Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Phantom Gift Giver

You know who you are. I would like to say thank you for the very nice notebook. I will keep it handy to write down those random ideas of "this would make a great blog post." I especially like the texture of the cover, and the band that holds the cover closed.

Again, thank you!!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

EBayed


I have to confess: I am something of a Glass Junkie. I love those glasses that McDonald's and Burger King use to sell back in the seventies and eighties. I remember having these four from Burger King back when Star Wars came out. I can tell you, also, that I got these from the BK across the street from Mickey D's on Charleston Highway. My Dad used to call it Hamburger Hill. At the time, I did not get the Vietnam references, and that is what I called t for many years. Some time ago, BK had a falling out in Columbia, and they all but disappeared. Apparently, that McDonalds is still doing well. There use to be an Arthur Treachers's Cedric's Fish and Chips up there as well.


On Monday, I was browsing Ebay and came across these glasses. Something nostalgic kicked in me, and I did something I don't typically do: impulse. I bided on the glasses and got them for what the seller was asking. I was all very happy, until I saw the shipping charges. That sorta took the fun out of it, but, I will place these next to my Lord of the Rings glasses.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Happy 16 Years, Babe

Sixteen years ago today, Cindy and I got married. Thought it was so much fun, we did it again two months later in the Church. I was fresh in the Air Force, and stationed at Tyndall AFB outside of Panama City Beach, Florida. I was completing what was called "Follow on Training." This was training that was given on operational aircraft for three months prior to going to my permanent duty, Kadena AFB, in Okinawa, Japan. Cindy and I were engaged at to be married, and had plans for a late July wedding. The only hiccup was that, for Cindy to be on my orders, she had to be my wife, and not my fiancée. We then altered our plans to get married by Panama City Beach's Justice of the Peace. Two of my AF buddies came along as witnesses.

Down at the court house, the fairy tale wedding took a dose of reality. We were in line with others getting married. The two kids in front of us looked as if they both had turned 18 that morning, and the couple behind us, while much older, smelled of booze. And there we were: I was dressed in my AF Blues uniform, Cindy was in a white, knee length dress. Once we were called in, we were married. It seemed very quick. However, what was said by the JOP seemed to have more meat to it than I expected. After we each said "I do", we were pronounced husband and wife by the state of Florida.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

When compliments go Bad

Yesterday, I took the family out to Bush Gardens Williamsburg. Each year, we get season passes, and they offer a Virginia Resident pass that makes this very affordable. In addition, this year, Megan is tall enough to ride Apollo's Chariot – a hyper coaster that is one of the best in the park. Arriving at the park early, we were able to ride the coaster several times in succession. I finally had to say enough, but the kids rode two more times by themselves. Cindy sat near the exit, and I walked around trying to clear the motion sickness that I was experiencing. Coming back over to her, I was just amazed at how pretty she is, even more so than when we first met. I tried to come up with a unique compliment on the fly.

"I was over there checking you out. And then, I noticed it was you."

Cindy looked up at me, and said "So, you were checking other girls out? Gee Thanks."

"No, no, no…that's not what I meant!"

So, lesson out there guys – don't try out new compliments out off the cuff.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Way to go LJ

I just wanted to give out a shout out to one of my long time Virginia Buds who runs SimpleProductivityBlog. One of its articles was mentioned on LifeHacker and the hits to SimpleProductivity went through the roof. Anytime you have a mention on someone else's blog makes you feel fantastic, but to have your article read by thousands of new readers is fantastic.

Congrats!!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Indiana Jones

Something struck me about the three theatrical adventures of Indiana Jones: the films never take themselves very seriously. As a twelve year old kid, I really thought Raiders of the Lost Ark was a serious film. But watching them over again yesterday, I noted a bit of whimsy, especially within the fight sequences. They are so overtly choreographed that they appear, well, overtly choreographed.

The Market Place fight from the first movie is the perfect example.

The German intelligence operative stands in an alleyway flanked by his Arab henchmen ready to attack our heroes. Indy and Marion continue to talk about their past, when she drops an article to the ground. Stooping to retrieve it, she inadvertently causes the first attacker to jump over her only to meet Indy's fist. Later, Indy dodges a sword thrust which impales an attacker behind him. A beat later, we see a reverse angle of the impaled victim which reveals the tip of the sword has fruit from the nearby stand on its end. Marion uses a frying pan to bean an assailant on the head when he follows her into a darkened doorway. And of course, the famous Sword Man who flourishes his weapon with great aplomb, only to be shot by Indy.

How do you take that seriously?

In Temple of Doom, the opening sequence is so un-Indiana, that you wonder if you put the right disc into the player. Even when the dancers do a split, and then the editors run the film backwards so that it appears the dancers are magically "un-splitting." Last Crusade has its jousting motorcycles and a close encounter with Adolf Hitler.

In a weird way it works by evoking the movie serials that are a bygone product of our parent's youth. And, I think that is what Lucas and Spielberg were going for. The question is, will Kingdom of the Crystal Skull continue to honor the movie serial? Perhaps this is what Lucas has been alluding to when he fears that fans might be disappointed with the film (he certainly took a bashing from the new Star Wars films). Maybe he fears that after a nineteen year hiatus, the twelve year old kids who saw Raiders in 1981 will have grown up too much and be too sophisticated for the cheesy traditions of the movie serials and the elements that made the first three movies so much fun to watch.

Birthday Movies

Starting in 2000, I have taken my birthday off from work. It started with just going out to the movie theater and catching three or four movies. I can remember that the first year, I saw Small Time Crooks, Dinosaur and Frequency. This continued until it stopped being fun: taking the whole day off and not seeing the kids. Not only was it not fun, but it felt a bit selfish. So, I started programming the movies so that I could watch them with the girls. Because this leads to astronomical prices at the theater, this has transitioned into movie marathons at home. The biggest one that we did was with all six Star Wars films a few years ago.

With the opening of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull this week, we revisited Indy's earlier adventures.

On Friday, we watched his very first adventures from The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles. I found it a bit droll, my wife was disappointed, but the kids loved it. An interesting tid-bit was that Indy was born in 1899. Monday, we delved into the first two films Raiders of the Lost Ark and Temple of Doom. The unanimous decision was that Marion Ravenwood was a much better adventure companion than Willy Scott. After lunch, we went to Prince Caspian. I did not like this film as much as the first one, but it was absolutely gorgeous in terms of production. The acting was fine, but somewhere in the middle (I think it was during the fight of the two kings), I just wondered if I really cared about the characters or not. We returned home, played a round of Carcasonne, grabbed some dinner and then embarked on the last adventure of the day, The Last Crusade.

All in all, a fun way to spend the birthday.

Monday, May 19, 2008

40 Years Ago

My mom called to remind me that 40 years ago yesterday, she had Maurices' BBQ for dinner. At 5:47AM the next morning I was born. Hopefully, the two incidents are somehow not related. Anyways the plan for today is an Indiana Jones Movie Marathon with an outing to catch Prince Caspian.

My wife compiled some 1968 factoids to put up on my blog.

In 1968...

The median household income was $7,743, a postage stamp would cost you $0.05, a gallon of gas would set you back $.027 and a gallon of milk went for $1.07.

Snickers and Kit Kat were the most popular candy bars, and race fans really loved Richard Petty. The Jonas Brothers was the most popular band. Everyone was listening to Up, Up and Away.

The biggest change to hit the movie industry was the introduction of the MPAA rating system. 2001: A Space Odyssey, Funny Girl and Oliver were top grossing movies, but it was In the Heat of the Night that took home the Best Picture Oscar.

On Christmas Eve, the Apollo 8 orbited the moon, and man saw with his own eyes the dark side of the moon. The Christmas Eve broadcast of the orbit was the most watched TV program ever and the pilot's read from the book of Genesis.

And, in 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr, Helen Keller, Upton Sinclair and John Steinback passed away.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

All in good fun

Ok. I am still a conservative with Republican leaning tendancies. Something that most (if not all) of my pals are not. They have bought into the idea that their guy is promising: change. I give them about three years to wake up and realize that Barack, like Bush, is a politician and by himself can not produce what he is promising. When it is all said and done, he's human and a policitian.

While the side show that is the Democratic Primary Race is entertaining, nothing is more entertaining than what McCain will do once he has been elected Emperor of the United States.


McCain Vows To Replace Secret Service With His Own Bare Fists

No Good Deed

Who knows if it goes unnoticed? Who cares? All I can say is spending Saturday morning painting an elderly couple's house was a blast. I cannot honestly say that the thought of painting was fun, but once I got there with some of the others from our small group it turned into fun. Not only that, but seeing the appreciation in the eyes of the home owners just made it worthwhile. And, it was a small home and did not take very long to do the work. We also had a great time just sitting and having coffee while getting to know the owners.

Prior to that, I met Steve over at the Broken Egg Bistro. The BEB is an "upscale" breakfast restaurant (as in Panera is an upscale sandwich Shoppe). The breakfast was good, but, I think I prefer Brunches in West Columbia. However, since Brunches is a seven hour drive and BEB is two minutes, I guess BEB will do in a pinch. I enjoyed Bob's biscuits (two biscuits smothered in sausage gravy, two eggs and grits). With the exception of the grits, everything was good. The grits were odd: they were much larger than the variety that I enjoy. A little butter and salt (per Pacific Grits instructions) did little to improve the texture. The conversation was good, and let's faces it: guys need time to talk guy stuff.

Coming home, the girls were out picking strawberries, and Cindy had bought several ice cream containers to share with the cul-de-sac tonight when the Chesapeake Jubilee shoots off the fireworks. The grass needed cutting so I moved on to that. Everything is done, and we are looking forward to the Preakness. We are rooting for Big Brown to win again in hopes of a triple crown.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Sometimes, I get them cramps real hard

The post titles comes from one of my favorite "quotable" movie, Raising Arizona and somewhat describes an event that occurred around 4:30 this morning. Minding my business, and sleeping soundly, my right calf muscle decides that it wants to cramp up real hard. Ouch. I stood up, trying to stretch out the muscle, but that just seemed to make it worse. The pain got to a level where I could not breathe, and I was seeing stars: it really, really hurt. But, it eventually released and I got back to sleep.

All day long, that muscle has just hurt. Between that, and some upper back spasms, and just feeling lousy today, I left work about thirty minutes after arriving. Cindy and the girls were leaving for a field trip to the marine science museum, and I had the house to myself. I wanted to lay on the couch with my heating bad and some aspirin. I fired up the Windows Media Center and my Xbox and watched "Netflix" until I feel asleep. No leg cramps.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Summer Movies: 1988

Today, I thought I would take a trip in the Way Back machine with Mr. Peabody and his pet boy Sherman to the summer of 1988. Next weekend is Memorial Day Weekend, which is the traditional start of the Summer Movies. So, what movies played twenty years ago?

May

Crocodile' Dundee II

Rambo III

June

Big

Funny Farm

Poltergeist III

Presidio, The

Red Heat

Bull Durham

Who Framed Roger Rabbit

Coming to America

July

Short Circuit 2

Fish Called Wanda, A

Arthur 2: On the Rocks

Midnight Run

Dead Pool, The

Die Hard

Big Top Pee-wee

Caddyshack II

Cocktail

Monkey Shines

August

Blob, The

Clean and Sober

Young Guns

Last Temptation of Christ, The

Tucker: The Man and His Dream

Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master, A

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Perception and Averages

On Monday, Dave Ramsey had Andy Andrews, author of "The Traveler's Gift" and "Master the Seven Decisions" on the show. Near the end of the segment, Andy was talking about averages. He described how, after a recent hurricane, he said he was devastated, and so to him, everyone was devastated. But, there were some people that weren't devastated and even prospered because of the hurricane: carpenters, plumbers, landscape people made more money in their lives because of that hurricane. As an average, his town, Orange Beach was devastated.

There is one segment of society that will not participate in an economic downturn: its doctors. They won't participate in it because our perception of them is different. You know, I've asked people, thousands of people, how many of you have bad doctors, and nobody ever raises their hand. You know that's impossible, right? It's impossible because if we take all of the doctors that represent us, half of them are going to be above average, and half of them are going to be below average. There are thousands of people in America are being cared for by bad doctors evidently. Below average doctors. But, our perception of them is that they're smarter, that they're better educated, and that they're worth the money, that they're worth us sittin' waiting three hours for them to give us five minutes of their time. And our perception of somebody is so strong that it will keep them financially sound through an economic downturn. Now, all I am asking is, if our perception of somebody is so strong that we can affect their financial ability, why can't we turn some of that on ourselves? And you understand that your perception of yourself affects your choices. And when your perception of yourself affects your choices, it changes the choices that you make. You know, an average, we can choose to be above the line, we can choose which the part of the line that we want to be on. It's huge to have a perception of yourself that is at least as effective as somebody else.

Now, this may sound like motivational speaking, and it might be. But it ties back into my post about Little Man Syndrome, and how we may get beaten up by events in our lives, but we do have an amazing ability to change our perception of ourselves and the choices that we make.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Financial Peace University

Cindy and I start our third FPU class this thursday night. This will be our first solo class after our good friends Ron and Sheila have given us the opportunity to be their wingmen during the past two classes.

This video is from the last session, "The Great Misunderstanding." We spend twelve weeks teaching how to get out of debt, how to build wealth and how to protect it. And then, we teach about how to live your life with an open hand, and giving generously and cheerfully.

Grab some tissues.

So, who is this Dave Ramsey?

Jay responded in my Little Man Syndrome post that he did not know who Dave was. I responded in an email, but, thought, hey, I need content so let's post it here too.

In November of 2007, I came across Dave Ramsey's "The Total Money Makeover" while listening to XM Radio. For my entire adult life, I did not carry a lot of consumer debt, but I did not have a plan. At the time, I had about $7,000 out in a car and credit cards. I was comfortable with this.

What I was not comfortable was that I did not have a plan with the income that I made. I make a decent salary, and at the end of the month, Cindy and I could not account for it. Any emergency that we had (emergency was at least $300 or more) was placed on a credit card. I think, at the time, I had $1,800 in a regular savings account. I contributed to my 401k, but to be honest, I did not understand what I was investing in. Finally, there was the looming thought of, if something was to happen to me, what would become of Cindy and the girls?

Dave Ramsey is all about getting you out of debt, "giving you the same advice your grandma would, but, we keep our teeth in." He is from Brentwood Tennessee, and runs a nationally syndicated talk radio show (1 hour is free via ITunes) where the subject is 99.9% driven by the callers. Callers get to ask questions, and on Friday, those who have become debt free except the mortgage calls in to scream "We're debt free!" TMM is a practical application of his "Financial Peace University," which is a thirteen week class that teaches couples how to get out of debt, live on a budget, build an emergency fund, save for retirement, save for kids college, pay of the house and then build and give away wealth. In fact, those are often called the baby steps. Cindy and I have become FPU Coordinators and will be starting our third class this Thursday. FPU is a one hour video followed by a one hours small group accountability session. Here is an example on You Tube. He covers topics including insurance, investment and saving for college.

The impact that this has made in our marriage is immeasurable. At the end of may, we will have finished Baby Step #3 and have 6 months of expenses saved in a money market account. Before the month begins, we spend a few moments looking over our budget for the month to make sure we have covered any of the non standard expenses. We have had enough to save for trips and vacations. We do not own any credit cards, but we do use our debit cards. We pay cash for just about everything. And, we have not had a fight over money since starting.

So, check him out.



Sunday, May 11, 2008

Newly Wed Game

Just got back from our small group tonight where we ditched our reading of a "God Centered Church" for a potluck dinner and a game. There is something that I like about the concept of small group – there is potential to really get to know people, to learn about their likes, dislikes, struggles, questions and doubts that I never got from the traditional Sunday School. The hard part though, is opening up…getting real and feeling comfortable to share our doubts about certain passages without feeling like you are going to get pounced on.

So tonight, we played one round of the Newly Wed game. Cindy and I didn't win, but we had a lot of laughs with our group. And, the group seemed to open up. I did remember the first significant gift that she gave me was the movie poster from Ghost. However, I described our first kiss as "garlicky" while she described it as sweet.

These types of activities are import in building a group because, once you start knowing each other on this level, you start to care for one another. You pray for each other on a different level and you follow up with each other. It doesn't become just another activity you do (Church, check, orchestra, check, small group, check) during the week.

And, it is nice to get past the façade that we sometimes put out just because we don't want to get hurt.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Little Man Syndrome

Little Man Syndrome is a term Dave Ramsey uses to describe people that believe that someone/something else is in control of your life. Often mixed in is the hope that Washington will somehow fix it.

This syndrome is often irritated by the news, which picks out hot button topics and fans the flame. Perhaps one of the hottest topics is gas prices. I hate paying it, you hate paying it, but it is one of those expenses we really can't live without.

But, the same newscast with stories about higher gas prices wrecking people's budgets also has stories about people lining up to buy "Grand Theft Auto 4" (cost - $59.99) and see Iron Man ($150,652,108.00 opening box office weekend). Hmmm. So, there is still some room in the budget, right?

The New York Times has an interactive chart of the parts that make up the Consumer Price Index. It shows that gasoline makes of 5.2% of the spending nationwide and is up 26% from the previous year.

To put this into perspective, the average American making $40,000 a year, and will spend 5.2% of that budget on gasoline ($2080.00). That is up 26% from last year, so if this year they are spending $2080.00, last year they spent $1, 539.20.

I like to look at how this affects my paycheck.

I get paid bi-weekly, which simply means I get 26 paychecks a year. If I budget based on the CPI, I would divide what I anticipate on spending in gas this year by 26. Using our example, I need to budget $80.00 a month for gasoline ($2080.00/26). If I had done this for the previous year, I would have budgeted $59.20 for gasoline ($1539.20 /26).

So far, the net impact of gas prices on me is that I am paying $20.80 more per paycheck on gasoline (or $540.80 more per year; or 1.35% (540.80/40000) increase over the previous year).

Should a 1.35% change blow a budget based on 40k? I hope not. I can't remember taking my family out to the movies for $21.00, or buying a new game for that much.

So, the point is. the Government isn't going to fix your budget.

You are.