Sunday, December 31, 2006


I can not believe that 2006 is winding down. I can't believe that I have been posting on this blog for nearly a year. I've wandered back through various posts, and found yet another good use for a blog: capturing memories.

Some of the highlights of this year has been:
  • Burglar Alarm 2oth Anniversary screening: This was the first time that I had gotten together with Todd, Jay, Rick and George in many, many years. Unfortunately, as we discovered, there is no brunch on the Vista, but IHOP is just around the corner.
  • Birthday Star Wars Marathon: A full day of Star Wars, I - VI, what more could I have asked for?
  • 20 Year High School Reunion: The actual reunion was not as much fun as the pre-reunion. At the reunion, I ran in Maria, who, as it turns out, I have known since Kindergarten. Also, my Youth Group buddy Stacie was there. Jeff B is now a teacher (that really blew me away). The Pre-reunion get together was priceless, and I hope we do not wait another 10 years to do that.
  • Corolla Retreat: Got the chance to go down to Corolla, NC for the night. It was the first time in a long time that I can remember being away from the girls. And, they survived.
  • Discipleship Study: Started and completed a discipleship study with Mr. Heath. What an awesome guy, with lots of insight. I can only hope that I can have that much insight one day.
  • Buffalo Trip: I really had a good trip to Buffalo. Including getting lost, buying a GPS and Roller Blading at the middle school.
  • Total Money Makeover: Potentially one of the biggest impacts in my life this year was my discover of Dave Ramsey. He kicked my butt, and got me thinking straight about how I have been wasting money.
2006 has been a good year for me. I hope that 2007 continues the trend.

Friday, December 29, 2006


Have you seen this new game console from Nintendo called Wii? It differentiates itself with it's controllers that allow you to interact with the games by using "natural" motions. The brilliance behind this form of interaction is that it opens Gaming up for traditionally non gamers. For example, the console comes with "Wii Sports," a collection of games including golf, tennis, baseball, bowling and boxing. You can use the same range of motions with your controller as you would with, say, a tennis racket (backhand, forehand, topspin, etc).

However, there is a dark side. The controllers must be attached to your arm via a wrist strap. Already, a recall has been made on the initial straps. And, if you are too manly to wear the strap, then dozens of cases have been documented on the Wiitatraphies that have occurred (including, but not limited to, busted televisions and finger cuts).

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Crown Me!

A few weeks ago, while enjoying a Firehouse Sub, I broke a tooth that had a hairline fracture for years. Fortunately, the angle of the break was clean, and I did not need to fiddle with wax to try and plug the hole. Today is the day that I go to have the tooth crowned. I am not looking forward to this, as a previous trip still lies darkly with me.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Review: Rocky Balboa

My introduction to Rocky was Rocky III, the Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan of the series. Unfortunately, it was followed up by two films that were not memorable. Rocky IV was a example of 80's Cold War fiction, pitting Rocky against a huge Russian ("I will break you"). I have completely forgotten the plot of Rocky V, except I thought Rocky had a heart problem. But forget about those two. It was Rocky and Rocky II that defined the soul of the boxer, his drive and his character. Add to those first two films Rocky Balboa.

You might think that you are going to see a "fight film." You would be wrong. In fact, there is only one fight in the whole film. But, this film is not about the fight, and it does not follow the typical formula. The formula where Rocky has a fight, loses the fight, training montage (powered by a Survivor soundtrack) and then the final fight, where, in the final seconds of the final round, Rocky wins. Rather, this movie is a heavy character piece, which was completely unexpected. And I think that is what I liked most about the film: I am more interested in Rocky as a man rather than Rocky as a boxing legend.

As a side note, Rocky owns a restaurant, and this reminded me of Ilio DiPaolo's restaurant in Buffalo. I've only been there once before Ilio died, but I had heard that Ilio, like Rocky, would visit with his guest, sharing stories of the ring.

Rocky Balboa: ***+
Theater Worthy and Approved.

Back to Work

I have enjoyed my five day "mini-vacation," but all good things must come to an end. Yesterday, my parents left and my in-laws arrived. This all took place in a matter of hours, and represents the quickest turn around for us on record. Here is a list of all the things I can look forward to this week:
  1. Abbreviated work week
  2. Mexican Dinner with Small Group
  3. Visiting the Dentist to get a tooth capped
  4. Early Release on Friday
  5. Liberty Bowl

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The Day After

Right after the Christmas feast, I put Scrooge into the DVD player. This has to be my favorite musical and my favorite screen version of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol.

So...for all of the wonderful gifts received this year, I can only say:

Thank you very much!
Thank you very much!
That's the nicest thing that anyone's ever done for me
I may sound Double-Dutch
But my delight is such
I feel as if a losing war's been won for me
And if I had a flag I'd hang my flag out
To add a sort of final victory touch
But since I left my flag at home
I'll simply have to say
Thank you very, very, very much!

Monday, December 25, 2006


After a morning full of beef stick, cheese ball, peanuts, crackers and a full on Christmas dinner with Turkey and Ham, I am full.

Off to put in Scrooge and enjoy the next two hours on my back.

Twas the Night before...Wait, it's 3AM!

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Katie and Megan woke up at 3:00 this morning and could not be convinced to go back to sleep. They didn't "Sneak and Peak" this year, but waited patiently until 6:00. Thankfully, the Big Guy made it here after all, and all of their wishes came true.

Katie's big item was a "Fur Real" Butterscotch Pony. This toy is really cool! He snorts, neighs and eats. Along with the Pony, she got a "Lead Rope" and a tack box to keep the Pony nice and clean.

Megan received a "Pet Shop" for her little "Pets," a CD Player (she wore her other one out) and a "Fur Real" Monkey (again, another really cool toy). Santa revealed that the Pony and the Monkey were best friends and it just did not seem right for them to be parted.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

And now, for something completely different.

I heard something on the Dave Ramsey show the other day and would like to share. It is a one of his "financial myths": Why would I ever want to pay off my home mortgage when I get such a great tax return from the government?

For the scenario, to keep all the math simple (besides, this was his scenario), let's make these assumptions:

Mortgage Amount: $200,000
Interest Rate: 5%
Annual Salary: $70,000

At 5%, the amount of interest that you would pay to the bank is $10,000. Since this interest is tax deductible, you do not pay taxes on 70k, but $60,000.

Now consider that you do not have a mortgage. Since you did not pay $10,000 to the bank, your taxable income remains at $70,000. How much would you pay in taxes to Uncle Sam on that $10,000? At 70k, you are in the 25% tax bracket. 25% of $10,000 is $2,500.

So, some might have you believe that it is better to send $10,000 to the bank in interest to avoid sending $2,500 in taxes to the government.

Monday, December 18, 2006

The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men

Guys...if you take my advice given earlier about "pre-shopping" online, make sure you look for the "online only" tags. Needless to say, my plans got shot down early on, and I did wander aimlessly throughout Greenbrier Mall. However, I had already cemented in my cranium the "theme" and I believe that I found gifts that are absolutely perfect for Cindy. 

Twas The Week Before Christmas...

When it comes to giving Christmas gifts, I do not like shopping for my wife using a list. For me, the list seems to start way back in September when I get questions from my mom, "so, make sure you let me know what Cindy wants for Christmas." When we were younger, I use to disguise the fact that I was collecting items for a list. Fast forward fourteen years, and it is almost blunt to the point of flat our asking.

The list is a safety net. I am not as worried about getting her a gift that she wants as much as I am about getting her a gift that she simply does not like. That fear starts to drive me towards simplicity, which might be reflected in the form of a gift card, or worse, cash. That way, she can get what she wants, right? Each December, I stand, like a deer caught in the headlights, frozen by fear that my gift will be rejected.

But, that misses the point of giving a gift.

This year, I am ditching the list, and I am trying a new approach, a set of guidelines.

1. No Clothing - I must remember that I have the worst taste in clothing. If you catch me wearing something that looks decent, just remember, my wife picked that out. Clothing is a sure fire way to having a gift returned.

2. Bath and Body Works - This year, I pledge not to buy anything from this store. Not that there is anything wrong with this store, but just give it a rest this year.

3. No Yankee Candles - This is similar to the B&BW above. I love Yankee Candles, but, this perennial gift will not make it under the tree this year.

4. Prepare before Shopping - Here is where I usually fail. I drive to the local mall and wandering into and out of stores looking for Christmas Inspiration (which usually ends up with a trip to Bath and Body Works and an Ice Cream from Kohr's Brothers). I feel like a zombie from the Romero movie and I loose all focus. Each of the anchor stores have an online store. This year, I will "wander" the virtual stores in the comfort of my own home.

5. Durability and Usability - A gift needs to pass the D&U test. Many gifts that are neither Durable or Usable become items that collect dust. This is not to say that the gift has to be utilitarian in nature, it just means that I am not going to buy something that I know is junk from Bed Bath and Beyond.

6. Appeal to her inner Child - When it comes to Christmas, everyone wants to feel like a kid again. Sure, the food processor is neat, but, a board game that brings everyone away from the TV is a whole lot neater.

7. Who is She - This guideline can really paralyze a guy: he will get caught up trying to find that gift that screams "My Wife's Name" that he does something stupid (like buying a mop or a car). My wife is a natural entertainer. Whether it is with her Violin or as a host, she really sparkles when she entertains. Just think about what causes your wife to Sparkle and there she is.

8. Non-Tangible Gifts - This guideline is for the big day itself. I think Christmas day is best spent in sweat pants and t-shirts, but my wife likes to dress up. While I like to sit down and play with the Kid's Toys, watch a movie, play video games or eat tons of cheese and summer sausage, Cindy is preparing the Christmas Feast.

Guys, here is a secret that fourteen years of marriage has taught me. It is a powerful tool, so use it wisely. It is sure fire, and never once has it failed me. These four simple words could turn out being the best gift of the year. Through out the day, come up to your spouse, look her in the eyes and speak, so that only the two of you can hear, these words: "How can I help?"

There you have it. These are my guidelines for this year. Odd that it looks sorta like a list, and doesn't replace the fact that I have had two Fridays off and it is one week before Christmas and I still have not gone out to shop. But, I spent yesterday preparing and I think I have several ideas to choose from.

Merry Christmas.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Redeeming Netflix Flaps

So far, I have redeemed four Netflix Flaps at Blockbuster. Try saying NetFlix Flaps four times fast.

Flap 1: Planes, Trains and Automobiles: Actually, I went for Three Amigos because I needed something that was both Dumb and Funny. The young man at the counter informed me they no longer carried it for rent, but, I could purchase the film. Of course, that would have defeated that whole "free" theme I was going for by using the Netflix Flaps. I had not seen PTA in many years, and it fit 1/2 of the bill just fine: Funny.

Flap 2: Office Space: Cindy has never seen this movie. Her response was very much the same as she usually has after reading a Dilbert comic. Which is to say, although she appreciates that I find it funny, for her...not so much.

Flap 3: Superman Returns: I still like this film. I appreciate the corny references to the original film. I like how they scale Supes up to items that are much larger than himself to display his power. I did not like the whole Kid thread.

Flap 4: Elf: I am sure that if there were to be a current day equivalent to A Christmas Story this would not be it. However, except for the last fifteen minutes of this film, I still laughed it up.

So, I have one flap left. I have considered renting Rocky, but, I am not sure.

Mad Ibexes

This morning, my daughter Katie was watching me play Battlefield 2142. My Team as backed up against the wall, I was just trying to make a desperate attempt to grab a back flag. I hopped into a jeep and speed to a location as far away as possible. Just as I was about to get into a more "durable" vehicle, my computer locked up.

Katie patted me on the shoulder and offered these words of comfort:

"Dad, don't worry that happens to me from time to time. Once, I was playing Zoo Tycoon and I had a pen with two Ibexes. I accidentally hit the moon button on the keyboard. Later, I came back later, and I had a pen full of angry Ibexes."

Playing Church

This week, I used the phrase "playing church" when someone described how one of their relatives bounced between the Catholic and Lutheran church. Inside, it made me smile, because, just that morning, I had been reading about Luther and Calvin. I am sure that if the relative had a historical perspective, then they might also see how odd those choices are. However, I just made the comment that they are simply "playing church."

Matthew 3:12, the John the Baptist describes a threshing room floor, covered with wheat and all the bits of that has fallen of the wheat stalks. In this picture, Jesus is standing in the threshing room and is holding a fan that is causing the wheat and the chaff to separate. The wheat is gathered and placed inside the grainery and the chaff is burned away.

Just so that we are clear on the symbolism here: The floor is the church and only two kinds of people go to church - Wheat People and Chaff People. Chaff People think they are good with God because they go to church, live decent lives and are good citizens. However, one day, the Wheat People will be physically separated from the Chaff People.

Many times, I feel that I am eternally secure because I belong to a church. Odd that I would think that, eh? It's not a conscious thing that I think, but, my actions tell on me. You see, I have gotten the horse before the cart so to speak. My focus has shifted ever so slightly from Jesus over to a building. It seems natural: I do not physically see Jesus day to day, but, I see my church several times a week. My mind becomes focused on the here and now. My mind becomes focused on the work. And sometimes, I just go on auto-pilot. I show up, pull out my trombone and just play. No worship, just notes, intonation and rhythms. So, who is playing church now?

Ga 6:9 And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Redeem Netflix Flaps for Blockbuster Movies

I saw this last week, but forgot to post. If you are a Netflix subscriber, you can take the flap of your Netflix Mailer (the part you throw away) and redeem it for a movie rental at Blockbuster video. This offer is good through 12/21/2006.

Netflix subscribers who wish to participate in the program can tear off the address flaps they normally discard when mailing back their DVDs and turn them in at any participating Blockbuster store to receive a free in-store movie rental. They can continue to bring in their envelope flaps and exchange them for free in-store rentals for the duration of the promotion. Netflix customers do not need to subscribe to Blockbuster's online program to participate. To utilize the free store rentals, Netflix customers do need to have a Blockbuster store membership, which they can sign up for on the spot. Store membership is free.

So, go out and get that free movie...

Monday, December 11, 2006

Me and My Gal

All dressed up and ready for the Christmas Party! Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, December 05, 2006


For years, I have always budgeted money to pay bills, but, there was that part of my income that always seemed to disappear in the nebulous "Miscellaneous" category. I have played a game of see-saw with my credit card by running it up and paying it down, running it up and paying it down.

That's when I discovered a radio talk show host named Dave Ramsey and his "Total Money Makeover" Book. There is absolutely no "get rich quick" scheme, but, he doles out a hefty amount of common sense. He draws on his experience of having gone bankrupt to tell you the things that we do that lead down that road.

The Total Money Makeover is divided into a series of Baby Steps.

  • Step 1 : get a $1000 emergency fund. Stop using credit.
  • Step 2 : pay off all of your debts, except for your mortgage. Pay off the smallest first while paying minimum on the remaining. As you pay off one debt, start tackling the next. If you have to use your emergency fund, stop BS2 and go back to BS1.
  • Step 3 : Fully Fund your emergency fund to 3 to 6 month of expenses (not income).
  • Step 4 : Invest 15% to retirements. Earlier, he has suggested that you stop all investments until you get to this step. The most important tool you have to getting out of debt is your income, and you are going to need all of it to get back to this step.
  • Step 5 : Invest in your kids college fund
  • Step 6 : Pay off your Mortgage

Printed at the bottom of each page is the quote "Live like no one else so that later you can live like no one else." December makes the second month that Cindy and I have allocated every dollar in my take home pay to a category. We ended up in November with a budget surplus (which went to Chase Manhattan) because we did not spend everything we had categorized.

Also, there is the angle about being a good steward of the money that God has given to us. I don't consider myself a steward of 10% of my income, but rather all of it. I am learning some common sense skills about money that is helping me to be a better steward. In turn, I am turning into a better giver.