those two tires, and needed two more of the original tires.  I started to think that in the long run that new tires would have been cheaper in the long run, but I still did not have the money to do so.  I bought two more used tires for the front of the car, and then a few months later I bought two more used tires for the rear of the car with the hope that they would last until I could afford to buy new tires.

I was starting to see that all four tires would need to be replaced soon.  Fortunately, I happened to have a little spare cash available right now.  Earlier this week, my wife called me to inform me that she had skidded on the road.  Thank goodness there was nobody around her and there was no damage to the car.  She had already asked me to take her car to Jiffy Lube for service, so this morning after doing that, I took her car to BJ's for four new tires.

Our finances are a little better than they were a few years ago, but they are still tight.  I still look to save money whenever I can and probably will the rest of my life. Whenever I happen to have some spare funds around, I am very reluctant to part with it because I am concerned that an emergency could arise and not be able to pay for it.  However, from here on out, safety is one area where I can't afford to scrimp.  
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