Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Disturbing and Powerful TV Imagery

To a normal viewer, this might look like an inconspicuous and cute photo. But if you view it in context, this is perhaps one of the most disturbing things I've seen in my life. The image was so powerful I broke down in tears when I first saw it this evening.

Suffice it to say, I am beginning to realize how my outlook on life and thoughts about issues are changing inside, without me even knowing it. I know this is taking place because three years ago I would not have had a second thought about what happened in this photo. Yet tonight I had to speak the words out loud, "It is only a TV show." for the first time in my life.

The image depicted here is a screen capture from the Series Finale of the FX Networks show "The Shield". If you haven't seen the series, I recommend you do so. It is one of the gems in the rough, in my opinion. The series came to a climactic end as one of the main characters will be going to jail. He and his wife have been on the run for days with their innocent three year old son, Jackson. Hopped up on coke, the father gets some pain killers and mixes them in with the water. The wife and son had no idea what he was doing as he called a "Family Meeting". They shared the water and went to sleep, never to awaken. The father ultimately takes his own life.

I find it odd that I'd be so disturbed (and kept up so late) not by the bloody depiction of someone splattering their brains on the wall, but rather the fact that the man conciously went to the store to purchase a toy for his little son to die with. I immediately was bombarded with thoughts of my little boy and the joy in his face as he plays with his toys. Even now it is tough to write this. The thought of something so heinous just does not compute in my mind. Words can't express my love for family, and the joy just being with them gives me. I think one such expression of that love for them is my tears over seeing something like this. Even in fiction, the emotional response that it illicited from me was tremendous - and I'm sure my wife will tell you, outward emotion in the form of tears doesn't happen with me often (ever? At least since we've been married save for maybe 1 time?)

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Wii're nuts

Take a look :)

Another Wii Fit Update!

Okay, so the results are below. I've got my 1 month chart for weight and BMI, as well as the historical view starting from May so you can see the overall trend. My weight as of May 20th was 255, and tonight was 229. This is a sustained loss of 26 lbs. Yaaa :-)




Tuesday, October 14, 2008

There goes summer!

Yes, it is a play on my other post. Summer came and went and the tree still hovers out back. Between my dental fiasco and the new freezer, all of our discretionary funds have been used for awhile.

Oh well. Here's to hoping the tree stands up to another winter.

Wii Fit Update!

Well folks, here it is October 14th. On May 20th, we began using Wii Fit to track our weight loss. I'm rather proud to say through changed diet and a bit more exercise (and accountability) this evening I am proud to say I've lost 20lbs since that time. While I'd like to have been farther, I'm proud that I've kept a lot of it off. Hey, if you add up all the weight I started gaining to my total its about 27lbs!

At any rate - To those thinking about Wii Fit, I'd say do it, if nothing else for the accountability. "Woohoo". Here's to another 60!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Arg! Someone hit our new car today

It may only be a minor scrape, but there is something aggrovating about watching someone slowly run into your car in a parking lot. A young driver bumped our 2008 Sontoa today and scraped our mirror as we watched in horror. Then they were freaking out and claiming there was no damage. I called the Target security folks over to take a look and get a report/pictures.

Arg...

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Edgewood Electric

We had Edgewood Electric back up on Monday to install 6 canister lights. They did a fantastic job once again. I cannot stress how professional this company is and just how reasonable their prices are. They were done in a matter of hours and even cleaned up the mess, sweeping too, just in case stuff didn't get on the drop-plastic.

I highly recommend these folks to anyone in the Puyallup area. They are a top notch company.

That being said, we can now see in our large room at night! It is "can"tastic! (sorry but puns are wonderful)!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Wisdom teeth removed

Now that the bleeding has stopped, this isn't so bad yet. There is a bit of uncomfortableness, especially when trying to eat (yes, mushy food) but it isn't nearly as bad as everyone was making it out to be. I guess I just have a huge tolerance for pain (although, they did perscribe Oxycodone which I guess is generic percocet, as well as Hydroxyzine and the antibiotic amoxicillin.

Civic Action NOW - Bail out information

(Here is a copy of an e-mail I sent to friends. Here it is, posted)

Feel free to forward this e-mail around.


I send this e-mail as a followup to my e-mail informing you of Rep. Adam Smith's vote "Yea" despite 1000-to-1 calls and e-mails against the measure (completely disregarding the feelings of those in his district - source)

Tonight the Senate approved a modified version of the bill I e-mailed about yesterday. Both of our Senators, Cantwell and Murray, voted. Neither are up for re-election.

Cantwell voted "No" and Murray voted "Yea".

If the Presidential election is of interest to you, Senator McCain, Senator Obama, and Senator Biden all voted "Yea" on the senate bill.

Mrs. Murry has an explaination of her views here (http://murray.senate.gov/news.cfm?id=303965).

If you aren't familiar with the why the bail out is being proposed, I suggest you begin with references available through wikipedia on the status here as well as information about the sub-prime crisis here.

In short, government drove the interest rates down, encouraging lending. People borrowed more than they could own, and began to default. Mortages specifically are bundled into packages and sold to investment banks. Large number of defaults caused these securities to be at risk and caused some banks who purchased large amounts of these to be a huge risk, causing some banks to fail.

I suggest everyone get up on this topic. Whether the bill passes or not, the impact of the bill will affect all of us for most likely a decade or possibly more. Those of you who are 50 or older need to pay the most attention as it is your retirement or pensions at risk if they are involved in the stock market. Let me know if you've got questions or want more information. I've been following this entire "crisis" for the past three years and have literally invested hundreds of hours on research, as it is a of interest to me.

Let your senators and representatives know how you feel. To contact them, you can use the following forms:


Patty Murry - US Senator (D-WA) http://murray.senate.gov/email/index.cfm
Maria Cantwell - US Senator (D-WA) http://cantwell.senate.gov/contact/index.cfm
Adam Smith - Representative 9th District (D-WA) http://www.house.gov/adamsmith/contact/contact.html

If you're outside of the 9th district, you can look up information for who your rep. is at either www.congress.org (look in the top right) or at http://www.house.gov/writerep/


If you are needing money soon (less than 10 years) I suggest you listen to financial experts. Suze Orman is a great source of information and has a show on CNBC every Saturday night at 6 PM Pacific that repeats at 9PM Pacific. Many books are available as well.

Best regards,

Preston

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Markets, Wisdom Teeth, and Presidents

The recent buyout of WaMu by JP Morgan Chase means nothing to us other than our savings account interest rate spiked to 4%. That is a fantastic rate that I hope Chase decides to keep going. Between that and assurances that the FDIC had plenty of liquidity, I wasn't worried.

Next week I get my wisdom teeth out. The bottom two are impacted, but the top two never came in. Either way, it still sucks. I'll be off my feet for a couple days I suppose doped up on pills. I hate medicine!

The Presidential race seems to be "heating up" as it were, although I am honestly still undecided. I'd like to see one of them stand for something I could get behind, but I think it is going to come down to who is going to cost me the least, unfortunately. What a sad state of affairs, in my opinion.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Wii Fit Update

I fell off the rock during July, starting with a cold early on for the 4th weekend. Couple that with my young boy getting more mobile (taking more time to keep out of trouble!) and additional overtime and weddings, it has been busy.

I am glad, however, that I have still maintained a slight decline in weight! Here is the proof. This puts me at -17 lbs since starting on May 21. Not bad at all, in my opinion. I hope by next year I'll be able to be down about an additional 60-70. We'll see!


Thursday, July 31, 2008

July Bills

Here goes - same rules apply from last month.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Lionsgate Customer Support

I don't understand why big businesses feel the need to give customers the runaround. It seems they are still operating on a business model that is decades old and lends itself to abuse. However they do not realize that with the advent of things such as the internet the world is changing in a way like never before and their terrible customer service can hurt business more than ever.

This time the culprit is Lionsgate. In March, we purchased "Stargate - Extended Cut" on Blu-Ray disc from Amazon.com. Unknown to us, the original pressing of this disc had a defect that caused the alien and foreign language subtitles to not appear unless you manually selected subtitle stream 3 each time you play the movie. They later quietly issued new Blu-Ray discs with a fix for the problem. A few folks over at avsforum have reported getting fixed versions. However, the thread is a few months old now and it seems the contact information listed in that thread is no longer being answered. I left a message there several months ago. I returned the disc to Amazon twice and they sent me new ones to attempt to correct the issue but the two new discs had the same issue. They then began refusing to replace the disc and to contact the publisher.

So, foolish me, I began searching for contact information. I found a Lionsgate Home Video customer support e-mail (there was no phone number). I tried e-mailing, however, I immediately received a bounced e-mail. So I tried the general inquiry e-mail, and received a similar rejection. It was at this point I attempted to find another e-mail address within the same domain. A quick search of @lgecorp.com found some phone numbers and e-mails. I called one of the offices and asked for assistance. They then stated that they aren't home entertainment and I should contact reception. They gave me a phone number and politely let me go. After that, I immediately called that phone number but discovered that it was not a valid number. I specifically verified the number twice with the receptionist to be sure. Why would they give me a bogus number intentionally?

I then e-mailed a contact address I found with the phone number and explained the situation that I am only seekingto get in touch with customer support. We'll see how it goes. One thing is clear though, I will not yield until I receive a corrected Blu-Ray DVD.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Lolcats are great!



Too funny to pass up.
Posted by Picasa

The Breakdown of our Middle Class Lifestyle



No, it isn't breaking down. Rather, I've made some pretty charts.

Having nearly an acre of land (0.876) near Fruitland Avenue on South Hill is expensive, but we think our quiet, dead end street is worth it. The most ruckus we've had in the nearly 2 years we've been here is the neighbor who ran over our mailbox (who has yet to fess up the $29.63 for the replacement) and the tree that came crashing down just after we moved in. Not bad, all things considered.

That being said, I think I'm putting it out there showing a breakdown of our expenses. How do yours stack up? Here's what went into the various categories:

"Bills" includes car insurance, cell phones (we do not have a home phone), misc. bills such as license renewal, and energy bill.

"Entertainment" was Comcast (TV and internet, although I consider internet a necessary bill. Definitely more than cell phones, but I digress). Movies, some toys for our son, gifts for other babies (birthday parties) and Netflix.

"Food" category covers trips to Fred Meyer, Costco, Winco, Target, and other stores. Some of this category is actually clothing and or small toys for our son. Also included was our dining out expenses.

"Gas" is pretty obvious - gasoline. Terrible. We set a new family record for driving this month, less than ever before, but our gas bill is higher than it has ever been since we got together.

"Medical" includes trips to the dentist, doctor, chiropractor.

"Misc" covered a hygeine product (hair clippers for a money saving cut for me!)

I'm curious to see how July will stack up. We have a wedding to go to, so gas will likely be higher in addition to a gift. Within that budget, we're also trying to conserve to save for cutting down the tree of death (mentioned earlier) which will come in at a heafty $450 as the bid stands now.

This pie chart doesn't include money put into personal savings, as that happens before the budget is even set. At the end of each month, my policy is that any remaining money will go towards paying down our car loan. After 2 months, we've paid nearly half the loan.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Wii Fit Update

Just an update since my post on 6/8 - I was 249.2lbs then. Today, 6/22/08, I weighed in at 241.0.

That brings my total so far since 5/21 to 13.4lbs. Woo!

(No pictures of the chart because I can't find the camera)

Between eating more slowly, eating less, exercising, and giving up soda, this is going fantastic. Hopefully I'll get to a 'normal' healthy weight in the next 12 months!

*Thud*

:(

The sound it seems no parent can escape. When I first heard horror stories of the infamous thud I thought to myself "Okay, I'll never let that happen."

Good intentions can end badly.

This morning when Rebecca was getting ready she asked an overly drowsy husband, namely me, to watch Peter who was crawling around on our bed after eating. I briefly opened my eyes, long enough for her to get the okay to go get read for church. Shortly after that, there was a loud thud and before Peter could even start crying (and cry he did!) I realized what happened: He crawled off the side of the bed.

Here I was all worried about him falling off the couch or something, but he takes a fall an extra 8" higher from our bed. I felt horrible. I immediately scooped him up but could not console his little tears of fear and pain. Finally he calmed down when he saw Rebecca, but he fussed for a few minutes more as I held him.

Sure as can be, five minutes later, he was trying to crawl to the edge of the bed to see what the heck was over there.


Peter is okay, but he has a bruise on his forehead. Luckily he didn't break any of his little bones (or his nose or anything else, like his neck!).

What a terrible feeling...

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Here comes summer!

Today is beautiful! I've got a quote for $450 on the "tree of doom" hanging out in our back yard. It needs to be cut down before the windy season. The lawn has been mowed and we are making progress out back. Fruit is coming in but I need to get the apple tree's prepped so the apples don't get eaten.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Thoughts on HSA's

Expanded HSA's, or health savings accounts (sometimes known for other purposes as flexible spendable accounts), are on McCain's agenda for health care. I'm all for something that will help save me money, especially since Obama's plan will inevitably cost me somehow (be taxes, higher prices, lower benefits, higher deductibles...it will come out somewhere), but I have to scoff at the idea of HSA's. It wouldn't be bad if my experience with a HSA hadn't been soured by FBMC, for "Fringe Benefits Management Company".

The truth is, the whole process was difficult to tap into, except the part where the employer auto-deducts your pay. Afterwards, you must retain service records (not receipts) from each of the qualifying expenses you want to reimburse. This wasn't explained clearly in their definitions, it only referenced the IRS code which explains what a qualifying expense is, without reference to the IRS code where you could look it up yourself.

The documentation itself came easily enough from our hospital and other expenditures. However, upon submitting it, all claims were rejected. FBMC claimed that we weren't eligible for some of the expenses and others didn't have supporting information. I submitted the same claim forms for three expenditures and the fourth occurred last September.

I concluded they have a deny-all policy. They claimed our account wasn't eligible for reimbursement until 10/1/07, despite the auto-deduct being effective 9/5/07 (the first pay check). After a few contacts back and fourth, they finally said the eligible reimbursement time had passed (3/31/08 was the last day to submit). How fortunate for us!

It is for this reason I scoff at HSA's and the idea of utilizing them further.

Wii - Wii Fit - Wii Fit Wii!

Sorry, bad joke. We got Wii Fit on the first day and I've been pretty good about doing it each day. Sometimes its been every other but I've been able to get in between 15 min to 1hr a day, averaging about 20 minutes.

People laugh about it, but being as it has helped me chart progress, I am pleased so far. Take a look at the results below:

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Retirement

Recently I was asked a some questions about the various retirement plans at work which got me thinking about my own situation again.

Obviously for me it is sort of a cloud, despite the best 'financial outlook' I don't think anyone is qualified to predict what anything will be like 46 years from now. That being said, using today's facts and figures, things are looking pretty bright. It got me thinking, though, of how many people are in trouble. I know many people my mom's age who simply do not think about retirement or are just starting to think about it at age 50. That may be even more scary than my situation - that is, not knowing what will happen in 35-46 years from now as opposed to knowing that in 15 or so years you'll have the make the decision to continue working because your planning wasn't enough.

In addition to that, there are a number of unknown factors, such as additional children, changes to the house, rising cost of fuel and food, inflation, and more. It is a difficult subject to tackle. I'm not yet to the point where I will pay money to someone to help me sort it out - but I am doing a lot of reading on investing to try to get the most bang for my buck. For the time being, though, we are focusing on paying down the new car we recently purchased, paying down the mortgage, and staying out of debt.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Updates!

Okay, so it has been awhile. Nevermind that. Nevermind the fact, also, that I am typing this at 10:42 PM on the night with one less hour of sleep.

I did, however, wish to provide an update on the coming and going of things. First, I will have more time to be with friends and family as well as do more on my house (which has sadly been forgotten these past few months). Why is this you ask? During the time between my posts, I accepted a position with the Puyallup School District. Although the gig at King County was good (they have good pot there[anyone who knows me knows that the previous comment was a joke. I do not condone or encourage the use of marijuana]), the commute was a real bear. My net time away from home will be reduced from 12 hours a day to just about 8 hours 10 minutes, or 2132 hours, down from 3120, for a net gain of 988 hours. Pretty nifty, huh?

In addition to big changes in the work life, the home life has changed a bit too. Peter grows each and every day, and it is great to see new milestones. The latest milestone hasn't been so plesant - his first cold - but overall things have been good, despite his very recent crankiness. I can't wait for him to get better.

Finally, I got out today and finally replaced my mailbox that my neighbor ran over back in November. You know, the neighbor who my whole family witnessed committing the act. The neighbor who said he'd replace said mailbox. The neighbor who will not respond to kindly written letters hand delivered to his door. The neighbor who will be getting a bill for my replacement costs, damaged mail, and installation fee. In addition to the mailbox, my dear neighbor and I felled some trees (okay, mostly him with a new chainsaw, but I watched, pointed, and helped move the newly cut wood around) and my brother Aaron came up and we managed to get through about 100 sq ft of blackberry vines, bushes, and other miscellaneous eye sores before my back began to give. I can't wait for a chance to tackle more of it! It looks so nice getting cleaned out.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Hempfest, 2008 - King County Office Building, Seattle WA


So...I never saw one of these signs at my old job...