Wednesday, January 30, 2013

This Helped Me Get a MyLife Refund

I found MyLife to be an interesting way to stay connected and look up social information about your friends. It also let me keep up to date with regard to who was looking for me and what they were looking for. However, I eventually had to drop my subscription to this service because I had some issues come up in my everyday life that made the use of MyLife non-essential.

For the first month during which I thought I had canceled my subscription, I was billed on the same date as always. I was confused by this and had to do some research as to why my subscription was still being renewed every month. As it turns out, apparently I had only unsubscribed to the emails that MyLife sends you periodically.

Canceling your subscription is different from unsubscribing, which is something that I found out through this page's information. It also turns out that canceling your subscription is a bit more lengthy than I had first imagined, because I used PayPal to subscribe. I ended up canceling it as the page described, then I called PayPal to verify that I had canceled the automatic renewal. I was also able to get a MyLife refund after clarifying that the whole incident was a big misunderstanding.

Once everything was set up and I was certain about it, I went on my way. Getting my MyLife subscription canceled was made easy by the information laid out on this page. I've also learned that this applies to any subscription that you've made by using PayPal. So if you're like me when it comes to subscriptions that you don't fully understand, then I would definitely recommend reading this page.

Monday, January 21, 2013

That New Car Smell

Love that new car smell via dickster1961
Love that new car smell via dickster1961

I have posted a lot here about my lack of funds.  Basically, I work two jobs to pay the bills and put food on the table.  At the end of the day, we get by.  My son's SSI benefit has helped a lot, as it allows us to use that money to buy things for him that would otherwise come out of budget.  Since he started to receive it, we have had a little bit more for some small extras, but nothing extravagant.

Over the past two years, one of the biggest drains on my back account has been my automobile.  It seems like every two to three months I have had to take the car into the shop for some sort of repair.  They are almost never inexpensive.  The frequency of repairs has been such that a few weeks ago, my wife and I were discussing how we could possibly afford to get a new car for me.

I won't go back in detail of all the repairs that my car has needed over the past two years, but here are some of the highlights.  One day, I was heading to work when all of sudden the car lost all power and would not start.  It needed a new fuel pump which cost around $900.  A few weeks after that, the air conditioner died and needed a new motor.  Along the way, there were other repairs and assorted maintenance that one would expect on a car with over 100,000 miles on it.

Last month, I was delivering pizzas on a Saturday afternoon.  I had been planning to take the car to the shop the next day because I was experiencing a vibration while braking.  While stuck in traffic, the engine temperature started to rise and when I got to my delivery the radiator light came on.  Thankfully, I had some antifreeze in the trunk and was make it through the day without further incident.

I dropped my car off at my mechanic and received a phone call that the radiator cooling fan needed to be replaced which accounted for the temperature issue.  He also told me that my rear break drums were warped and that was causing the vibration.  This came a mere 9 months after having new brake pads installed.  So, right before Christmas I was hit with an $850 repair bill.

It doesn't stop there.  On Thursday of last week, I was heading into work.  I was stopped in traffic when my engine shut off.  It started back up with no problem and made it to work, albeit every time I came to a stop I put the car in neutral and kept a foot lightly on the gas.  The same thing had happened last March and they cleaned the throttle body, do a tune up, and adjusted the engine idle speed.  This time, they found that an electronic part was going bad and it would cost over $400.

In addition to the $400 repair that would be facing me, I also knew of another problem that I had with the car.  There is a part called the blend door actuator which is attached to the dial on your heater that directs the flow of air from your heater or air conditioner.  I am pretty sure it also needed to be replaced because if I set the control to recirculate the air, it would make a loud clicking noise.  Because of where that part is located, I knew it would be a few hundred dollars to repair.

So, I decided it was time to bite the bullet.  I told the mechanic that the $400 was more than I wanted to pay and not to bother fixing it.  I picked up the car, and cleaned all of my stuff out of it.  Over the weekend, I finally went car shopping and ended up getting a new Kia Forte. I'm loving it.  It has a lot of features I never expected to see.  My favorites are the bluetooth that allows me to have hands free without having something hooked to my ear and the trial subscription to SiriusXM radio.  Now to make the payments.
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Thursday, January 17, 2013

I Hate Spam!

When I began this blog five years ago, I did not moderate comments or anything like that.  I allowed anybody that wanted to post a comment to do so.  If I came across a comment that I felt was spam then I would go ahead and delete it.  It really wasn't much of a problem.

Two years ago, when this blog had a lot more traffic thanks to services such as Adgitize and Entrecard, I finally made the decision to add comment moderation due to an increase in spam comments.  Even at that point in time, it wasn't really that bad, maybe 3 or 4 spam comments over the period of a week.  It was enough for me to give moderation a try.

I never went back to allowing all comments to appear.  At that time, I probably had about 100 visitors each day.  I would get a spam comment maybe once every couple of weeks ago.  Now, my daily visitors are running considerably lower than it was two years ago.  Unfortunately, the spam comments have gotten completely out of control over the last few weeks.

This evening, I came home from work and logged into my blogger control panel and saw that there were six comments needing moderation.  All of them were spam.  I deleted them and then went to the spam folder of my comment dashboard and found another twenty or so comments that my spam filter caught.  All were for the same post that I wrote in 2010 called Peacocks and Other Sights.

That seems to be the modus operandi of these folks.  They find an old post from a couple years ago and then make their comments linking their spam site to it.  Another post that seems to be getting a lot of spam comments is my post It's Bloody Hot in Here from 2011.

So now, due to this heavy barrage of spam comments, I am not going to go back into my control settings once more.  The vast majority of these comments come from "Anonymous" so I am now going to no longer allow Anonymous comments.  If that doesn't cut back on the spam, I may have to go back to having to enter those CAPTCHA word verification puzzles that I hate so much.

Anyway, if nothing else, it gives me another opportunity to post some Monty Python.  This is the only spam that I can tolerate, no offense to the meat product by the same name, which I have never tried so can not give an honest opinion of it.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Talk About a Fiscal Cliff

Tax (Photo credit: 401(K) 2013)
Of late, I have been trying to avoid posting things of a political nature.  Sometimes, though, I can't help myself.  I especially reserve the right to post something of a political nature when it impacts me personally, as is the case with this post.

Two weeks ago, Congress and the President reached a deal to extend the Bush era tax rates for most Americans to prevent us from going over the so called "fiscal cliff" that would have most likely sent us into another recession.  According to those powers that be and their complicit media, we are to be oh so grateful that they pulled together to avoid the fiscal cliff.  Well call me ungrateful because I am not buying into the hype.

You see, I am facing my own personal fiscal cliff.  Let's start with the expiration of the 2% payroll tax holiday that took place on January 1st.  With all of the hype from the media and politicians about how the fiscal cliff deal prevented tax increases on all but the richest Americans, lost was the fact that most would be facing smaller paychecks due to the end of the payroll tax holiday.  Sorry, elite media and pols, but that is a tax increase.  I actually saw the increase on my check on January 3rd.

Unlike a lot of folks, I was fully aware that this was going to happen.  There have been a lot of news stories out there about how people were shocked that their paychecks were smaller.  I will not be like some on the right who will blame Barack Obama for this (well not entirely) because even had Mitt Romney been elected this tax break was going to expire.  Nobody was calling for it to be extended.

I do find it funny (in an ironic way, not humorous) that when the right points out that 47% of Americans do not pay income taxes, the left is quick to point out that those people do pay payroll taxes.  Then when the left  (media and politicians) wants to say that only the rich saw a tax increase with the fiscal cliff deal that they conveniently leave out the fact that everyone would see a payroll tax increase.  Let's be consistent, people!

Regarding the 2% payroll tax holiday, I will say that it was a pretty stupid idea to begin with, though when first implemented it did benefit me.  Two years ago, my health insurance premium went up quite a bit.  That 2% tax break was just enough to offset that premium increase so it ended up being a wash for me.  It just seems like I can never get ahead.

Speaking of health insurance premiums, that brings me to the second part of my personal fiscal cliff.  Back in October, I posted about my health insurance premium increase for 2013.  My share of the health insurance premium went up 30%.  While I saw the first check with the higher payroll tax two weeks ago, I saw the first check with the higher insurance premium this week.  The Dickster is NOT a happy camper.

When you combine the expiration of the 2% payroll tax holiday with my increase share of my health insurance, I have seen my net paycheck decline by about 7% or so.  Meanwhile, gas and food prices are both on the rise.  Plus, the Maryland state government is back in session and looking to raise gasoline taxes.  Lower net pay and increased living expenses are not a good combination, hence the presonal fiscal cliff.

On a side note, I was able to download my W-2 today.  There was something new on it this year thanks to the Obamacare health care bill that was passed a few years ago.  There is now a box that shows how much the employer provided health care costs.  It shows the combined total of the employer and employee share of the health insurance premium is.

Here is some food for thought.  Currently, both of those contributions are tax exempt.  The employer gets to write the premium off as an expense, and the employee is able to pay their share before tax withholding takes place.  There are a lot of folks in government who would like to see those tax exemptions eliminated.  In other words, the employer share would end up being taxable as income for the employee and the employee's share would not get the tax break.  For me, that would increase my taxable income by 20% while not increasing my actual pay.
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Tuesday, January 8, 2013

A New Project?

Some interesting things have been happening over the last week or so.  On January 1st, I wrote a post about New Year's resolutions.  Near the end of that post, I expressed that I had a nebulous goal of wanting to write a book but was not sure what type of book it would be.  The idea of someday writing a book was something that I had always thought about but had never expressed to anybody prior to that post.

That same day, I also finished reading a book called Jesus Is No Joke by Heidi Hollis.  After finishing the book, I did something that I don't normally do; I went back to the Amazon listing for that book and clicked for to go to the author's info page.  I saw that Hollis had a webpage where I found her Twitter ID.  So, I sent her a tweet telling her that I enjoyed her book.

That was the start of several tweets back and forth between the two of us.  In those initial tweets on January 1st she asked me if I would consider writing an honest review of her book on Amazon.  The next day, I did write a review of the book, but posted it on my blog instead.  I went ahead and sent her a tweet with the link to the blog review.

That tweet was the start of a conversation related to my New Year's post.  Heidi thanked me for writing the review of her book.  She also told me that I was a good writer.  She tweeted back to me that perhaps it was time for me to put a book together.  Who would have thought that a writer that I had read would think enough of what I wrote to think that I could write a book?  She doesn't believe it a coincidence that the two of us have begun this discussion.

My tweets with Heidi Hollis have really got me thinking more about trying to put a book together.  I still am not sure what type of book it would be, though I am 99% positive it would not be fiction.  I have thought about writing something in the spiritual vein or perhaps even about the struggles of having a child with autism. It is something that I will be devoting a good bit of thought and prayer to.
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Monday, January 7, 2013

Music Monday-Thomas Rhett "Beer With Jesus"

They always do those surveys where they ask people if they could have dinner with any person in history, who would it be.  Always at the top or near the top of the list would be Jesus.  I know he would be at the top of my list.

Thomas Rhett's new song "Beer With Jesus" takes the idea of having dinner with Jesus another step to sitting with Jesus in a bar, having a beer, and a conversation.  While some of my old Baptist friends might not think that a possibility, when I read the Gospel accounts of the life of Jesus I can't help but think that He would be willing to sit and have a conversation over a beer.  After all, take a look at His life, He changed water into wine, He was accused of being a glutton and a drunkard, and He was known to associate with sinners.  So I don't think it would be a stretch for Him to have a conversation over a beer.

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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Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Times that Try Men's Souls

Having a big lunch with my son at the Golden C...
Having a big lunch with my son at the Golden Corral in Easton MD via dickster1961
Yesterday was one of those days that I always dread.  It was the day that my wife was going to take our son back to school after his break home.  Those trips are always a bit of a challenge getting him into the car for the long drive back to school, but they are especially difficult when the break home has been a long like his nearly two week Christmas break.

Monday night, I naively thought that it might be a bit easier this time around.  I was washing dishes in the kitchen when I heard him in the living saying that Stephanie (his teacher) was a pretty girl.  He then proceeded to tell me how many earrings she has, 4 which for some reason he notices.  Later we were sitting on the couch when he started talking about "The Morning Rush" on a radio station that broadcasts near his school.

I woke up yesterday and got ready to head off to work.  My son was up before I left the house, so we talked and I told him I would see him later, without bringing up the subject of school.  He seemed fine.  My wife usually tries to head out to school between noon and 1 pm.  When she gets him in the car and they are on the way, she gives me call to let me know that they are on the way.

I started to get a little concern that I had not heard from my wife as the clock moved closer to 2pm.  I was talking with a friend of mine in the office and told him that I was almost afraid to call home to check in with my wife.  Sure enough, a few moments later my cell phone rang.  Unfortunately, it was not my wife calling to tell me they were on the way to school but that for the past two hours our son had been hitting, kicking, and yelling at her.

I decided that I would leave the office early to see if I could somehow manage to get him in the car and take him back to school.  The entire drive home, I was praying that God would give me the patience to deal with my son and my wife, who was naturally upset and frustrated.  I also prayed that somehow he would help my son to be willing to get in the car. I arrived home around 3pm, and spent two hours trying to keep him calm and endure some hitting and kicking sent in my direction.

I was able to maintain a calm demeanor until my son exhibited a behavior that he had displayed at school but never at home.  My son wears Depends because he is still not toilet trained in regards to bowel movements, but does manage to urinate in the toilet.  The behavior that he now displays is that if wants to avoid doing something, he will urinate in his pants.  While laying on the couch, he told me that he peed his pants and needed a bath.  Even with the Depends, there was leakage onto the couch.

Finally, after two hours, I was somehow able to get him to get up and go to the car.  He did end up dropping to the ground twice between the house and the car, but he got up relatively quickly and got into the car.  So, around 5pm we started the nearly 60 mile trip to his school.  Once he was in the car and realized we were headed to school, he was fine, not happy, but fine.  We arrived at school just in time for him to have dinner.

After we got him settled and took care of all the assorted business, we headed back home.   By the time the night ended, we didn't get back home until around 8 pm. We will probably head back out to see him in a couple of weeks and take him out to lunch at Golden Corral and then go to Target so he can get some new CDs.  He is already looking forward to that.
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Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Jesus is No Joke

As I mentioned in a previous post, I have been spending a lot more time reading and concentrating on the spiritual side of my life.  On a regular basis, I peruse the Religion & Spirituality section of the Kindle store on  One of the books that I downloaded and finished reading recently was a book written by Heidi Hollis entitled "Jesus is No Joke."

Actually, the full title of the book is "Jesus Is No Joke: A True Story Of An Unlikely Witness Who Saw Jesus."  From the Amazon website, here is a description of the book:
Once a skeptic of “Holy Encounters,” Heidi Hollis shares her true story of four unexpected journeys with Jesus, which led her deep into the reality of His Presence among us today. Hollis shares how Jesus and His angels revealed glimpses of Heaven and Hell, even healing her physically of an incurable disease, leaving her with the utmost passion to share His inspiration with the world!
As humanly as possible and lacking a religious tongue, Hollis pours out her raw emotions with all of the errors, yet new understandings, which came with meeting someone she highly misunderstood when she heard claims of Jesus appearing to people around the world today.
Hollis once thought that Jesus had traversed these lands long ago, never to be seen or heard from again—now, in admitting her error, she encourages others to hold their “J” for Jesus up in the air for all to see: Jesus Is No Joke!
I have to say that this was a difficult book for me to stick with at times.  Not because the subject matter was above my mental capabilities or because the writing was bad.  Quite to the contrary.  Hollis does a nice job of writing as if she were sitting in the room talking with you about the subject matter.  She injects her own brand of humor into the conversation and is very open and honest.

The reason the book was sometimes difficult to get through was that Hollis' experience in meeting Jesus was unlike anything that I have ever experienced before.  You see, prior to meeting Jesus, Hollis had an extensive background in exploring the paranormal realm.  So, when she says she met Jesus on four separate occasions, she literally means she saw him.

In addition to describing her encounters with Jesus, which also includes an encounter in which Jesus heals her  of an incurable disease, she describes some darker experiences.  After the first time she met Jesus, she had an encounter that would be safe to attribute to demonic forces trying to instill doubt in her mind about her Jesus encounter.  She also describes in detail an experience in which she saw the literal Hell.

My background tends to be more in the mainstream protestant church so you can probably understand why I saw her encounters as unlike anything that I have ever experienced before.  Shoot, in the churches that I belonged too, we even express doubt that the gift of tongues is active in the church today.

The closest that I can say I have come towards any experience like Hollis occurred 20 some odd years ago while in prayer.  At that time, it was my practice to lay quietly in my bed at night and pray.  During one nightly prayer session I experienced a presence that I can only describe as Holy.  It was unlike anything that I had ever experienced before.

If, as a Christian, I say that I believe that God the Father and Jesus the Son are both omnipotent and omnipresent, then I would have to say that anything is possible.  Just because I have never experienced anything like the visions that Hollis has experienced, does not mean that They couldn't reveal Themselves to Hollis in the manner she describes.

I do believe that there is a spiritual realm out there that most humans do not experience knowingly.  I also believe that there are people who are able to experience that realm.  In Biblical times, God spoke to the prophets through dreams and visions.  Prophesies of the last days say that God will pour out his Spirit and there will be those that will have dreams and visions.

It is not my place to try to determine if Heidi Hollis did see Jesus.  The main thing is that she believes she did and it has caused her to seek to follow Him.  If Jesus did decide to reveal Himself to Heidi Hollis in this way, then she is truly blessed.  Again, just because I haven't had these types of visions, doesn't mean that I should outright dismiss the possibility of them occurring.  The desire of my heart is to experience the presence I felt during my prayer session I described.

As difficult as it was at times to cast aside my preconceived notions while reading the book, it was enjoyable to read.  Putting aside the difficulties, there were things that I was able to take from the book like the idea of picture prayers and even a bit of an informality to praying.  If you decide to pick up the book, read it with an open mind and decide for yourself.  One thing that I am in 100% agreement with Hollis is that Jesus is No Joke.
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Tuesday, January 1, 2013


English: New Year's Resolutions postcard
English: New Year's Resolutions postcard (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Well, here we are at the start of another new year.  I suppose I should think about making some sort of resolution or such.  To be honest, I usually don't go in for making New Year's resolutions.  The primary reason is that I don't feel like there is anything magical about January 1st for setting goals for yourself.  Another reason is that I feel that I must be mentally prepared to make that change within me otherwise I feel I would be destined to fail.

A case in point for me would be one of the more popular resolutions that folks tend to make and that is the goal of weight loss.  Last year at this time, I definitely needed to lose some weight.  I wasn't mentally prepared at that time to lose weight, so I knew I wouldn't change.  However, some time in the spring I was mentally ready and lost 40 pounds over a five month period.  Sadly, I have slipped a bit of late and lapsed into some bad habits and gained about half back.  Time to get back on the wagon.

That is not to say that I do not have some idea of things that I would like to accomplish in the coming year.  They are more or less some general ideas floating around in my mind and not things that I am 100% ready to commit to with specifics at this time.  One thing that is floating around in my mind are things that I would like to accomplish with this blog, specifically in regards to content and consistency.

Last year, I kind of let the consistency of posting slip from previous years.  In 2012, I posted less than 200 posts for the first time since I began this blog in 2008.  Of course 2008 was basically only 4 months of posting versus and entire year.  I am not sure that I will get back up to posting nearly every day, but I would like to post on a more regular basis, maybe 250-300 posts during the course of the year.

Then there is the content side of things.  In previous years, I posted a lot of political content.  Since the election two months ago, I have been taking a break from a steady dose of following politics.  I have found that I do not miss it at all.  Instead, I have been concentrating on doing more reading and trying to get back in touch with my spiritual side.  I suspect that you will see more posts with a spiritual leaning.  I have been considering a series of posts regarding some of my spiritual journey through the years.

With the start of the new year, as usual, I am concerned about financial issues.  I officially get my first pay check of 2013 on Thursday, but my credit union gives me access to my direct deposit early.  I noticed my deposit was about 3% less than usual which I can most likely attribute to the expiration of the 2% payroll tax holiday.  In two weeks, I should see the results of the 30% increase in my share of my health insurance premium.  Not an encouraging start.

The good news on the financial side of things is that I just closed on refinancing my mortgage through the government HARP program.  It is allowing me to reduce my mortgage by about $260 per month which hopefully will result in a wash when my health insurance premium kicks in.  The other good news is that with the timing of my closing, I will not have a mortgage payment due until March so it will give me two months to replenish my savings account some.

A couple of the nebulous goal thingies that are floating around in my head is to concentrate a bit more on my photography.  I kind of started this a bit last year, but time is a precious commodity and there were not as many opportunities to devote to it as I would have liked.  Another idea floating in my head is to attempt to write a book.  This one is so nebulous that I do not even have a clue what kind of book it would be.  That's why I can't commit to them as "resolutions."

So, in closing, I would like to wish everybody a very successful and happy New Year. If you are of the sort that makes resolutions this time of year, I hope you are able to achieve your goals.  If not, well that's OK too.
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