The letter informing us about receiving a stimulus came today. Instead of spending like drunken sailors like so many Americans do, anyone who gets a check should 1) use it to pay down debt; credit card debt first or 2) put into a savings account. Other good uses are retirement funds, college funds, and home improvements. Naturally, ours will go into savings right away until we decide if we need any home improvements or to pad the three college funds a little.

Unfortunately, the reality is that all this package will do is augment the already rapid rising costs of goods. It's a 'feel good' move that will likely do little other than make things cost more which, of course, hinders people from paying debt or saving.

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You Gotta be Kidding Me 
Here's our local 15-day forecast from


Isn't it supposed to get warmer as we get closer to April? The average high/low by late March is 53/32. Looks like another bitter cold spring is on the way. Maybe we'll get lucky and the forecast will be wrong - hopefully on the plus side of that deplorable forecast.

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Eliot Spitzer is a Democrat 
...but you wouldn't know it from this AP article. How about this CNN story? Nope, not there. Don't tell me the MSM doesn't have a liberal bias.

New York has 19.3 million residents.
Idaho has 1.5 million residents.

It will be interesting to see if this scandal about a governor of a state with nearly 20 million people gets even one-third the press a scandal about a senator from a state with about 1.5 million people got.

This story is still breaking as I type this so who knows where this will go.

Update 1: the Corner (National Review) points out a slideshow of scandals put together by ABC. In short, 13 people are identified six of the seven Republicans are identified as such but only one of the six Democrats is identified as such. The Corner also notes the absence of Mel Reynolds which is understandable because they can't have the number of Democratic scandals equal to or greater than Republican; D must never be greater than R-1. As the old saying goes: "he who controls the present, controls the past. He who controls the past, controls the future."

Update 2: Newsbusters points out how when the Larry Craig scandal broke in August, it was horns-a-blowin' and trumpets-a-blarin' time when it came to making sure we knew what party Larry Craig belonged to - the word 'Republican' was the fourth word out of Kate Snow's mouth on ABC and NBC's Brian Williams somehow managed to hold out until the middle of his second sentence.

The only way this Spitzer saga gets near the press Larry Craig did is if the media spends time discussing the good Spitzer has done.

Update 3: typing "eliot spitzer is a democrat" into Google does not yield a link to my site yet. Given how often Googlebot visits my site, this is suspicious.

Columns read: entry/hits/files/Kbytes/visits/hostname (March 2008 only)

1 579 8.05% 550 9.17% 16705 12.15% 73 5.59%

Alltheweb, it's sixth. Altavista, it's sixth also. Maybe Google has a quota on how many negative stories about Democrats it will return.

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Seems to be a lot of negative stories in the news of late. I guess since progress is being made in Iraq, the MSM needs to find, and cheer on, negativity elsewhere.

Mortgage meltdown/subprime crisis.
Soaring gas prices.
Downturn in the stock market.
Possible recession on the horizon (by traditional definition, not because Warren Buffett or the NyTimes say so).

The people wanted a Democratic majority in Congress and they got it. This current group is redefining the term feckless.

And what are the more influential Senators doing about these problems? Why, they are running for President! They can't manage the country as congressmen and women but they say they can as President. Instead of spending time in Ohio, Texas, or Wyoming, they should be working for the people they represent now, not whom they want to represent in the future.

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Brian Shrugged 
When I first heard about it, I thought it was a joke. But, alas, it's true. Atlas Shrugged is being made into a movie. Angelina J---- is Dagny (I think Jodie Foster would be a better choice) and some noname* is John Galt, which could be a good thing. If Hank Reardon turns out to be played by B--- P----, I'll barf, even though I have no intention of seeing the film. Given how long the novel is, I wonder how long the movie will be. I wonder how they will incorporate John Galt's speech, which is about 50 pages long, into the natural constraints of film.

It sounds like a disaster waiting to happen. What happens in the novel is a disaster, but that's not the kind if disaster I think the movie will be.

People would be better off reading the book instead of getting the canned version from a movie studio.

No matter, I won't go see it. Even if I'm wrong and it's critically acclaimed, that will unlikely bring me to the theater or DVD rental place.

*Of course, to me, most actors are nonames, although the media does a good job keeping me informed by treating celebrity gossip as news.

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-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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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....

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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.

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