Thursday, June 30, 2005

Google Earth

I was so excited to get Google Earth. So many people raved about keyhole and Google Earth, I figured I’d check it out. The first thing I do is type in my address in Frederick, Maryland to see what it looks like from above. Well, what a disappointment, basically, nothing, you could make out some of the roads, and some dark splotches where houses should be, but that is it. All the oohing and ahing over Google Earth, and for what. The entire state of Indiana, New Jersey, and Massachusetts have the full detail that everyone is raving about, as well as some major metropolitan areas. Frederick however, isn’t on the map, at least not in detail.

Family Reunion

Amy, Alex, and I will be going to West Virginia this weekend to attend a family reunion. Robin and Aaron are coming too. She hasn’t been to one in a while, in fact, this will be the first time she’s been to West Virginia since our grandparents moved back there. The plan is for Robin to come our house tonight, spend the night, and we will leave for West Virginia on Friday, sometime after breakfast.

Alex is going to have so much fun, and if Aaron likes animals, he’ll have a lot of fun too. Last year, Alex couldn’t get enough of the dogs, cats, birds, and chickens. It is back in the middle of nowhere, so, the kids have a lot of room to run around and play without us hovering over them constantly.

There will be plenty of good food for us adults, and for me at least, a lot of catching up with various family. I’ll enjoy taking with my grandfather about our latest computer adventures. I’ll try to snap a picture or two and post it on the blog upon my return.

Robin’s Blog

Robin’s Blog, located at has been real short on updates lately. I’m sure she has plenty to blog about, Aaron is always doing new things, being bad, or whatever. She’s going away this weekend, the same place I’m going which I’ll blog about in a later post. So Robin, what’s up with the lack of blog content?

Supreme Court Decision on Eminent Domain

So I’m a little late with my comments on this one. I’ve made it clear on my local news forum that I disagree with the decision and that if anything, eminent domain should be more restricted. What brings this back to mind is my blog surfing. You’d be surprised how many people have been placing the blame on “Republicans” and “Conservatives”. Clearly, they have not read the decision, or if they have, they don’t have a clue. The opinion was 5-4, with the four dissenting justices being the most conservative on the court, all Republicans appointed by Republican presidents. I hope I won’t have to read another blog or forum thread talking about Bush’s nominations, and how it will make this sort of things worse, but I doubt it.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

New Water Heater

I had to buy a new water heater today. Based on the size of our current water heater, which seems a little small, and the recommendations of a plumbing book on the size of water heater that we will need for our family, we had to go with the eighty gallon model. The price for the water heater wasn’t so bad, only $450, but the installation fees, and other required components really racked up. Frederick County requires a building permit for such things, and since I’m on public water, they have to install an expansion tank.

The breakdown:

Water Heater: $450
Expansion Tank: $100
Installation for water heater: $230
Installation surcharge for >53gal: $50
Expansion tank installation: $40
Building Permit: $36

Total: $906

The good news is, I got a $35 mail in rebate.

Frederick County Public Library

It has been a while since I actually used a public library, but a few months ago, I needed to make a photo copy, the cheapest place was the library. Amy, Alex, and I all went together and got library cards at the same time. Since then, Alex and I have gone to the library a few times to get books. We had one book for a while, and I got an e-mail from the library telling me that it was going to be due in a few days. That was pretty cool. The three of us went to the library yesterday to return the book and of course, check out another. I was thrilled to get an e-mail, telling me that the book was due. Without it, I might have forgotten all about returning the book.

One thing that I didn’t like was my experience using their computer system. I needed to print out a job application and my printer didn’t have any ink. I thought, I’ll just run down to the library and print it out. Wrong, their computers did not have Microsoft Word. Now, I understand that Word is an expensive program, but it is used just about everywhere. My suggestion would be that if you are not going to have Microsoft Word, at least load up the free Word Viewer, since there are millions of Word documents out there on the internet, a quick Google search shows about 4 million documents starting with the letter E, you’d think you’d be able to view those at the library.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Cleaned Up Computer Desk

I had a mess in and around my computer desk, with the printer, scanner, and TNC on the floor, a bunch of stuff piled on the desk (aka table). So, now there is a pile of stuff on the floor, and all the computer equipment is on the table.

I snapped a picture that I’m going to upload with blogger images, I will see if it is better than putting it on my personal web space and linking to it.

From Left to Right
Dell Dimension 8400
Dell UltraSharp 20” Monitor
Dell UltraSharp 20” Monitor
Microsoft Optical Mouse
Lexmark Z11 Printer
MFJ-1278 Multi-Mode Data Controller (under printer)
HP ScanJet 4100C

Madden NFL 2K5 Super Bowl

I won; a perfect season of 19 strait wins (23 if you count pre-season). I beat the Carolina Panthers, 34-7. It wasn’t a blow out win, but it was a win. I decided to simulate the pro bowl, I didn’t even pay attention to who won. Now, it is the off season, and I have a lot of administrative type work to do on my team. I signed the coaches, but there are some players that I’ll need to replace. This year shouldn’t be to hard, but if I keep wining the way I do, I’ll have the lowest salary cap and might have trouble keeping my good players. I’ll play another season for sure, I hope it is another 19 strait win season, but one thing is for sure, I’ll keep it down to one, maybe two games in a single day.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Ham Radio Field Day

I was going to enter the field day contest but it seemed that I would not be able to participate today. So instead I bought a new radio and antenna for the car, expecting to pick up a contact or two while I was on the road. It turned out that I had plenty of time for the contest, so, I parked the car up on a mountain and had a blast. Although I didn’t officially enter the contest, I had a lot of fun making contacts across the two meter band FM mode. Below is my log of contacts.

K4NVA 3A-VA 146.58MHz (Sterling Va)
N3DUE 2A-MDC 146.58MHz
K4VOC 4A-VA 146.58MHz
KB3JQQ 1B-MDC 146.58MHz
W3A0 9A-VA 146.550MHz
W4IY 9A-VA 146.55MHz
W3CAO 146.58MHz (I was in transit)
N3JOZ 1DPA 146.55MHz
KB3JFG 147.57MHz
W3WOD 1C-MDC 147.495MHz (Catonsville Md)
KD4IEA 1D-VA 146.55MHz
AA3T 1B-EPA 146.55MHz
W3KGN 3F-EPA 146.55MHz

Earlier in the day I spoke with N3RO in the neighborhood next to mine on 146.52MHz, the first contact on my radio.

I called and called on 147.555MHz, but there was no answer. That was the first amateur frequency I used when I got my license. My Boy Scout troop used that frequency as a talk around and for organizing transportation. I’ve never heard anyone else on use it, one of these days, I’ll make a contact!

New Ham Radio – Icom IC-V8000

I picked up a new two meter amateur radio the other day, the Icom IC-V8000. I read a lot of reviews, and it was the best radio out of the three other brands. It is also a little more expensive than the others, but not much. I was going to choose the Yaesu FT-2800M because it was the cheapest, but looking at them side by side, the Icom was so much smaller, I had to go with it. My car doesn’t have much room for radio mounting, so, size really does matter in this case. I also picked up a 5/8 wave magnetic mount antenna, I sure hope this can be the last magnetic mount Antenna I have to get, I’d much prefer an NMO mount, but just haven’t gotten the nerve to put a hole in my car.

Mounting Location

Close Up


Antenna Close Up

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

More on Social Security

I don’t know why I think I know all the answers, but I like to propose my solutions anyway! First, personal accounts don’t really matter one way or the other. Most of us, at least those of us who actually think about retirement, already have personal accounts that we contribute to in the form of a 401k, IRA, or other sort of savings. Instead of giving us some government managed personal account, how about giving us some additional incentive to maintain our own personal accounts?

I don’t agree with the proposals to pay reduced benefits to those who have paid the most into the social security system. Although, one solution would be to eliminate the $90,000/year or so cap of wages that you pay social security on. Also, raising the age of retirement isn’t a bad idea. This wouldn’t put a whole lot more into the system, but would effectively reduce benefits for higher income workers, without actually reducing benefits. I would personally be affected by this change, of course, I’d rather have the six percent of the extra few thousand I make to put into my own account, I’d gladly give it up in order to help the system.

What can we all agree on, well, we don’t want to pay a higher percentage of our paycheck into social security? Other than that, the issues can get quite polarizing.

I’m going out on a limb with a crazy idea that doesn’t sound like me at all with this one. Maybe the federal government could find some way to require us to put a percentage of money away for retirement. This would impact me, as I do so without the government telling me too. Not everyone wants to risk their money in stock, bonds, or mutual funds, but putting the money in a standard savings account or in some sort of savings bond program might work. Its an idea that I don’t really like, and doesn’t actually solve the social security funding problem, but it sounds like a way to accomplish the goal of higher returns on private accounts without a huge government management system wrapped around it. It would however, effectively be an additional payroll tax.

What do I like about all of the talk on Capitol Hill? They are committed to leave things the same for older workers and those already receiving benefits. Of course, they have their reasons; these older workers are a huge voting block that they don’t want to upset.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Personal Finance – Under Funded Roth IRA

I should be putting away $333 per month in my Roth IRA. Of course, I’m not even close with my measly $100 per month. I’m 27 years old and I have only managed to save about $5000 for retirement. My financial advisor made a point to remind me that my wife and I can put away $8000/year between us. I need to get a job with a good 401k match. At one point, I was working for a company that matched 401k dollar for dollar up to six percent of your pay. I didn’t work for them long enough to take advantage of that match though. That’s too bad; it would have been a great way to save for retirement. Oh well, opportunity missed. I should probably work out a budget that will permit me to contribute more all around to savings.

Madden 2K5 – Super Bowl Time

Ok, so, I’ve gone crazy over this game. It is time for me to play the super bowl. I have had a perfect season, and crushed my two playoff opponents. Now, I will play the panthers in the super bowl. I was hoping the Giants would win, because it would have been a cool rematch of the 2001 super bowl, but they didn’t. Oh well. I sure hope I win, it would be a shame to be perfect all season (including pre-season) and then loose it all at the end.

Game - Week 16

Ok, it happened again, I tried to load up my game for week 16 verses the Pittsburg Steelers and the game just wouldn’t load. I was getting a little upset at the game and then I thought of something, I could just skip to week 17 and simulate all the games that have yet to be played. I would be taking my chances on a win or a loss, but it worked. Not only did it work, but the game was a win, putting my record at 15-0. Week 17 I beat the Miami Dolphins to improve my record to a perfect 16-0 for the season. How fitting, completing the perfect season against Miami. So, now it is time for the playoffs. I don’t really know what to expect. I sure hope I can continue to win. If I should win the super bowl, I guess the game will move on to a new year. I’ll probably end up with some salary cap issues in future seasons, I have signed to really hot players, Andrew (WR) and Alex (QB), that I created to huge contracts for seven years.

Mountain Dew is Good

I sure do drink a lot of Mountain Dew. I drink at least two or three cans each day. It’s a good thing I shop at Costco, man; I couldn’t imagine dropping fifty cents or more on each can.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Madden 2005 – Franchise Game

I had a franchise started in Madden 2005 but it wouldn’t load my 15th game. I was a little annoyed at that. I decided later to start another franchise and I’ve been doing quite well. I’m 14-0 in my first season, that’s right; I’m up to the 15th game. I haven’t played it yet, I sure hope it loads; I’ve already clinched home field advantage in the playoffs. It looks like I’ll be winning the super bowl this year. I was trying to make Jamul Lewis set the season rushing record, but so many teams have been killing my running game it’s not funny. I have however, been able to really rack up the score using my passing game. No doubt it’s because they are often playing the run, and I make a big gain down field. There is some hope, my last game I had 205 yards, but I think I’m at 1800 yards or so with only two games left. More to come on Madden 2005, you can be sure of that.

Andrew Week

Andrew’s Aunt is getting married on July 2nd. Right in the middle of what would be a rare holiday weekend visitation where I would get the weekend and the holiday. I was planning to go a family reunion that weekend and wouldn’t be able to give up just Saturday. Instead, I talked to Andrew’s mother and let her know that I would skip the July fourth holiday weekend in exchange for having Andrew all week this week. So far, he has been fairly good, even played outside a little today. He still would rather sit in front of the TV all day, but we try our bests to get him to do other things. Later this week, it looks like we will get to go swimming, Andrew’s favorite activity. Hopefully we will be able to go more than once this week, I know both Alex and Andrew will enjoy it. I hope to find something else that the kids can do together, I was thinking that they might like to take in a baseball game, or at a minimum, go to the arcade in the mall.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Baby Number Three

Amy and I have been hoping for a baby girl, but today, we found out otherwise, it’s going to be a boy. It’s not so bad, we already have two boys, and lots of little boy toys and clothes. Ultrasounds have come a long way from what I remember before Andrew was born. Here are the pictures.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Number 64 Bus

Back in August of 2001 I wrecked my car pretty bad, so bad it was in the shop for almost six weeks being repaired. During that time, I had to be creative in getting back and forth to work. Fortunately during that time, I was out of town for a week, where I didn’t need a car. I used to catch the number 64 bus home most of the time, even though its closest stop was three miles from my house at the time. The biggest problem is that the bus that went all the way from downtown to the county only ran about once per hour. If it weren’t for that, I may have used the bus even when my car was working.

Recently, the MTA has decided to change the bus routes, one of the lines they are planning to change is the number 64’s stops in Anne Arundle County. They cite the low number of daily riders to these stops. Perhaps, running to Rivera Beach as frequently as all of the other stops in Baltimore City would increase the number of daily riders, and in turn, lower the taxpayer subsidy, while providing an alternative to those who drive to Baltimore daily, who like myself, would prefer not to pay $10 per day to park or sit in increasingly congested traffic (behind the wheel at least).

None of this really matters to me now, as I live in Frederick County. I still use public transportation when it makes sense, for example, when commuting to DC, I prefer to use the MARC train instead of sitting in the parking lot known as I270 every day. I do agree that the MTA needs some changes, and some routes, it will make sense to cut, but others, maybe an increase in service would have the desired effect of lowering the taxpayer subsidy per rider.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Game consoles, will they end PC gaming?

I’m interested to find out what the new Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 will sell for. I doubt they will break the $400 mark, and could even debut at or around $300. Game console makers loose money on every console and make up for it by selling games, something that PC manufactures can not do. With the best video cards selling for more than a game console, and games that are pretty much selling for the same retail price, why spend all the money on a high end PC for gaming, when you could just get the latest game console and a PC w/o a $500 video card to do your day to day? In the end, it will be cheaper, and a lot less hassle.

Hot Day - No Air Conditioning

At the end of the season last year, the air conditioner didn’t seem to be working correctly, although the heat worked just fine. Since it is the same system, I would expect that a problem with one would be a problem with the other. Anyway, I’m a little worried about having to shell out a lot of cash to get it fixed if we turn it on and it doesn’t work. So, what are we doing, well, we are running fans. It sure is a hot day, and being upstairs on the computer, well, that isn’t helping. A lot of time has been spent in the basement where it is a bit cooler. That’s not a bad place to be, it is the location of the big screen TV, DVD player, and the Xbox. If we can make it until Thursday, there is cooler, much cooler weather ahead for us. It is up to Amy of course, she is the one who will decide when and if the air conditioning will be turned on, I just hope it works when she decides, and if not, that I will have the extra money to get it fixed. For now, well, at least we are saving money on the electric bill.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

FredNet: frederick online

If you live in Frederick Md, and haven’t yet checked out FredNet: frederick online, you should do so. I do enjoy reading Guy’s posts on various topics, all related to places and happenings in Frederick.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Amy is now playing the Xbox

A few days ago, Amy decided to go ahead and play Knights of the Old Republic, and I started up a new game as well. We are using her brother’s method of not leveling up until you become a Jedi. While not particularly easy, you have to play the game for seven to ten hours with a really weak character. Anyway, as with most role playing games, once you get into it, you realize that you built your character wrong from the get go, and you start over, that is what Amy did. She is trying harder to be on the dark side, and gaining more experience points it seems.

As for my game, I’m trying to make sure I unlock all the various quests that I can do, as long as they are not limited to the dark side! It takes a lot of talking to your party members, and flying around. I think there might be some randomness in weather or not the quests start or not. So far, I’ve unlocked Bastila’s Mother, Carth’s Son, and Mission’s Brother. You have to be careful what you do, because you can get ahead of some of the side quests by completing main quests, once that happens, you can’t go back and find Mission’s brother for example. Fortunately, I’ve played the game before and know what do to and not to do.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Rainbow after the storm

We had a pretty big thunderstorm here in Frederick this evening. Alex and I sat at the sliding glass door watching the lightning. After the storm had mostly moved past, a rainbow appeared; I was showing it to Alex and noticed the camera sitting on the counter so I snapped a picture.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Orange Soda

I had to punish Alex for lying today. I walked down stairs and saw him putting down a glass of orange soda that had a little bit left in it from earlier this morning. He quickly said, “Nothing” before I even asked him anything. I asked him, “did you drink that orange soda?” and he said, “No”. I said, “I see that you have orange soda on your mouth, are you sure, did you drink the orange soda?” And he said, “No” again. So, I sent him to his room. I tried to explain that it was ok to tell me if he did something wrong, but he wouldn’t admit it. Lying or telling the truth is a hard thing for a three year old to understand, but he really doesn’t have an option. I was hoping he would learn a lesson today, but it doesn’t look like it.

Amy’s Droid

As anyone who has been reading my blog for the last few weeks knows, I’ve been playing the Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic games on the Xbox. Amy would spend a lot of time with my while I was playing the game. Often commenting on the responses she would choose in any given conversation, she certainly leans toward the dark side, which works out for her favorite droid, HK-47. HK-47 is basically an older model droid built and programmed for assassination. He is anxious to kill just about anyone or anything, and comments like, “Should I blast these meatbags full of holes master?” give him a lot of character. Oddly enough, you need him if you want to follow the light side path of the game because it is the only way to translate the language of the sandpeople, and if you aren’t going to kill them all, you need to talk to the chieftain. He shows up in both games, but in the second, you have to repair him by gathering parts and pieces scattered around the galaxy.

HK-47 in the databank – Warning – Game Spoiler

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Disappointing Ending to the Game

Knights of the Old Republic II had a disappointing ending. Basically, after you defeat Darth Traya, you can ask her a bunch of questions about the future of your other characters, yourself, the republic, etc. When that is done, she “dies” and the Ebon Hawk comes to pick you up, I would assume it is piloted by Atton, but you never really know. The Ebon Hawk leaves the planet, and the planet blows up, or rather, cracks into a few large chunks, behind you and the Ebon Hawk flies off into space. And that is it. The ending for the original Knights of the old Republic was quite a bit better. Of course, I experienced the light side ending, but I read up a little, and the dark side ending isn’t any better.

There are a lot of plot points that just sort of stay hanging, the Remote droid and G0-T0 were supposed to fight it out over the final destruction of the planet, but, you never see that play out (maybe in the dark side ending?). Other things, it looked like the Ebon Hawk was destroyed, so, how does it come to your rescue. What happens to Mira, she fought with Hanharr and defeated him. Perhaps, there will be a Knights of the Old Republic III.

Finished KOTR2

Ok, I beat the game. The ending wasn’t as hard as I expected it would be, although a little harder than the original. As far as game play, Knights of the Old Republic II was a little better except for some game glitches. The original Knights of the Old Republic had a much better plot line. All in all, it’s a good game, I’m glad I borrowed it from Amy’s brother instead of buying it, I just don’t think that it was good enough to spend $50 on.