-11, aiming for -20 
As is undoubtedly good practice, I don't blog about my health or finances and rarely mention family and, when I do, I usually don't use their names. One thing I don't mind stating is that my wife and I live a debt-free life. I mention this because, while it may seem hard, it's quite easy to do if you put your mind to it. I have little sympathy for those who live beyond their means and then when things get tight, they cry to the government for help, all the while sipping that $3.50 latte while driving a $35K car and then going home to watch some prime-time garbage on their plasma TV. It's one thing to be down and out due to misfortune or bad luck, but it' s quite another when it's due to irresponsibility. I don't mind when my taxes help those who need it but I don't think we should bail out those who refuse to control themselves. For us, our biggest expense is the mortgage and the second is what we put into our retirement accounts. We haven't had a car payment in five or six years and don't plan on having another one, even though we plan on buying a vehicle this year. Also, last year we donated about 1% of our income to charities.

Anyway, I have lost 11 lbs this year. Late last year I started to cut salt from my diet. This quickly eliminates a lot of foods, especially the processed stuff. I consciously strive for the five a day, with a salad with lunch and dinner, an apple or carrots for a snack, a glass of juice, and then a vegetable with dinner. By actively reducing my salt intake, I eat much better. Of course, the occasional indulgence is fine; a good hotdog or cheesesteak is necessary to maintain sanity. I am far from perfect, though. I should really cut down on the coffee and the beer too and I really should stop using the weather as an excuse for not exercising. Once the weather warms, I will get back into biking and do my regular six mile ride two or three times a week.

But don't fret! I lived most of my twenties completely opposite! I was a terrible eater, didn't exercise, and really wasn't too responsible with my finances, although I did start planning for my retirement before I turned 30. It's never too late to make an assessment and cut those expenses and look to improve your diet. Too many Americans aren't planning for the future - financially and dietarily - we need to change that, now! Within 20 years when there is no Social Security and no money for the government to pay any health costs, those who did not plan ahead will be in for a rude awakening, as will those of us who did are - because we'll be the ones who get the bill. Personal responsibility is an invisible hand - the more who do it, the stronger society becomes. The less who do it, cause a burden on the few who do and that will eventually create social unrest on a major scale.

Global Warming will not doom us, we will do it ourselves. Overeating and overspending are the real deadly evils and, unlike the earth's climate, we can control what we spend and what we eat. We don't need an economic stimulus, we need a personal responsibility stimulus.

I know I am not perfect; far from it and when people get up on their high horse, it's usually met with "who are you to tell me what to do" and they are right to a degree. Once some aspect of society breaking down gets to the stage where standing on the soapbox and making a call for action is all one can do, it usually means we're too late. Changing habits is difficult and complicated by the fact that our leaders tell us we shouldn't have to do anything difficult and that we are entitled to everything (material, that is) by virtue of simply being here. Therefore, we need to lead by doing. Extend your invisible hand to others, especially to children, through example.

[ 5 comments ] ( 1207 views )   |  permalink
Decisions. Decisions. My wife wants me to thin out my computer stuff. Without doing a formal inventory, which I tried once and gave up on because it was just too much, here's what I have:

1. Two complete PII computers
2. One AMDK6 computer
3. One PIII computer
4. One P4, almost complete - it's a Compaq Evo (small form thing) with no optical drive
5. Another P4 - CPU is good, board is bad. I haven't checked the other components; hit by lightning.

All are sitting idle and with the exception of number 5, all are working. As for spare parts, that's where the formal inventory part became too much. I have one spare monitor (good to have), three or four keyboards (good to have), several hard drives, one or two CDROMs, a few power supplies, memory, sound cards, video cards, Ethernet cards, power cords, and more. Most of the parts are from the PI and PII era and may not be be practical anymore. I don't think anyone would want an 8MB video card unless they have a PI or PII that is still used daily and they so no need to part with.

If you're local and are looking for something, contact me (upper right). I don't want to part with everything (the PIII is not available and neither is the monitor) but I want to clear things out.

[ add comment ] ( 1283 views )   |  permalink
Myron Cope, 1929-2008 

Fellow Pittsburgh alumnus Myron Cope has passed away. A local legend, Cope was an integral part of Pittsburghcana. Outsiders may have found him hard to bear but, just as I did as an outsider, I learned to appreciate the man and understand how much he meant to Pittsburghers. He was truly one of a kind and his golden voice and witty perspectives will sorely be missed. yoi!

[ add comment ] ( 1411 views )   |  permalink
Another relic from the days when things were built to last has seen its time come. We decided to replace the stove. We bought a Kenmore with the flat glass top and electronic controls, yay. Call me old-fashioned but turning some knobs to set a temperature and time works remarkably well. I can't wait to see how complicated appliance makers have made cooking. I am the cook; the oven just gives me the heat I need. I don't like to boast, but I am a damn fine cook, too. I make almost all the meals around here. However, I am not a baker. Baking is too messy and I am not a big cookie, cake, and pie guy. Meals are my forte.

This was the original stove in the house and, thus, dates back to 1974. It's a Hotpoint drop-in.

A beauty, eh?

Here's a view of the top.

Sure, lotsa wear and tear and although it looks like crap, it still works. An element burned out and, although I replaced it once before, we feel it's time to upgrade; mainly due to the 'it looks like crap' aspect. The last remaining 'built to last' appliance in the house is a GE dishwasher that dates back to 1984. A few years ago we replaced the Kenmore garbage disposal which dated from 1980 and the previous owners had left the receipt for that; cost: ~$15. They left the DW receipt here too and I think that was around $600. In fact, even though we are the third owners of this house, we have almost all the manuals and accompanying receipts for everything. The first owner passed on most of the manuals and accompanying receipts to the second owners who passed them on to us. I can't overstate what a nice gesture that is.

Now that I think about it, there is another quality relic in the house - a Sears toilet in the downstairs bathroom. I had to fix a leak once and remember seeing that inside the tank the code 'M33AUG 4-77' is stamped; and that code is actually stamped, not inked, into the tank on the inside. I have replaced the other two toilets since we've been here.

I am sure I'll like the new range, even though I'll probably have to RTM in order to figure out how to bake something for 45 min @ 350; heck, probably have to read it to figure out how to boil a pot of water.

As for an over/under of 34, take the under.

[ add comment ] ( 1260 views )   |  permalink
Government Efficiency 
I received my passport in the mail yesterday. They said 6-8 weeks but I got it in 10 days! w00t! I didn't get my birth certificate back yet, though. I guess the Dept. of State still has it. I am guessing that once they ok the passport, it gets printed somewhere (it was postmarked from a government printing office in Charleston, SC) and then BC is likely with the Dept. of State and then they'll send it back separately. I hope so!

[ add comment ] ( 1516 views )   |  permalink
Find: Demo (x) Match Case (-) Phrase not found 
Senator Larry Craig is in the news again and the AP wastes no time in reminding us what party he belongs to.

Here are links to two recent stories from the AP. See if you can guess what's missing from the story about Kwame Kilpatrick, mayor of the 11th largest city in the US.

Detroit Mayor: Scandal Hurts City Image

Judge Grills E-Mail-Deleting Texas DA

Look at which story mentions party affiliation. When the accused is a Democrat, the AP omits party affiliation.

These are not isolated examples. How about this story:

Texas Vote Fraud Charges, Were They Democrats? AP Won't Say

Or this one from CNN. But CNN wastes no time in reminding us which party Sen. Craig belongs to.

Let's not forget the NYTimes:

Senate Ethics Committee Admonishes Larry Craig

Documentís Disclosure Adds to Scandal Over Detroit Mayor

Or maybe this one about a Maryland Senator:

Former Md. Sen. Bromwell Sentenced to 7 Years

Bromwell is a Democrat, but you wouldn't know it without a little research.

Liberal Bias? Nah....

[ 9 comments ] ( 2034 views )   |  permalink
Vertex VX-150 
I opted to purchase a two-meter handheld first instead of a dual-band mobile to use as a base station like I initially had planned. My reasoning was that the prices for the new dual-bands aren't much less that what used HF transceivers sell for and the used dual-bands don't sell for much less used than new. So, I decided to study for the General license, the next class up, and then look at buying an HF rig. In case you have no idea what I'm talking about, I'll summarize.

The Technician license, the license I have, is the first license to earn in amateur radio. With it, you can transmit on the allocated frequencies 6M and up which is 50MHz and higher; also known as the VHF/UHF bands. The 2M and 70cm (often called 440 because the range is 430-450MHz) bands are the most popular bands here. Hence, the dual-band transceivers you see are almost always 2M/440. The radio I bought for portability transmits on the 2M band only - 144-148MHz. There is a lot of activity on that band and generally the contacts are through repeaters instead of direct contact. The General license allows many privileges on the higher wavelength bands, like 160 down to 10 meter (1.8MHz to 28MHz). These are the HF bands and are used for greater distance contacts be they U.S. and North America or Europe or S. America or wherever, depending on what frequency you are using. The next, and highest class, license is Extra and that gives full amateur privileges on the amateur bands.

As for the VX-150, I like it and I've had no trouble hitting the Bangor repeater (147.045) or the W3OI repeater (146.940) in Allentown on 3W; 5W is the max on this thing. I programmed in 16 local repeaters that I should be able to hit from various points locally and, since the scan range is 140-174MHz, a few other frequencies like weather and police. Once I travel around with it I will program in other repeaters I pick up - in Berks and other nearby counties, maybe some Philly or N. Jersey ones, Jersey shore, and Pittsburgh, and others as I pick them up.

I plan on taking the General in March or April and then by summer purchasing an HF rig, power supply, and antenna and getting all that set up. So, for now, I'll just be on the 2M repeaters wherever I go.

[ 1 comment ] ( 1357 views )   |  permalink
One thing I don't understand is Groundhog Day. It's a rodent for cryin' out loud. I will share some groundhog stories I have.

Last spring my daughter and the neighbor's kid came running down to me to tell me a groundhog was by the swingset and wasn't moving and they were scared of it. Thinking this was odd, I grabbed a shovel and went to investigate. I saw this mangy looking groundhog just sitting there. I walked right up to it and got within the shovel handle's distance and the varmit didn't run away. So, I prodded him with the shovel and he got a little upset, bit the shovel, but eventually ran and went into a hole about 10 yards away. He looked all ratty and I had a feeling he wasn't well. About 30 minutes later, I saw him again by my garden. So, I called the police, and an officer came out and shot him for me. I tossed the thing into the woods.

Last August or September, I was eyeing three turkey vultures out in the field behind my house. They were having quite a feast. Curious, I walked out to see what lunch was. The birds flew off and I saw a dead groundhog with what was an obvious gunshot wound in the neck and side of the face. Obviously, it wasn't the one the officer shot because that incident happened months before, but I still wonder who shot it.

Several years ago, a groundhog had dug a hole right underneath the window sill of the window for the computer room. He would come out sometimes sit on the window sill and scare the heck out of me. My cat sits there too so seeing a groundhog when expecting a cat catches you off guard. I tried for about a year to get rid of him with a trap. Eventually, I dumped some poison (a TSP solution, after I used it to scrub the wooden steps to the porch) down the hole and covered it up. He never came back. The hole is still filled in to this day.

I know Groundhog Day has a strong tradition here in Pennsylvania and has roots in a German religious holiday called Candlemas, but I still don't get it. Groundhogs are a nuisance.

[ 4 comments ] ( 1349 views )   |  permalink
That's me. My callsign appeared in the FCC's ULS database yesterday; incorrect name spelling and all.

[ 1 comment ] ( 1529 views )   |  permalink
Letter to the Editor 
Another letter to the editor; the link is usually good for a week or two.


They hacked this one down a bit. Perhaps my original was a little long and a tad harsh. [Link]

[ 1 comment ] ( 1300 views )   |  permalink
I passed the amateur radio license test tonight. Once my license appears in the FCC database, I can transmit on the bands permitted by the Technician class license; which is all allocated amateur frequencies 50MHz and above which is the same as wavelengths 6M and below. Locally, a lot of action is on the two meter band which is 144-148 MHz.

I have no equipment yet, other than borrowing my dad's handheld 2M transciever. So I've been listening; it's like hanging out in IRC but not being permitted to type anything. I will likely purchase a dualband mobile transceiver to use as a base station. I am eyeing the Yaesu 7800R. Once I buy the 7800 and a power supply and antenna, I should be good to go. With the technician class license and that particular transceiver, the range will not be very far so I won't be talking to anyone in Texas or Brazil anytime soon. I will need the next license up (General) and a HF transceiver and the appropriate antenna to do that. So, once I get my call sign, I'll be on the air.

[ 1 comment ] ( 1609 views )   |  permalink
Santa stuffed a little bicycle odometer/speedometer thingy (called a 'cycle computer' on the packaging) in my stocking a few weeks ago so now I am able to measure more accurately the distances I cover when biking. Since I was born with flat feet and I can't run very well (even in high school the smokers would beat me in the mile. I could barely do it in under 10 minutes then), so biking is how I exercise.

It turns out my standard route is 10.9 km, or about 6.5 miles, round trip. I had estimated about 5-6 miles going by the mile posts on the path and then adding in the route to the path that runs along the river and is only about a 1/2 km from my house. The terrain locally is fraught with hills and it's uphill to my house so it's a hard 10.9 too and it's steep enough that I have to walk some of it on the return trip home. Some parts of my usual ride are difficult to maintain a 20 kph speed.

Anyway, the device is called a 'cycle computer' because it also tracks your speed, distance, average speed, calories burned, tells the temperature, and a few other things. On my last ten-point niner, the computer said I burned 355 calories which doesn't seem like a lot. I think taking the terrain into account, I can add at least 75 to that. Still, though, 430 calories is only a few beers or a hot dog. I know you burn calories throughout the day doing the daily things one does and little things can help. One thing I never do is take the elevator. Four floors or less, I walk it, unless it's a situation where the elevator is the only option, or I have the kids and strollers and such with me.

In the warmer months, I try to bike at least three times a week. In the winter and early spring, I have to sneak in a ride when weather permits. Exercise is important. More Americans should do it.

[ 1 comment ] ( 1365 views )   |  permalink

<< <Back | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 26 | 27 | 28 | Next> >>