Sunday, October 31, 2010

Tight Schedule

Last week I was in San Jose for work, enjoying their glorious weather while Minnesota had 60 mile an hour winds and then snow. Of course, since it was days filled with all day meetings, I'm exaggerating the weather enjoyment. But walking to and from the car each day was nice I guess.

My flight home on Thursday was scheduled for 6:30am, which would have gotten back to Minneapolis around 12:00 or 12:30. So I dutifully got up at 4:40am and made my way to airport for the early morning flight. After about an hour on the plane, we still hadn't taken off and I started to wonder what was up. After about another 30 minutes of troubleshooting they determined that some part had failed and so we all had to get off the plane.

Now the flight was completely full and since Delta has a limited presence in San Jose they had only a few gate agents and even fewer flight options for an entire plane full of people trying to make connections. After standing in line for about 30 minutes (and not having moved hardly at all) they announced a new part would be coming in with a plane from Salt Lake and our flight wouldn't be canceled. In the meantime a phone call to our travel agency had switched the tickets over to a flight going through LA and home by 5:30.

With the part arriving around 10am, the original flight was supposed to get home about 3:30, so another phone call switched back to the original flight. And my co-workers and I went for some breakfast and crossed our fingers the part would actually fix the plane.

A little after 10am we started filing onto the plane again, after the captain had verified the fix. Of course at that point we were so far off schedule we got delayed taking off from San Jose and landing in Minneapolis, so we didn't actually get in until about 4:15 or 4:30.

That left me just enough time to get home at 5:15pm, leave again for a quick dinner out, and make it to our birthing class from 6:30-9pm. The whole agreement for this last minute trip to San Jose was that I would be back in time to go to the class, so I was pretty nervous that all of the delays were going to make me miss it. Luckily they didn't, but it ended up being a pretty long day even though all I didn't do much.

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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Destruction!

This afternoon there was some excitement in the neighborhood. Our next door neighbor's daughter was being dropped off at home after cheerleading practice. Her friend, along with a carload of other high school girls was driving a shiny new silver Honda Pilot SUV.

After dropping off my neighbor, the girls somehow managed to back out of the driveway, head down the road to leave the neighborhood and within half-a-house worth of road build up enough speed to demolish a mailbox on the opposite side of the street. And not just bump the mailbox, or knock it over, demolish it.

No one is quite sure how this happened since there wasn't really enough room to have built up 'lose control' speed, nor were the roads slippery with rain, snow, or ice.

After running over the mailbox, the driver was standing in the middle of the road sobbing, I presume with fear over what her parents were going to say, since no one was hurt.

The fact that no one was hurt also leaves me free to think the whole episode was hilarious, and to help you understand the ridiculousness of the accident, I've created a drawing of the dramatic event:


Texting while driving, distracted by three friends in the back being silly, we may never know. But at least only a mailbox paid the price.

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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Double Damaged Goods

I complained back in September about failed attempts to have furniture shipped to our house. The first shipment never even made it, it was damaged enough during UPS handling that we never saw it. So we reordered, and it made it to the house but was damaged and sent back. We gave them one more shot, and that one was equally as damaged. The frustrating part was looking at the packing materials in the second failed attempt at shipping and wondering how any items ever make it to their destination undamaged.

Witness the state the box was in, immediately after opening:
DSC_5870

I assume everything was not just haphazardly thrown into the box on shipment, but because there was almost nothing solid in the box other then the furniture pieces, everything shifted around until the pieces were broken, scratched, or both.

One of the best moves was resting a metal piece inside a larger wooden piece, with nothing between them to protect the wood. Resulting in scratches like this:
DSC_5872

You can't really see the depth of the scratches in the picture, nor the chipped corner from the box of hardware that was 'protecting' the piece from the side, but they weren't just surface things that could be buffed out and went all down the front of both sides of the primary piece of wood. A couple of the smaller pieces of wood had gotten caught between larger pieces and snapped during shipping.

All in all, a stellar piece of shipping work by Basset Baby.


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Monday, October 18, 2010

Sick Day

I guess my illness from yesterday turned out to be an actual cold, as I woke up this morning feeling even worse. To the point where I called in sick to work, something that I haven't done for well over a year and possibly pushing two years.

You'd think with all that time around the house today, I would have had time to put together a good blog post. But alas, between napping, playing some Halo 3 solo campaign, and reading The Way of Kings, the day zipped by.

Now its off to bed so hopefully I feel better tomorrow.

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Sunday, October 17, 2010

Pumpkin Orange

DSC_5876I've been planning to paint one of our bedrooms upstairs for weeks now, but haven't had the time before this weekend. Whenever I talked with anyone about it, and I mentioned we were painting the room orange I would always qualify it as a sort-of taupey orange, not pumpkin orange. This weekend I put two coats of the paint up, which took a lot longer then I was expecting to do by myself, only to discover that I was in fact lying. Because it is indeed pumpkin orange.

Oh, perhaps a paler orange than the pumpkin that we have on our front porch, but it is orange. And a far more bold color choice then you might be used to seeing in an Eck household. Still, I think it will work with the furniture that is coming for the room.

The unfortunate part is that either I am coming down with a nasty cold, or I'm allergic to Benjamin Moore paint, because ever since I put the first coat up I've been miserably sick. Runny nose, sneezing, coughing, etc. Hopefully by tomorrow it will have run its course and I can write it off as too much paint smell (although the paint was surprisingly non-odorous, especially for regular VOC paint).

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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Dangerous

Tonight while walking the dog Linzy and I were discussing CPR and specifically the change in 2008 where it was recommended to only do one half of what used to be involved with giving CPR. The discussion was because we disagreed over which part had been eliminated. That is, one person was arguing for only doing the breathing and the other was arguing for only chest compressions.

As it turns out, the correct change was to do 'hands-only' CPR, where you only compress the chest. Good to know I guess, since picking the wrong half to do would probably not have ended well for whoever was distressed.

I won't even tell you which of us would have been your well-intentioned CPR doom prior to tonight, but rest assured that we are now equally prepared to leap into action and save someone.

...Wait, was it breathing only?






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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Simplified - Or Not

Last week I got a letter in the mail from the bank that manages my 401k account from my old job. The notice turned out to be more then just the normal quarterly statement, it was actually informing me that basically all of the investment options were being replaced with target date funds (where the asset mix automatically changes based on your supposed retirement in a given year). The gist was that if I didn't move the money somewhere else, everything would be automatically converted over to whatever fund they thought fit the best based on my age.

After investigating a bit, this seemed like an ideal time to finally roll the account over to my current 401k, eliminating an account and simplifying the number of investments we were carrying. The distribution of types of investments were similar between the two 401ks, but due to the slight differences between which funds were available to which plans, the actual funds were slightly different.

This hadn't really been a problem, per se, but it seemed like time to admit that I had been unnecessarily lazy in not moving the money over the past four years. In discussing this with my dad (intending to debate an IRA versus 401k), he actually brought up that 2010 happens to be the one year window for conversions of 401k accounts to Roth IRAs without income limits (normally 100k even for married filing jointly) and with a deferral for the accompanying income tax over two tax years (2011 and 2012).

The advantage of the Roth IRA, of course, is that it is after tax money that grows tax free. As opposed to the 401k that is pre-tax money taxed on withdrawl. Since no one knows what tax rates will have done by the time I retire, the theory is having money in both types of accounts diversifies your tax exposure. Converting an existing account also gets around the annual contribution limits and the income limits on contributing money in the first place.

The downside (other then the risk that you end up in a lower tax bracket in retirement), of course, is that converting pre-tax money to post-tax money means paying taxes on it. Potentially lots of taxes, depending on what that extra income does to your tax bracket. Thus the two year deferral of taxes is key, since paying taxes on half the conversion in tax year 2011 (calendar 2012) and half in tax year 2012 (calendar 2013) gives you some time to save the money and avoid the penalties that would accompany not having made estimated tax payments in the year of the conversion.

After discussing it with Linzy at length, we decided that while it would have been far better to have done the conversion in January before this year's 30% run-up, it made a lot of sense to do the conversion anyways. Of course, that means that instead of consolidating accounts, I actually ended up with a new account, complicated tax considerations, the need to adjust tax witholding at work for next year, and homework to research totally different investments.

How's that for simplification?

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Sunday, October 10, 2010

Movies

Over the past month, I watched quite a few movies/tv shows but virtually none at home. Which I suppose makes sense, since I was only at home for about 10 days. But, as I also had over 40 hours worth of plane flights, there was plenty of time for keeping my metabolism low and staring at a screen.

Karate Kid (new version) - On the flight from Minneapolis -> Paris we did not have on-demand movies, and this was what was showing. It was OK I suppose, but not one crane kick? Seriously, did they watch the original?

Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage - I was specifically saving this for watching on the plane flight to India, and really enjoyed it. But, I'm a fan of Rush and documentaries (especially music documentaries), so my enjoyment of it was expected. I enjoyed the way-back footage of the band such as video of an 18-year old Alex Leifson telling his parents he wants to drop out of school to be a guitarist (how they happened to capture that on video is mind boggling). Anyways, it kept me very entertained, although your milage may vary unless you like documentaries and/or Rush.

The Back-up Plan - Recommended by my boss, of all people, I thought it was reasonably funny. The highlight was when one of the support group ladies is giving birth in a pool in the middle of a living room.

Prince of Persia - Yikes, what to say. The fighting was pretty cool, and there were lots of special effects. I managed to stay awake during it, despite being up for 40 hours or so at that point. Other then that, I don't have much to say.

Entourage Season 6 - I always seem to zip through Entourage seasons, even though the show has clearly fallen far from its origins. Season 6 was OK, with occasional funny parts and lots of mediocre episodes. I did enjoy Lloyd standing up for himself, however, and it worked well for chewing up almost 6 hours of plane flights.

A-team - Oh, this movie was so bad, yet I enjoyed it. Maybe I was just tired, but it amused me.

Green Street Hooligans - Another movie that I specifically brought with for the travel. I really enjoyed this one, it had good acting and an interesting plot. Very entertaining.

Invictus - A movie about South Africa's rugby team competing in the world cup the year apartheid ended. It was very well done, and kept my interest. I liked watching the rugby action as well.

The Big Bang Theory: Season 2 - I'm in the middle of re-watching season 2 of Big Bang Theory, after watching four or five episodes on plane flights. It's been amusing, although I am always disappointed while watching the gradual shift of the show to focus more on Sheldon's neurotic behavior and less on everyone else.

Clash of the Titans (2010) - This was not nearly as bad as I was expecting. It was not good, but I was expecting eye-bleeding terrible, and it was very watchable. Release the Kraken!

The Crazies - This was much more a zombie movie then I was expecting, and it turned out to be OK. A bit grim, but I liked the way they showed the progression from small town to crazy zombie-infected land. Not really scary so much as startling, but it was not the worst movie I've seen.

The Godfather - I watched this while exercising this week, and was reminded just how great of a movie it is. Especially when re-watching it with the volume cranked so hear can hear what the hell Marlon Brando is mumbling. I'm moving on to Godfather 2 next. Leave the gun, take the cannoli.


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Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Minnesota Sports

Tonight's post, which admittedly I did not have a topic for, was further derailed by Twins playoff baseball. Who can resist watching and hoping the Yankees get beat.

I'm also cautiously optimistic about the Vikings picking up Randy Moss, who while certainly not as good as he once was, is still better then the collection of stiffs they currently have, and would be better then Bernard Berrian even with only one arm. Plus Randy has two nationally televised games, and a game against the Patriots in the next four games, so he'll have plenty of motivation.

[ Update: Well that was timed about as poorly as possible, just before the Twins imploded in the 6th and 7th innings. Boo. ]

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Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Gangsters

While I was away last week, Linzy discovered that our iTunes account got hacked and promptly drained of the entire balance. Luckily all we had on the account were some gift cards from Christmas, and it wasn't tied to any real credit cards or accounts, but it was still annoying. Linzy contacted Apple and eventually got the credits restored but our account is still disabled at this point.

This problem seems to be going around, as my parents' account was compromised earlier this summer, and there has been quite a bit of coverage about the problems securing Apple accounts.

What I don't understand is that this seems like a trivial problem to solve. After all, my account has only a limited number of 'authorized' computers and devices associated with it, to allow any DRM'd content to play. Couldn't they just add an option that says my account is only allowed to have purchases made from that limited set of devices (i.e. my phone, Linzy's phone, my computer at home, etc), and only those devices can approve new authorized devices. Problem solved. Sure it would be annoying if I wanted to buy something from some other computer without authorizing it, but that doesn't seem like anything I would need to do even on a rare basis. And the rest of the time my account would be nice and safe.

Most sites don't have the luxury of knowing where you will be accessing them from, but Apple does. So why are they allowing gangsters to drain my account?

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Monday, October 04, 2010

Refill

On the flights to India this time, I was four for four on meals that were more-or-less unappetizing, where I chose not to eat a majority of the meal. The meals are usually so large that even if you eat miscellaneous accompaniments (like the crusty bread on the Air France flights) and a few other things you'll be just fine until they feed you again four hours later.

I was expecting this, so it didn't surprise me, but what did surprise me this time was the wine. It was already opened when the stewardess pulled it out of the cart. My co-worker had mentioned to me that on her first flight, the wine bottle was already opened, and on the second (I didn't have wine on the first one) we both were given pre-opened bottles. I also watched the bottles on later flights and they appeared to be opened as well.

Why would a single serve bottle of wine be pre-opened? That seems crazy, even for notoriously cheap airlines. I have to assume it was a fluke, or I just didn't notice them subtly open the bottle before taking it out of the cart. I sure hope they aren't standing in the galley with a big funnel, a giant case of wine-in-a-box, and a bunch of little bottles. Or, maybe I do, as long as we could watch the entertainment.

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Sunday, October 03, 2010

Homebody

IMG_1852Today I got home for the first time in a few weeks and it felt very nice to finally be back. My trip to India over the past two weeks went well, and was productive, but I never like being away for that long. I actually got back from India on Thursday, but this weekend we were in Chicago to see relatives there. As per normal, I had no jet lag going to India, but had a terrible time with it on the way back. Yesterday I woke up at 4:30am, and today it was an even worse 3:30am. Hopefully today will be back to normal sleep. This week will be crazy busy, I am sure, but at least it won't involve any traveling like the past four weeks have.

The picture is of the Bangalore Palace, taken before I knew that an outrageously priced admission ticket and even more expensive 'camera' ticket were required just to take pictures. So alas, I have no idea whether the inside or even front is cool looking, as I refused to pay the highway robbery prices they charged foreigners.

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