Sunday, July 31, 2011

Chrome City Ride X

Today, we headed out to the Eastern Shore to attend an event at my son's school, The Chrome City Ride.  It is an annual event out at the school that helps to raise funds for the school and their associated charities.  Classic and custom cars and motorcycles come to the school from all across the state to show off their rides, have some great food, and music to raise funds.  This year is the 10th year of the event, and our first time attending now that my son is a student there.  Here are a few pictures of the day's activities.

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Saturday, July 30, 2011


Samsung Galaxy Tab ReviewImage by clintonjeff via FlickrAdgitize is my favorite method of advertising my blog.  I first signed up with them and started advertising with them two years ago.  An ad with Adgitize costs only $14 per month.  However, due to the structure within Adgitize, your actual net cost each month will be much less.  If you are a very active blogger, you could even make enough each month to pay for your ads.

The system is set up to earn points for various activities within the network.  As an advertiser, you would earn 100 points per day for running an ad in the network.  Each day that you write an article and publish it on your blog, you earn another 100 points.  You can also earn up to 100 points by clicking on ads within the Adgitize network.  Advertisers get the added bonus of only having to click on 51 ads to earn 100 points versus having to click 100 ads if you are not an advertiser.

Then there is the main reason to advertise with Adgitize; the traffic.  Prior to joining Adgitize, I was averaging well under 1000 page views per month.  Since joining, I average over 3000 page views per month.  If you publish Adgitize ads on your blog, you have the additional benefit of earning points for the number of page views and ad views your blog produces.  The increased from advertising also increases the points you earn there.

This month, I have been particularly active in the network.  I have posted a blog post every day but one this month.  I always manage to earn my 100 points for clicking on ads.  Consequently, I have already earned enough this month to pay for my August ad in the Adgitize network.  In fact, because I have been more active than usual in posting on my blog, I will probably earn a couple extra dollars this month.

I probably shouldn't admit this, but back in May I purchased a Samsung Galaxy tablet through my wireless carrier.  I picked this particular tablet because it is small enough to fit in my pocket and was fairly inexpensive with a data contract.  One of the benefits of the tablet is that it has 3G and I can do my ad clicks wherever I happen to be.  Sometimes traffic is so bad on the beltway that I can sit in the car and get all my ad clicks done before I get to work.  Don't worry, I am never moving when I am clicking ads.

If you have not tried Adgitize yet and are an active blogger you really ought to give it a shot.  It is fairly easy to earn enough money each month to pay for, or nearly pay for your ad.  Since I have been a member, I have discovered a lot of great bloggers.  I have also managed to get a few regular readers who comment regularly on some of my posts.  It is by far the best blogger network I have ever been involved in.

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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Peak Rewards?

Programmable ThermostatImage by cthoyes via FlickrPeriodically, I get these phone calls from our electric company, Baltimore, Gas & Electric (BGE), asking me if I want to sign up for their Peak Rewards program.  Their pitch is that they want to install a programmable thermostat in our house or an outdoor air conditioner switch at no charge to us.  Then we choose which level of the program that suits are family.  In return, they will give us credits on our electric bill during the summer months.

Whenever they have called to try to get us to sign up, they always explain that the purpose of the program is to try to avoid power outages during peak demand periods during the hot summer months.  They say that during an emergency period, they will cycle off your air conditioner to alleviate stress on the grid due to the high demand.  They say that it typically only raises the temperature in the house by a degree or two.  When using the term "cycle" they give the impression that the air conditioner will be shut down for a few minutes at a time.

We have never signed up for the program.  One of the reasons is that there is usually somebody home at our house so we keep the thermostat at a steady temperature throughout the day.  Another reason is that we live in a three level townhouse.  We have always had a difficult time maintaining a constant temperature on all three levels.  The middle level is always comfortable, the basement freezing, and the top level where the bedrooms are located is always much warmer.  I also did not like the idea of somebody else deciding how to control my air conditioner.

After our major heat wave last weekend, I am grateful that we never signed up for the program.  On Friday, as temperatures soared to 106 degrees at BWI airport, BGE made the decision to implement an emergency plan to alleviate stress on the grid.  There were several reports of people having their air conditioning units shut off, not for minutes, but for several hours.  Some homes reached temperatures of 90 degrees or more, a far cry from the one or two degrees they claimed in their sales pitch. 
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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Snoring and Sleep Apnea

I snore.  Apparently, according to my wife, I snore rather loudly.  To hear her talk, when I snore, I am not just sawing logs, but I am a veritable sawmill.  She claims that sometimes my snoring is so bad she thinks that the bed is vibrating.  So, I am having a sleep study done to check for sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea is a condition that can be life threatening if left untreated.  Those who suffer from the condition will stop breathing during sleep.  These stoppages can last several seconds and can occur several times throughout the night.  Consequently, oxygen levels in the blood can fall leading to the potential of having high blood pressure, stroke, or heart attack.

I have several of the signs and risk factors for sleep apnea.  It occurs frequently in middle aged, overweight men.  Thankfully I have been losing weight of late and according to the BMI charts have recently crossed over from obese to overweight but still have some more to go.  I also have hypertension, which sleep apnea can lead to if left untreated.

Some of the other symptoms that I have besides the loud snoring include waking frequently during the night for urination.  I have always attributed a lot of that to having an enlarged prostate, but it could be a part of apnea if that is the diagnosis.  Another sign is that I rarely wake up feeling refreshed and I usually feel sleepy during the day.

I am having my sleep center done at a local hospital.  However, the hospital room is not your typical hospital room.  It is set up similar to a hospital room.  The goal is to create an atmosphere conducive to falling to sleep.  Unfortunately, I usually have more trouble sleeping when not in my own bed.  I am also wondering how I will be feeling with all of the electrodes hooked up to me to measure everything when I sleep.

They say it usually takes a couple of weeks for the results of the study to be analyzed and a determination to be made.  If at that time they discover that I have sleep apnea there are a few different treatments.  Continued weight loss would be a given.  There would be the possibility of being put on a CPAP device that forces air through the nasal passages to prevent the obstruction from occurring during sleep.  Other options include oral devices or possible surgical procedures.
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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Music Monday-Mark Chestnutt "Too Cold At Home"

The past weekend was unbearably hot around here. On Friday, BWI hit 106 degrees. It is the kind of hot where it is just too hot to do anything. It immediately made me think of this old Mark Chestnutt song.

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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Monday, July 25, 2011

Zacapa Rum

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

ZacapaI have been known to imbibe in an alcoholic beverage on occasion.  Usually, my beverage of choice is beer or wine, but there are those moments when I want something a little different like a cocktail.  One of my favorite drinks to have is a Dark and Stormy; spicy ginger beer mixed with a premium dark rum.

Most of the time, when I partake of liquor, I like to mix it.  There are a few beverages like a nicely aged scotch whiskey that I will take straight or with a little ice  or splash of water. Zacapa premium rum  sounds like the type of drink that has been aged enough that it would be smooth all by itself.

Zacapa rum is aged in the House Above the Clouds in the highlands of Quetzaltenango in Guatamala at 2300 meters above sea level.  This high altitude is one of the highest ageing facilities in the world.  The cool temperatures allow Zacapa rum to age slowly.  The longer and slower the ageing process, the smoother the drink.

In addition to the high altitude and slow ageing, Zacapa uses a system perfected by the Spaniards to age Sherry.  All Zacapa rum passes through a series of casks that have been used for aging American whiskey, sherry, and Pedro Ximenez wines.  Each of these casks add unique characteristics to the flavor of the rum.

Another aspect of Zacapa rums that makes it different from other rums is that rather than using molasses as the base of the rum, Zacapa uses only the first press of sugar cane.  This is known as virgin sugar cane honey.  Much like olive oil, virgin is better.

If you would like to learn more about Zacapa rums and their unique method of creating their rums, they invite you to join their Zapata Society.  You can register for the Society at  You may even get a reward for your efforts.
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Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Dick Stone Daily

A couple of days ago, I looked at my Android phone and saw that I had a notice from Twitter stating that I had a new @mention.  I went to see the mention and saw that it was from MariucaMPG.  I know Mariuca from her many blogs and had been following her on Twitter.  I opened up her tweet and read:
Read The MPG Daily ▸ today's top stories via
The link went to her online newspaper published on is an online service that allows users to publish their Twitter and Facebook feeds into a daily newspapers.  It compiles all of the articles and media found in your Twitter feed and formats it into a daily online newspaper.  In Mariuca's newspapers, I found a couple articles that I had tweeted earlier in the day. 

I thought the whole concept was pretty neat.  I decided to check it out in further detail yesterday.  I even went so far as to publish my own newspaper, The Dick Stone Daily.  The service ended up pulling material from 114 people in my Twitter feed, and added over 200 different articles or photos to my page.

I really liked what I saw.  There are so many times that I do not get to look at my Twitter feed and I miss a lot of interesting articles that are posted there.  It is nice to go back and look at everything in one nicely organized source to peruse things at my leisure.  You can even add a widget to your blog that will show the articles currently on your newspaper.

If you get a chance, go check out The Dick Stone Daily and see for yourself.  If you are active on Twitter and Facebook it is a nice tool to have.  Take a look around and let me know what you think.  If you decide to join and publish your own paper I would like to see it and follow you on Twitter.

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Saturday, July 23, 2011

Canada Drug Center

Medications are a big part of my family's lives.  Currently, I take four prescriptions on a regular basis for a variety of reasons.  My son also takes four medications, and my wife takes two.  I am grateful that we have a fairly good prescription drug plan with my health insurance at work.  My four medications would cost me over $370 per month without it.  With my plan, it is only $70 per month.

I don't know how people who do not have a prescription plan are able to make do each month at regular retail prices for their medications.  One option would be to purchase your medications online from Canada where prices are lower.  With so many fraudulent sites out there, how do you know the best place to buy your Canada drugs.

The Canada Drug Center is one good option.  For one thing, they are are a certified member of Canadian International Pharmacy Association (CIPA).  They have a wide range of brand name and generic drugs available at discount pricing.  They have generic products available that are not available yet here in the US.  They require a prescription to dispense their medications.  You can also find a large assortment of over the counter drugs at great prices.

I took a look at the costs of my current prescriptions that I take on a monthly basis.  Here in the states, without drug coverage, those prescriptions cost me $372 per month.  If I bought the same brand names at Canada Drug Center, they would cost me $170.  They also have generics available that are not available here, so if I bought just generic it would be $78 per month.  So, if you need to buy Lipitor or some other expensive drug, and do not have good drug coverage, you should check the prices at Canada Drug Center.

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Friday, July 22, 2011

The Hybrid Elite

Reserver parking sign for hybrid vehicles at a...Image via WikipediaI hate elitism of any kind.  Usually when I hear the term, it is used in regards to liberals who feel they know better how we should live than we the people do.  Little things like trying to dictate the types of diets we should have and the kind of light bulbs we should use.  Anything the political elite decides is best for us because the rest of us in the masses are usually too dumb to know what s best or to understand what they are trying to do.

While those examples of elitism is what I usually think of when I hear the word, I also associate it with anything that sets one group of people who behave or act a certain way up with special privileges that the rest of the general public does not have the same access to.   I saw an example of that this morning.

My mother was going to the hospital this morning for a surgical procedure.  My wife and I decided to drive up to the hospital to see her before she went in and to sit with my father for a little while.  We pulled into the parking garage and began looking for a space to park. We were greeted with a row of six or more parking spaces in a prime location that were empty because they were reserved for a certain class of drivers.

No, they were not reserved spaces for people who require handicapped parking spaces.  I would not have a problem with that.  People who have mobility issues need to have those special parking spaces.  It particularly irks me to see somebody pull into one of those spaces with a handicap permit and watch somebody hop out of the car without a trace of a hitch in their giddy-up, if you know what I mean. These were spaces reserved for a special group of elite drivers; those who drive hybrid vehicles.

These types of signs are showing up a lot more these days.  In fact, the photo of the sign that Zemanta recommended that I used in this post is taken from a parking lot at a shopping mall in Northern Virginia, just down the road a spell.  Not only are these folks allowed prime parking spots in malls, but in some of the jurisdictions around here, if you are driving a hybrid car you are no longer subject to HOV lane restrictions, which in my mind is another form of elitism.

Personally, I would love to have a hybrid vehicle.  Not so that I could park in special spots or use the HOV lanes when I am by myself, but for the gasoline mileage.  The plain truth is, that I just can not afford one, even with the tax incentives that have been offered for them.  Still, it should not make one eligible for special privileges for those that can while the rest of us poor saps have to schlep around in our old fashioned, good ol', gasoline only powered vehicles. 
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Thursday, July 21, 2011

Republican vs Democrat

Former Attorney General Bob McDonnell (campaig...Image via WikipediaThere have been two separate news stories here in the DC area in the past couple weeks that I think is a microcosm of the differences between Republican philosophy and Democrat philosophy.  The two stories involve the governments of local neighbors, Virginia and Maryland.  Virginia is led by Republican Governor Bob McDonnell, while Maryland, which is about as blue a state as can be, is led by Democrat Martin O'Malley.

In these tough economic times, like most states, the two governors have been faced with difficult budgetary decisions.  The approach of the two men couldn't be more drastically different.  McDonnell was adamant when he took office that he would not increase taxes as a way to make up for any budgetary shortfall.  He made the decision to go through the budget and make tough, but necessary, spending cuts.  He has also worked to make Virginia a business friendly locale.  The result was released this week that Virginia expects to have a $311 million surplus.

O'Malley, on the other hand has taken the opposite track.  Currently, Maryland is facing a structural deficit of over $1 billion dollars.  At a time when most states are trying to curb spending, O'Malley keeps spending.  The state recently passed it's version of the Dream Act to give illegal immigrants in state tuition rates, which is expected to cost the state millions.  The Baltimore Sun reported that Maryland has the 4th highest tax burden among the 50 states and had the 4th highest increase in spending among the states.  It also stated that Maryland ranked 50th of the 50 states in job creation according to the Department of Labor.

The Washington Examiner reported last week that the Maryland State assembly will be holding a special session aimed at looking at how to close the budget gap.  The article basically states they are looking at anything and everything that they can tax that isn't already being taxed.  They will be looking at taxes on snacks, medicines, on line sales, and increasing the gasoline tax.  This after the regular general session resulted in increases in the alcohol sales tax and increases in several fees, which really are nothing more than taxes.

The results in the two states couldn't be more different.  Virginia, while not raising taxes, has actually increased tax revenue by creating an atmosphere conducive to business.  By growing jobs, there are more people paying taxes, thus increasing revenue.  That is the essence of Republican philosophy of job creation.  A case in point being Northrup Grumman's decision to locate new offices in Virginia rather than Maryland. 

While Maryland is always near the top 10 in state tax burdens, Virginia is usually in the mid-30's.  Texas, by the way, has the 45th ranked tax burden and has one of the best state economies in the nation.  The reality is that if you want to increase tax revenues, the answer is not new taxes.  The answer is to have more taxpayers.   
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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Mozart and Me

crop from Image:Wolfgang-amadeus-mozart 1.jpgImage via WikipediaThe other day, I was going through one of the many news emails that I get at work.  The emails usually involve the food and retail industries.  There was one particular in one of the food science emails that I received that immediately caught my attention.

The headline read,"Deficiency in D major: Did vitamin deficiency led to Mozart’s untimely death?"  Having just been diagnosed as having a Vitamin D deficiency myself, I was very interested to read about this new hypothesis on the death of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Without a doubt, Mozart was one of the greatest and most prolific composers of the classical era.  I have gone through phases where I listed to classical music, and I have several CDs of Mozart's music.  Sadly, he died at the relatively young age of 35.

The study says that Mozart suffered from a variety of illnesses during his life, including pneumonia, sepsis, heart disease, and kidney disease.  All of these maladies have been linked to vitamin D deficiency.  It also states that with relatively low sunlight in Austria for six months of the year make it difficult for a person to produce vitamin D naturally from sunlight.  Combine that with the fact that Mozart did most of his composing at night, and slept during the day and you see the potential for the lack of vitamin D. 

It is a hypothesis, so we don't know if a vitamin D deficiency did lead to the early death of Mozart, but it is an interesting hypothesis.  If nothing else, it helps to show the importance of vitamin D supplementation if one does not get enough exposure to the sun to produce sufficient vitamin D.  Plus it is kind of interesting to think that I might have something in common with one of, if not the, greatest composers of all time, even if it is just a vitamin D deficiency.  Now off to take my vitamin D supplements.
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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Need Tickets?

Chicago TheatreImage via WikipediaThis humble blog is not my first foray into the world wide web.  It is, however, the longest lasting.  One of my first ventures was an online store selling products that are best not discussed in mixed company.  I paid too much for the site and never was able to make a profit.  I eventually abandoned it.

My next site was a little bit more successful.  It was a website that sold tickets to various events across the country.  The start up costs were fairly minimal, and I only paid for advertising.  I eventually gave up that site when my advertising expenses started to get too high relative to the commissions that I was earning.

I really did like the ticket website, and I would have liked to have kept it, but c'est la vie.  Ticket service websites provide a valuable service to get you that hard to find ticket.  One time I remember trying to buy Bon Jovi Tickets online as soon as they went on sale.  They sold out in a matter of minutes.  That is when a online ticket site like can help you get that must have ticket.

At their website you can search for tickets by venue such as Allstate Arena Tickets or Chicago Theater Tickets.  You can search for tickets by several major cities if you just want to find something to do locally.  Now that the NFL lockout looks to be near the end, you can get find New Orleans Saints Tickets or your favorite team.  In addition to concerts and sporting events, you can even get Joel Osteen Tickets.  Whatever your ticket needs, they can probably help you.
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Monday, July 18, 2011

Music Monday-Trace Adkins "Just Fishin"

My son and I don't go fishing, but we do a lot of things together.  In his mind, we might just be hanging out watching a ball game or playing miniature golf, but in my mind  we are building memories and relationships.  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, July 17, 2011

Swimming Pool Memories

backyard swimming poolImage via WikipediaDuring these hot summer months, I sure do miss having access to a swimming pool.  There is nothing better during a hot day than splashing around in a pool.  Unless of course it is sipping on an ice cold gin and tonic after you get out of the pool and you are sitting in the sun drying off.

It has been several years since I have had regular access to a swimming pool.  I think the last pool that I went to on a regular basis was 20 years ago when I was rooming with my younger brother and his townhouse complex had a pool.

Belonging to a community or public pool has its benefits, but it also has its issues.  The great thing about a public pool is that you don't have to deal with all of the maintenance that goes with having your own pool.  Unfortunately, you also don't have the privacy that you would have if you had your own pool.

I have had a few friends who had their own private pools.  We had a lot of fun whenever we would all get together for a pool party.  We could do whatever we wanted to, within the bounds of common sense, and not have to worry about sharing the pool with others.  If we wanted to play a little pool volleyball, we didn't have to worry about getting in anybody's way.

If I ever had the opportunity to do so, I would choose to have my own swimming pool.  Not only do you have the freedom to do what you want in your own pool, you aren't tied to the schedule of the public pools of Memorial Day to Labor Day.  You can swim as early or as late in the season as you want.  With your own pool, it would be necessary to find a source of supplies such as chemicals and winter pool covers when it is finally too cold to swim.
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Bitterness and Regret

Jesus is considered by scholars such as Weber ...Image via WikipediaI have been thinking a lot more these days about mortality, my own and of others.  Thinking that you might have just had a stroke or were close to having one will do that to you.  It got me thinking about just how precious little time we all really have. 

Over the past year and a half, I have had two former classmates and friends pass away suddenly, prior to the age of 50.  At work, we had one of our coworkers pass away while on a business trip.  In addition to that, I have had a couple of salespeople that called on me also pass away.

As I ponder my existence and think about my life, I think it is important to not let regret rule the day.  As I look back, I think about the things that I regret.  Usually that regret revolves around something that I didn't do, rather than something that I did do.

For instance, I had two really close friends in high school and college.  After college we all went our separate ways.  Nearly three years ago, we finally reconnected through social media.  We met two years ago for the first time in nearly 25 years.  Unfortunately, one of my friends passed away less than a year later.  I regret that I waited so long to reconnect.

Another regret involves another old friend of mine.  This particular friend of mine was somebody I was very close to for years.  We had the same hobbies, and we did everything together.  After one particular occasion, I felt slighted by something that happened.  I let my bitterness ruin a great friendship.  Years later, we started talking again, but things were never quite the same.

Bitterness is a particularly tough pill to swallow.  It does nothing but breed contempt and regret.  I have come to learn that it is important not to let a perceived wrong, whether real or imagined, lead to bitterness and cause our pride to put a barrier up in our relationships.  Life is too short for that.

If I may take liberty with the words of Jesus in Mark 8:36 when He says, "For what shall it profit a man, to gain the whole world, and forfeit his life."  Perhaps we should think, "For what good is it to be justified in ones mind to be angry if in the end it costs you your friendships and family."  After all, Blessed are the Peacemakers. 
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Saturday, July 16, 2011

Vitamin D Deficiency

Espace Opéra MilkImage via Wikipedia
I have been feeling a lot better since I experienced tingling in my left side three weeks ago while carrying garbage out to the curb.  When I saw my doctor that day, he had a technician draw blood for a complete blood profile and put me on 5000 IU of Vitamin D.  Earlier this week, they called me in to the office to discuss the results of the blood profile.  It turns out, I have a Vitamin D deficiency.

According to WebMD, some of the traits that may put you at risk for a Vitamin D deficiency are not getting enough in your diet, too little exposure to the sun, and being obese.  I do not consume a lot of food rich in vitamin D.  As for sunlight, I do not get to spend much time outside.  I get in the car early in the morning, spend the day in the office, and drive home at the end of the day.  I do not consider myself to be obese, but acknowledge being overweight, however, if you put any stock in the BMI charts, I guess technically I would be considered obese.

Symptoms of a vitamin D deficiency include bone pain and muscle weakness though many people do not notice the symptoms.  Being deficient in vitamin D can lead to a host of other problems.  Among those are increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease, cognitive impairment as you get older, and cancer.  Some research also suggests that vitamin D can help with treatment and prevention of diabetes, hypertension (which I have), and multiple sclerosis.

Needless to say, none of those things are very appealing.  I am currently back to trying to eat right and lose weight.  I have dropped most of the weight that I regained after I fell off the diet wagon a couple months ago.  Vitamin D supplementation has become a regular part of my routine along with all of the other medications that I take.  All of my other blood levels were in the normal range, but I will probably start to take fish oil capsules again for the Omega 3's.  So, do yourself a favor and get plenty of sunlight, vitamin D, and have your levels checked out.
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Friday, July 15, 2011

News Blackout

Before I started blogging, I didn't follow the political world with as much passion as I did after I started this blog.  During that time, I became a bit of a political junkie.  For the better part of two years my routine consisted of listening to talk radio in the morning, and then watching The O'Reilly Factor, Hannity, and On the Record on Fox News.

Back in December, during all of the fussing and fighting in DC regarding extending the Bush era tax cuts, I decided to cut back on the amount of news programming that I had been taking in.  I had grown tired of all the political fighting, and I had grown tired of the shows of both Bill O'Reilly and Greta Van Susteren.

After I implemented my self imposed news blackout, I basically stopped watching the nightly lineup on the Fox News Channel.  I also stopped watching any national network news, as their left leaning bias always infuriated me.  The only thing that I did continue was listening to talk radio during my commute to an from work.

A funny thing happened during my news blackout.  I found out that I really didn't miss it.  I started watching a couple comedies on network channels.  When there wasn't anything entertaining on network television, I started watching old comedies like Sanford and Son, All in the Family, and reruns of Everybody Loves Raymond.

It is so much more enjoyable to spend my evenings relaxing and laughing instead of getting angry at the talking heads on television.  I still get my fair share of news from talk radio, but I have even started to pare that back a little bit listening to a wider variety of radio programming while in the car. 
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Thursday, July 14, 2011

Like Father, Like Son?

Barry captured on a surveillance camera smokin...Image via Wikipedia
Like father, like son.  The apple doesn't fall far from the tree.  These are just a couple of old sayings used to describe the similarities between father and son.  Apparently, or should I say allegedly, these sayings ring true in regards to former DC Mayor and current DC Councilman Marion Barry and his son Christopher.

Barry's career in DC politics has been colorful, to say the least.  A review of his Wikipedia biography can give you a real good summary of his career.  He was first elected to be mayor of DC in 1979 and served three consecutive terms.  His administrations always had a hint of impropriety in regards to graft and corruption.  Near the end of his third term, Barry was caught smoking crack cocaine on video during an FBI sting operation.  He ended up spending six months in prison.

Those of us who lived outside of the world of local DC politics, would sit in wonder at how the Mayor for Life managed to continuously get elected.  After he got out of prison, he ran for mayor again in 1994 and won.  He served that term but did not seek reelection.  In 2002 he was going to run for city council, but cancelled those plans when traces of marijuana and cocaine in his car.  Two years later, he ran, and was elected to the city council.

In addition to his issues with the law regarding drugs, Barry has had other run ins with the law.  On multiple occasions he has been charged with failure to file and pay his income taxes.  He had been accused of several traffic violations and at one point had a boot put on his car for failing to pay parking tickets.  Not only did we wonder how Barry kept managing to get elected, we also wondered how he managed to stay out of jail.

Now, his son Christopher is facing drug charges of his own.  The younger Barry was charged with possession of marijuana and PCP with the intent to distribute.  Now, I know that one is innocent until proven guilty by a court of law.  However, there is another old saying, "where there is smoke, there is fire."
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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Public Transit and Me

A map of the subway system in Washington, D.C....Image via Wikipedia
Government officials constantly talk about getting people out of their cars and into mass transit as a way to help alleviate gridlock on our roads.  Car pool and ride share programs are constantly advertised on the radio as well.  As much as I hate the traffic and gridlock of my daily commute on the beltway traveling from Bowie to Bethesda MD each day, I got a pretty good reminder this week as to why using mass transit for my commute to work will not work for me.

I had to attend the Fancy Food Show that was held at the DC Convention Center.  Since parking is virtually nonexistent downtown, I decided to take the Metrorail down to the convention center each of the two days I attended the show.  There are two Metrorail stations relatively close to Bowie; Greenbelt and New Carrollton.  New Carrollton is closer, but parking is the pits there, so I decided on Greenbelt.  The commute each day cost me $9 and $4 for parking.

When the Metrorail system first opened, it was one of the better subway systems in the country.  It was consistently clean, and everything worked great.  These days, the system seems to be falling into disrepair.  The news constantly talks about the many escalators that do not work.  When I was waiting to return on my train this week, there were notices that elevators were out of service in several stations.  While the system has been mostly safe, there was a very deadly accident a couple years back.

While these issues are concerning and need to be addressed, they are not the reason for my reticence in using the system on a regular basis.  For me to use the system for my daily commute to and from work, it needs to be both convenient and cost effective for me.  In my particular situation, the system is neither.  The subway system is great (when working) for those that live or work in the Washington DC or inside the beltway.

I have two options available should I want to use mass transit to commute to and from work.  Both options would involve taking the subway followed by a bus transfer to the office.  The first is driving to a subway station, and the other would be to to take the bus to the station.  Since there are no bus stops near my house, I would still need to get in my car to go to a park and ride lot to catch the bus.  No matter which option I would take, my commute time would be at least 1.5 hours compared to my average commute of an hour.  

The next factor for me in using mass transit would be the cost factor.  Of the two options above, the round trip cost of both options would be over $12 per day.  If I were to choose to drive my car to the subway station instead of taking the bus, then I would also have to add $4 per day parking to my commuting expenses.  Currently, I probably spend between $30-$40 per week for gas for my car.  Taking mass transit would cost me $60-$80 per week.

I would love to be able to leave the driving to somebody else, but in my current situation, taking mass transit is a loser in both of the factors that matter to me; cost and convenience.  My commute time would increase on average by 50%, and the location of the stations and bus stops are not close enough for me to completely abandon my car.  Add to that the nearly double cost when compared to my car, and you can understand why I would be reticent to use mass transit.

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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Change Up

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of The Change-Up for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.

I am sure almost everybody has heard the old phrase, "the grass is always greener on the other side."  When I was a kid, I used to have a Snoopy poster that added the phrase "until you get there and discover it is artificial turf."  The point being, that you may think that another situation would be better for you, but in reality it isn't. 

I remember when I was single, I wanted to be married.  There have been times during my married life that I had been a tad envious of the freedom that my single friends had.  It is kind of funny, but I always remember my single friends always complaining about being single, and at the same time my married friends always complaining about their marriages.

The director of Wedding Crashers and the writers of The Hangover have teamed up to make a movie that takes a funny look at two friends who each envy the other's lives.  The Change-Up stars Justin Bateman and Ryan Reynolds as two lifelong friends.  Bateman plays Dave, a married, father of three, with a job as a lawyer.  Reynolds plays a single man with little responsibilities.

The two of them go out for a boys night out and do a bit of heavy drinking.  Each gripes about their lives and while simultaneously urinating in a fountain state that they wish they had the other's lives.  The next morning, they wake up in the other's body.  As each lives the other's life, they quickly learn that the grass really isn't greener on the other side.

The movie hits theaters later this summer on August 5th.  I don't get to see too many movies, but I really want to see this one.  I think it looks like it will be hilarious.  Maybe it will help all of us to appreciate what we actually have.  Check out the trailer below for a taste of The Change-Up.

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Monday, July 11, 2011

Music Monday-Kenny Chesney "You and Tequila"

It has been a long time since I had a bout with tequila.  This song reminds me why it is better to avoid it.  It really can make you crazy and it can kick your butt.  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!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Not So Green Thumb

I definitely do not have what you would call a "green thumb." I am one of those people who could kill a plastic plant. We used to have four or five bushes in the front of our townhouse, but about five years ago they started to turn an ugly brown.  So, I ended up pulling the the bushes out of the front yard and replaced them with four large planters.

The front of our house is almost completely covered in shade most of the day.  Consequently, we wanted plants that would thrive in shade and not require a lot of direct sunlight.  I also did not want to go with shrubbery or green plants.  I wanted flowers so that we could add a splash of color in front of the house.  The first couple years of having the planters, we would buy some impatiens at Home Depot and plant those.

The impatiens did very well for us, but they required replanting every year.  Not only do I not have a green thumb, but I also did not want to continue to have to replant flowers every year.  Three years ago, I ended up buying some lily bulbs at BJ's and planted those.  We have had a mixed batch with those but we do get some nice blooms every now and then.  Unfortunately they usually only last a day or two.

About half of the planters have some good growth on them.  One has just a couple of plants growing.  The other two, well, let's just say they could use a little work.  This afternoon, we had three blooms in front of the house.

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Saturday, July 9, 2011

More Insurance Frustration

I hate dealing with insurance companies, but they are a necessary evil.  A couple weeks ago when I had my scare when my whole left side began tingling while carrying out the garbage, my doctor had written a referral for me to get MRIs on my brain and my neck.  The insurance company denied my claim because I had not seen a neurologist and we had to cancel the MRIs.

Now, the insurance company is denying a claim for an office visit for my son saying that he has met his limit.  My son's school requires that we get some forms filled out each year before he can attend school.  The new school years started July 5th, so we scheduled a doctor's visit on July 2nd to get the forms filled out.

According to the insurance company, we were ineligible to take our son to the doctor because it had not been a year since his last exam.  We started the application process for his school last summer.  He had his initial exam for the school on August 7th.  The insurance company has a 30 day grace period, so they say he would have been eligible for an exam on July 8th.  So the claim was denied for having the exam six days early.

We were not aware that we could only get a check up done once every 12 months.  I tried to explain to the customer service rep the situation with my son.  In order for him to be able to go to school, he needed the exam.  Unfortunately, they would not budge, and told me the only thing I could do was to file an appeal.  I have written and sent a letter explaining the situation, and hope that they will reconsider since we were only six days early. As frustrating as it is to deal with the insurance company, I can not imagine not having.
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Friday, July 8, 2011

Gold Investing

Have you looked at the price of gold lately?

American Gold EagleImage via WikipediaThroughout history, gold has been recognized for its value and beauty.  From the beginning of history it has been used in the arts, for jewelry and as currency.  It has been symbolic of wealth and power.  There have been many other uses for gold such as fillings and even edible gold flaking in food and drink.

These days, especially in the past few years, investing in spot gold has been touted as a relatively safe investment.  During tough economic times, many investors purchase gold bullion coins as a hedge against inflation.

Currently, there are five banks that are involved in the setting of the gold spot.  They are Scotia-Mocatta, Deutsche Bank, Barclays Capital, HSBC, and Societe Generale.

For years, gold prices remained relatively steady.  In the year 2000, the gold price was hovering around $300 per ounce.  Since then, it has risen rather dramatically, to the point where gold is selling for over $1500 per ounce.  That's quite a return on one's investment.

Like any investment, investing in gold does come with risks.  You should consult with a financial professional to see if gold makes sense for you as part of your investment portfolio.  If you are interested in gold as an investment, you can get a free gold guide from Gold Coins Gain.

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