Thursday, December 31, 2009

Is it the end of the year already?

Wow. Another year gone by. This one has been eventful, but overall a pretty good year. Based on my last blog post (in APRIL!), everyone knows I have a new son, now 8 months old. I think I also covered the fact that we bought a house. Shortly after the baby was born, I was laid off from Genesis, and spent about 3 months on unemployment and taking care of the kids. Since then, I've been working at Community Health Care, in the Davenport office. I stay busier, and have a lot more variety in my work than I did with Genesis, so overall I'm really enjoying my new job.

Once I started working again, Allison quit to stay home with the boys. She is also babysitting a 4 month old boy now, for one of her former coworkers. At least, she is when we can keep everyone in our household healthy enough to have the baby over.

We spent Christmas eve with the Mom, Brad, & Joda, visiting Grandpa Dunn's and Dad's houses along the way. Unfortunately, we were all miserably sick (especially me) on Christmas day, so we didn't make it to Allison's side of the family.

Connie just came up last night, and the boys opened presents from her. William has got so many toys now that I don't know how he'll have time to play with them all. Ryan got several great presents, including a project kit called Snap Circuits. It's basically a bunch of electronic components (transistors, resistors, diodes, etc) molded into hard plastic with snaps on each end. Using the metal snaps to connect various compoents, you can build all kinds of electronic projects. He played with it all evening last night, and loved it. He built a touch lamp, a radio transmitter, a motion detector, and a handful of other projects from the book last night. It's definitely a hit.

We also got a new TV this Christmas. Dad came up one weekend and helped me mount it on the wall and run wiring to a nearby closet to install the Tivo etc in. Mounting it on the wall was MUCH easier than I expected, and it looks great. We used some money we got for christmas to buy a Blu-Ray player, and it's installed in the closet too. Just yesterday I got in the remote control booster system I ordered, and tore some of the molding off to run wires to the closet yet again. At least now I can use the remote control while in front of the TV. For the last few days, every time we wanted to use the Blu-Ray player, we had to have one person in front of the TV telling the other person in Wililam's bedroom which buttons to push on the remote. FUN!

Tonight, it's New Year's Eve, and we're going to Michelle's for the evening. As I understand it, Tony has some entertainment planned for the evening. Then, another long weekend. It's going to be rough having to work a full week next week. Well, I think that about covers the last 8 months or so. :) Any questions?

Friday, April 10, 2009

Picasa web albums issues

Apparently EyeFi is having issues uploading images to Picasa Web Albums this afternoon. I've got several more pictures on the camera with Ryan, Grandmas, and Grandpa holding the baby. Those are floating around in cyberspace right now, but as soon as the problems get resolved, they should show up as part of the slideshow in my previous post. Or, click the title of the previous post and it should take you to the web album to view the pics in an 'album' format instead of slideshow.

Announcing: William Everett Whitcher !!!!!

Update: Born at 7:18am on Friday, April 10th, 2009, William Everett Whitcher weighed in at 8lbs, 9oz. He was so excited to come out into the world, the nurses had to hold him in until the Dr arrived. Since then, he's been very quiet, only crying for two brief moments. He's talking a bit though now, while mom fawns over him. He's a beautiful baby boy!

Also, this slideshow should update automatically as I take more photos. You can also click the title of this post to get to the web album instead of the slideshow.

Original Text:

Hopefully, this post will include a slideshow. Right now, that slideshow only has a picture of the chart of William's heartbeat, but when he is born, I'll be sure and snap lots of pictures. If everything goes well, my EyeFi card will upload the pictures to the web within seconds, and they should show in this slideshow. Hope it works!

Thursday, April 09, 2009

The Whitcher Family is about to be 1 bigger!

We're expecting William to be born sometime tonight. The battery in the camera is dead (Darn it allison for not putting the battery on the charger after the baby shower!) but as soon as I can get another battery or the charger, I'll be ready to snap pictures of the new baby and put them online for all to see. Well, after he's born, of course.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Baby is happy, healthy, and head down.

We're at allison's Dr appt now, waiting for the Dr to come see us. (They always keep us waiting forever here! :( )

We've already had the ultrasound, and the tech says William is about 7lbs right now, and right on target. He is also head down, so hopefully he'll stay that way and make things easy.

I have decided we sould shoot for him being born this Sunday. That way even though it's not my CALENDAR birthday, we would still share a birthday of sorts. Or, a birth holiday, if you will.

I'm in Esc-a-row!

Well, we signed our paperwork for the house and mortgage note today, and are officially in debt for the next 30 years or so. Well, officially that is except for the fact that all the papers were dated for Thursday, due to the delay I mentioned in the previous post. Still, it's all done on our end, and we should have keys in hand by noon thursday.

Now, cleaning, painting, fixing, and moving, followed by the lifetime of repairs and headaches that go along with home ownership.

Sound's like fun, huh?!

(for those who don't get the title, it's a reference to an old gilmore girls episode that my wife has seen way too many times, in which luke's brother buys a house.)

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Home Ownership Delayed. . . Again.

We had an appointment scheduled to close on our house Tuesday morning, and it finally seemed like all of the barriers had come down, all of the glitches rolled out, and we were actually going to own a house by Tuesday afternoon. I knew it was too good to be true…

Today I got a call from Joyce at the attorney’s office where they are handling my closing.  It seems there was a miscommunication as to when HUD’s closing agents needed the final numbers in hand.  My people were planning to send the numbers to their people today, since they said they needed 3 days to get the papers processed.  Unfortunately, their people count 3 days differently than my people, and won’t make Tuesday’s closing since they didn’t have the numbers by close of business yesterday.  Because of this, the closing has been delayed until Thursday.  As a matter of convenience for Allison and I, we will still go to the attorney’s office Tuesday morning to handle our side of the closing, but won’t actually get to take possession of the house until Thursday.  At least that means we won’t have to re arrange our work schedules for next week around the new closing.

So, I wonder what could go wrong between now and Thursday to put it off yet again. . . ? :)

Taking Care of Business

This evening I took time to stop in to two area businesses.  Neither visit went exactly perfect, and yet I left the two stores feeling very different about the experiences.

The first trip was to Benny’s Cycle Works in Silvis.  A little bit of background is is probably in order to explain why I was there.  When I had picked up my bike from the service department nearly two weeks ago, I asked for a couple of copies of the key.  John Brenny, the owner of the dealership, cut two copies and went out to test them in the bike.  While I was still waiting for something else inside, he brought the keys to me and said they work, but stick a little. 

I spent a little over $400 that day, most of which was for labor in the service department.  Some of it was parts, and $16.02 was for these two keys. 

Today, I was back there to ask for a refund on the keys.  When I explained to the guy behind the counter that I could only get them to work intermittently and wanted my money back, he called John up from the back.  I explained again to him that I wanted a refund and why.  John looked a bit put off, and gave me the feeling he thought it a ridiculous request.  He didn’t say as much, but his attitude and expression did.  He refused to refund my money, and said I should bring the bike back in and he would adjust the keys to work.  Now, that might have been a very helpful offer, had it been presented differently, but it left me disappointed.  The more I thought about it, as I drove away, the more upset I became.  It’s not the money that bothers me, but the way it was handled.  To me, it seems that refunding $16 for two keys (which probably cost them about $.50 each for the blanks) would be well worth it to satisfy a customer who has spent well over $1000 in labor alone with my store in the last couple of seasons. 

My next trip was a sharp contrast to that.  I went to a large, national chain store, instead of a small locally owned shop.  I wasn’t there to make a return, but to pick up something I had already ordered and paid for.  I was not a regular customer of the store, and in fact probably haven’t bought anything from there in the last year or two.

I had actually placed my order through the store’s web site a day or two prior, so when I went in the store to pick it up I just scanned my receipt at the pickup station, and according to the sign on the wall I should have my merchandise in 5 minutes or less.

It actually took about 15 minutes from the time I scanned my receipt until I had my merchandise in hand.  During that time, I was asked no less than 3 times what I had ordered, by a confused worker who didn’t seem to know how to handle web orders.  However, at the end of the 15 minute wait, I had my items in hand, and a very nice, polite worker apologized for the delay.  Her tone of voice left me believing that she actually cared about my experience, and wanted me to leave as a happy customer.  She even gave me a coupon for $5 off my next purchase, since they didn’t meet their self imposed 5 minute time limit. 

The store in this case was Sears.  Generally, I don’t expect a much in the way of quality service from national chain stores.  That left me surprised to have been treated so well, especially considering the relatively small amount of my purchase.  It’s funny, how sometimes we don’t always get what we expect.  The stereotype for small locally owned businesses vs. large impersonal national chains is that you will get better treatment and better service from the small business.  If you’re dealing with the owner of that business, that is usually even more true.  I’m disappointed that my experience with the local business didn’t live up to that stereotype.

In the end, I will probably do business with Brenny’s again.  They are, after all, the area dealer for my brand of motorcycle, and I really like working with their service guy, Mark.  He treats me well, knows his stuff, and is willing to explain it to me in simple terms when things get over my head.  However, while I might do business with the service department at brenny’s again, I probably won’t look there when I need parts, accessories, or other items I can find elsewhere or order online. 

On the other hand, I find myself inexplicably tempted to browse over to right now and look to see what else they might have that I need. . .

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Google's new feature

Every year on this day, Google announces a new application or feature. Some of the past few years have had pretty amazing announcements. This year, it's Artificial Intelligence smart enough to even reply to your emails for you!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

My WishList

Okay, I'm not posting this to drop hints or be pushy, just because I've had a couple of people asking lately what I want for my birthday. Now, there are lots of great ideas, stuff for my bike, stuff for the house, etc, but for those who just want a simple list of things I want that they don't have to think about, I'm posting a link again to the wishlist I have setup on amazon. If you click the link below, it will take you straight to a list of things I've marked that I want and don't already have. Of course, feel free to ignore the list entirely if you like, none of it is life or death, just some ideas.

Steve's Wishlist

And remember, if you buy it from Amazon by starting with that link, I also get a % of the purchase price back in my amazon associate's account, so it's an even bigger gift! :)

Edit: Oh, and if you just can't decide, my wishlist also includes:

Amazon Gift Cards!

Share and Share Alike

One of the websites I visit most, probably more than any other, is Google Reader. If you're not familiar with it, Google Reader is a web based RSS reader. In plain Dnglish, that means it grabs all the stories from my favorite websites, and puts them together in one place. It's easy to use, and let's me go to one site to skim hundreds of headlines and part or full articles each day, from 50 or more different web sites.

Why do you care? Because I've decided to share. No, Google Reader isn't some big secret that you need me to get in on. Some of you, however, might be interested in things that I think are interesting. I've used the 'Share' feature of google reader occasionally, and will begin using it more. On the right side of my page, you'll now notice a section with a few headlines of my 'shared' items. These are news articles, comics, other interesting things from various websites that I've enjoyed. If I think those of you who read my blog might like it, I'll click the share button in google reader, and it will show up in that panel. Some of the articles might interest all of you, and some none of you, but hopefully most of the bits I share will be of use or interest to someone out there.

In the mean time, if you follow a lot of websites on a regular basis, and don't currently use an RSS reader to make it easier, check out google reader!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Wii Users: Guitar Hero World Tour Band Kit $119 Today only

Amazon has the Guitar Hero World Tour Band Kit for $70 off regular price today in their gold box deals. $119 includes the game, guitar, drums, and microphone, and free shipping. (Free 2 day if you have amazon prime, super saver shipping otherwise.)

Update: The Guitar Kit for wii is also on sale right now, as a lightning deal, for $59.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

GrandCentral grows up! (Now known as Google Voice)

Some of you may know I'm a big fan of the GrandCentral service, and have been using it for some time. Because there hadn't been any word from google about it in a long time, rumors were going around that it might be on the 'chopping block' to get shut down along with some other google services recently. Fortunately, that's not the case.

The long delay was in fact due to Google totally rebuilding the service, rather than just changing it piece by piece to a google product. Starting today, users of GrandCentral will begin seeing their accounts converted to Google Voice accounts. Google voice will have all the great features of GrandCentral, plus a lot of new or improved features.

I've written about GrandCentral before, so I'll just touch on the basics here. Essentially, it's a service that gives you a new phone number. That phone number is the only one you need from that point forward. Anytime someone calls that number, it will ring through to your home, cell phone, work phone, or any other numbers you like, all at the same time. If you don't answer, the calls go to one central voice mail box. New with the Google voice upgrade, all voicemails will be transcribed as well. Don't want to call in and listen to a message? Just read the transcribed version emailed to you from Google Voice.

The service does a LOT more, including filtering based on address book information and groups, click to call, and SMS (text messaging). If you use more than one phone number, you should really check it out. Of course, right now they are only converting grandcentral users to the new google voice. They should begin taking new signups in a few weeks though. Check back here and I'll post when you can sign up!

More waiting. Can we hurry up and buy the house yet?

As of today, we're still waiting for the appraisal to come in for our house. Meanwhile, our Realtor found a lien against the house from the local subdivision association that maintains the community well. It took some digging, but she did get a hold of the president of the association, and found that the bill had been paid, but the lien wasn't released. He's supposed to take care of that today.

At this point, I'm beginning to think we won't get to close next week either. Unless the lien release and appraisal come in today or early tomorrow, I think we're looking at the week of the 23rd sometime for closing date.

Sunday, March 08, 2009


Recently, you may have seen commercials on TV for a new non-sugar sweetener, Truvia.  For those who fast forward through commercials with their TiVo, here’s what I’m talking about.

I’ve heard of Stevia before (the plant that Truvia is made from), but hadn’t tried it.  With these recent commercials, plus reading a bit of discussion online about it, I went out in search of this new miracle product.  The local HyVee didn’t have it, and CVS had Splenda and Equal on the shelves, but no sign of Truvia

Allison was successful at last on a trip to Wal-mart.  She brought home a box of 40 packets of Truvia sweetner.  I’ve got to say, after one taste, I’m sold.  This stuff is very sweet, and tastes great.  One packet of Truvia sweetens a glass of tea, when I would have used 2 or three packets of equal or splenda.  After doing some reading, I’ve learned that Truvia is made with a kind of sugar alcohol that doesn’t affect blood sugar, and has less potential for side effects than other sweeteners.  Plus, it doesn’t have the after taste that many people associate with artificial sweetener.  In fact, the after taste, if any, is just more sweetness. 

Now, Truvia isn’t the only new Stevia based sweetener on the market.  While Coca-cola was busy developing Truvia, Pepsi-co was hard at work on Purevia.  I’ve not yet seen Purevia in stores, but from what I’ve read, it’s essentially the same product.  I’ll be sure and give it a try.  In the meantime, I won’t be buying Equal anymore. 

Friday, March 06, 2009


Well, here it is, Friday again. I'm sitting at work, shuffling backup tapes around, and waiting for our banker to call and tell us the Appraisal finally came in. Because we're still waiting for the appraisal, and because HUD wants 7 days notice to schedule the closing, it looks like we probably won't be able to close next week.

Still, It's March, less than 3 weeks from my birthday, hopefully less than 2 weeks until we become homeowners, just 8 weeks until William is due, and most importantly of all:

Yeah, it's a great day!

Thursday, March 05, 2009

You've Made a Sale!

One thing about moving, it's a great time to get rid of stuff you don't need or use anymore. Getting rid of things, however, doesn't necessarily mean throwing them away. Allison and I have a lot of old books we bought and read years ago, and probably won't read again. Rather than moving all of them to the new house and taking up space, I listed many of the books on Half is an ebay owned site, which specializes in selling books and dvd's at a low, fixed price. It's safer than regular ebay for a seller, since the buyer pays directly, and half pays the seller twice a month.

I'm not going to get rich selling used books, considering the book I just sold went for $1.43, and takes $.21 of that. They do include money for shipping though, and the actual shipping cost in this case was a little less than what they gave me. Bonus!

On the other hand, if you've got used textbooks to part with, you can generally get some pretty good money for them. I remember selling one some time ago for more than $30.

Besides books and movies, I've got some other miscellaneous stuff that I'm going to try listing on ebay. Cables, parts, pieces, etc that I don't need anymore, but you never know who might be willing to pay $1 for a pci network card, or a data cable for an old motorola phone. If it doesn't sell, it goes in the garbage, and I'm out a few cents for listing it. If it does, it goes in the mail, and I've got some extra pocket change. Plus, I know the item went to someone who will appreciate the bargain, rather than going out to a store and buying whatever they need new.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Amazon's Kindle, and app now available for iPhone

I don't know how many of you pay attention to tech news, but lately there's been a lot of focus on the new Kindle 2, Amazon's ebook reader. The first Kindle was pretty impressive, and the new version is even better. With all the great features, and all the recent press coverage, it's hard not to get swept up in the hype and want one. Still, eventually reality sets in. The reader costs $359, just for the hardware. Then you have to buy books, which run about $10 each. Now, compared to going out and buying new release hardcover books, that's a great price, but I tend to wait for books to come out in paperback. Lately, I've not even been buying those, but checking books out from the library instead. So, check books out for free in the old fashioned ink and paper format, or pay $10 each for the digital format? Yeah, that's what I thought.

I might even consider buying some kindle books once in a while, if it weren't for the initial $359 hardware cost. That's where today's news comes in. Amazon has released a Kindle application for the iPhone. Download the app to your phone, and you can buy and read kindle books without paying for the hardware, and without having to carry around yet another device. I don't own an iPhone at this point, but maybe someday I will. Or, perhaps Amazon will release an app for Windows Mobile phones soon. Until then, the Kindle 2 will just be another product that the UMF (Unseen Mystical Force) unsuccessfully tries to convince me to buy.

Update: Cnet has an article up comparing the iPhone app with the real kindle2.

Monday, March 02, 2009

And you thought it cost a lot to fill your gas tank...

An article on 'The Consumerist' describes how a man was charged $81 billion dollars (Yes, that's a B) to fill up his 1994 Camaro. Yes, it was clearly a mistake, but try telling the credit card company that. . .

Free Turbotax Deluxe Federal and State Efile

Using this link, you can use turbotax online to file your taxes for free. This is NOT the 'tax freedom' version that requires under a certain income level. This does apply to both federal and state taxes, and includes efiling. Also, this applies to either the basic or Deluxe editions, where most of these promos are for the basic only.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Cleaning Up

One thing about moving, you find things you’ve not seen for a while.  Allison, Ryan, and I just spent the last hour or two out in the garage, going through boxes of things that we haven’t touched since we moved here about 18 months ago. (Well, Ryan helped a bit, but mostly whined.)

Clearly, with stuff we haven’t used in that long, a lot of it gets pitched.  On top of the stuff that we would throw out just because we don’t use it, we also threw out a bunch of old clothes and such that had never been unpacked, and got half eaten by mice in the garage.  Most of them were out there because they didn’t fit, so at least the mice got some good use out of them.

I also condensed down a lot of computer parts, wires etc.  There were some old ISA network cards in there that I don’t think I’ll ever have a use for.  Of course, now that I’ve pitched them, I’ll probably need one soon.

It’s a little early, but I’m sure many of you will be doing some spring cleaning before too long.  What treasures might you find that you forgot you had?

Crocs 50% 0ff at Amazon Today

I’m not trying to turn this blog into an ad flyer, but I know that some of the people who read this blog like crocs, so I wanted to pass this on.  The Amazon Gold box deal of the day today is Crocs 50% off, starting at $11.49/pair.  If you wear these ugly things, check it out!

Trace Adkins new album on sale for $5

Just a quick note, I saw Trace Adkins X is one of the 'Friday Five' on amazon this weekend. It's on sale for $5 through the weekend.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

One move (almost) down, one to go

Today we are moving my department to a new area of the building. We might have a bit less space overall, but everyone gets their own office, plus we have a decent sized common area and a kitchen area.

It will be nice to have my own office, but more importantly it will be nice not to sit directly in front of the window into the main door of our area. I always felt like everyone who walked by was watching me.

The construction guys are here moving our desks and mounting our overhead cabinets. When they first hung my cabinets though, they put them in the wrong place. Now they're moving them over to the right spot.

One down side to my new office, it only has one AC outlet. I've got a lot of stuff to plug in, so I'm going to end up using a power strip or two. Not a huge issue, but I hope the circuit can handle it.

We've also started packing at home now, Allison got about 4 boxes filled last night. I need to bring more boxes home from work. I'll probably pack a bit tonight, but I've got to go to the 'Healthy Living' class after work again, so I won't get until 6:30 or so. Still, we're hoping to close on the house March 11th or 12th, so that doesn't give us a lot of time. I'd like to move the weekend of the 14th, but we may not get to until the weekend of the 21st, depending on how things go. We'd like to paint a couple of rooms before we move in, and we're going to have to get a fridge somewhere.

For those who haven't already seen it, here's a picture of our new house, as shown in the listing:

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Reminder – Click on the ads when you visit

Just wanted to post a brief reminder that if you enjoy visiting my web page, I’d appreciate it if you take a moment to click the ads at the top or bottom of the page once in a while.  Or, use the search box at the top of the page whenever you need to do a google search.  Each of these pay me a few cents when you use them.  Also, if you’re going to do any shopping online, consider starting from this link: .  If you click that link to start your shopping, I get a small percent of anything you buy from Amazon, and it’s no additional cost to you.


I’m excited

I can’t wait to get into our new home.  I know it’s weeks away, but I’m really looking forward to it.  I’m trying to think of all the things we need to do right away, as soon as we take posession.  For example, I need to buy new locks for the house.  When HUD takes over a house, they remove the locks and put on a doorknob of their own.  Apparently they have all the doorknobs keyed the same, and hud certified realtors all have the keys.  I’m sure lots of other contractors and such do as well.  So day one, I need to change the doorknobs and add deadbolts. 

We also need to get curtains, blinds, or some other window coverings.  I want to pull up the corner of the living room carpet to see what’s under it.  A house built in 1948 might have some decent wood under the carpet.  We’re also thinking we want to paint and or put up wallpaper borders in a few rooms, so that’s something to do before moving in. 

I don’t know what else, off the top of my head, but I’m sure I’ll think of a few things.  I hope it’s a nice warm weekend when we take possession, both to make it nice for moving, and for getting my motorcycle out and riding it over to the new place.  After all, with 3 garage spaces and a big shed, I’ll have plenty of room for it! :)

Saturday, February 21, 2009

A new milestone for my diabetes management

This afternoon I took a nap for an hour or so. When I woke up, I wasn't feeling well. I had trouble concentrating, and felt shaky. This isn't the first time I've felt like that, but the first time since I was diagnosed. I knew something wasn't right, so I checked my blood sugar and found it was down to 96. Now, that's not terribly low, but considering I'm used to having high levels, that is why even a little bit low was bothering me.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

We Got the House!

The HUD website finally updated about 2 hours late, and we got the confirmation that our bid was accepted.  Our realtor and banker are getting the wheels turning, and we hope to close on it by this time next month.

That means we’re tentatively planning to move over the weekend of March 21st and 22nd, so keep your calendars open and your truck beds clean!  :)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

What is a house worth?

Or more specifically, what is this one particular house that we want to buy worth?  Is it worth the asking price?  Or is it silly to offer full price straight away?  Does the old septic system and cracked garage floor lower the value?  Or are those issues already figured into the asking price?  Is the house worth more to me than someone else?  Or perhaps someone else is willing to pay a higher price than I am?

We want to put a bid in on this house.  The house is owned by HUD currently.  We can work through their rigid offer process, and we can live with some of the restrictions involved.  The really annoying part is the way they handle the bids.  Unlike dealing with a private seller, there’s no way to know how many bids have been submitted, and no way to know what bids were turned down, until it’s too late.  All bids are accepted until Sunday night, and on Monday morning, they’ll post the bids and announce who won.  There’s no second chance, no ‘highest and best offer’, just the winning bid. 

So, when you’ve only got one chance, but don’t want to overpay, what is a house worth?

It’s never simple, is it?

Allison and I are still house hunting.  Well, sort of.  We’ve found a house we like, but. . . wait, let’s go back a few days

Wavy Flashback Effect

Ready to start really seriously work at becoming home owners, we made appointments Saturday to meet with our bank’s mortgage rep and with our realtor.  After getting things settled at the bank, we spent the rest of the day riding around with the realtor looking at houses, and getting lost, and having fun.  We saw one house that might have had someone living in the attic.  (Or perhaps not living, who knows?)  Another house had some great features, but the ceramic tile covering every inch of wall and ceiling in the kitchen, hallway, and bathroom, made that a project we weren’t willing to take on.  I did love the transoms above all of the doors on the 2nd story, and the bar area in the basement was pretty cool. 

After looking at a couple of other houses that were nice, but not quite what we wanted, we went to see a house that Allison had found online a few days earlier.  Seeing this house was actually the main goal of meeting with the realtor that day, but I threw in a few others we were interested in just so we’d have a good comparison.  It’s funny, then, that we didn’t arrive at this house until after dark, and the power was not on. 

Now, Allison and I had been to the house once before, and seen the outside in the last light of day.  I had even gone back the following morning to get a better look.  So at this point, we knew what the outside was like.  As for the inside?  It was dark.  Very dark.  We took the realtor’s little pocket size flashlight and toured the house.  After a while, we realized the house really does look a lot like the pictures online, and seemed to be in pretty good condition.  The one major weird thing about the house that was hidden in the pictures (All houses for sale seem to have one) was something that we could live with.  In fact, we liked the house so much, we arranged for Dad to come up Sunday morning and look at it with us.

Sunday came, and Dad, Allison, the Realtor, and I, gave the house a more thorough look.  We found a few issues, some small cracks in the walls and ceilings, a big crack in the garage floor, and some dampness in the garage.  After giving it some thought and talking it over with Dad, we decided this was all stuff we could live with and fix at some point.  The one thing we really couldn’t tell anything about was the septic system.  Fortunately a simple septic inspection could ease our concerns there, right?

Today I called the county health department to ask about an inspection.  It turns out a septic system can’t really be inspected unless it’s being used.  Since this house has been empty for a year or so, all we need to do is turn the water on in the house and let it run for a couple of hours a day for 5-6 days, and dig up the septic tank in the back yard, and the county will be glad to come out and check it.  There’s just one small problem… the water is turned off.  The whole house was winterized by HUD.  If we turn the water back on, we can only have it on for a max of 2 days, and we have to pay to have it re-winterized.  So, that’s out.  The good news is that the county has records on when the system was installed and when it was last inspected.  Oh, wait, did I say good news?  It turns out the system is 27 years old, and the lady at the county says the average lifespan is about 25 years. 

Long story short (Too Late!), we have gathered enough information to decide we’re ok with the risk.  The city will be connecting this area to sewer in a year or two, and worst case we can make any minor repairs needed to limp the system along until then.  So, we’re going to put in an offer.  Now, what will that offer be?  See the next post.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

House Hunting

Allison and I are going to look at a house in Milan tonight.  I’ve asked Dad to come and look at it with us, but he’s not sure if he’ll be able to make it.  Either way, we’ll take lots of pics, to review later. 

The house is a repossessed home.  From what I saw when we drove by and peeked in the windows, all of the carpet has been ripped out, and the walls are dirty.  It has a big fenced in yard, and a 2 car garage.  It’s also quite reasonably priced.  We’ll have a better idea of whether it’s something we are interested in after we look at it tonight. 

I’ve Been Educated

This morning was my appointment with the diabetes educator and dietician at Genesis.  Much of what was covered I had already heard or read before, either from the Dr, or the Hy-Vee Dietician, or the website, or somewhere else.  Still, it was worth going, as repetition helps with absorbing the information, and it gave me a chance to ask questions or get more detail on some topics. 

There was also a bit of discussion about Allison’s health, since her glucose tolerance test results were high yesterday at the OB.  She’s supposed to go for a 3 hour version of the test soon, checking for gestational diabetes.  If she does come up with low tolerance, then it’s not a huge issue, but she’ll get to join me on the diabetic diet.

The educator did confirm that blurry vision is a symptom of high blood sugar, and even though mine is significantly lower than it was, that sharp change could be why I’m noticing it now. My sugar has still been about 200-300 depending on time of day, so I expect the Dr will increase my dose of Metformin when I go in on Friday.  That’s the day I get my stitches out and biopsy results from the dermatologist too. 

The dietician covered a lot of the same ground as the Hy-Vee dietician did the other night, but did recommend a slightly higher allowance for carbs per meal, and somewhat lower levels of fats and protien.  She also covered a lot of the ‘choices’, such as how to fit a donut or chocolate cake in without screwing up the diet.

Beyond that, I can’t think of what else we went over this morning, in part because I don’t have the paperwork in front of me, but also I think because so much of it was stuff that was already covered, it sort of blurs together as to when I heard it. 

Well, time for me to get back to my salad. 

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Things Aren't Quite Clear

I woke up this morning to find my vision is off a little. I put my glasses on, but still couldn't read the time on the clock just ~8 feet away. I could see it, but it was blurry enough I couldn't make out the numbers. As I've gone through the day, I've continued to have difficulty seeing things clearly. If I look at something and then really try to focus on it, I can, but I have to actually TRY to focus, otherwise it's blurry.

I called my Dr, and he said that's a semi-normal symptom of diabetes and high blood sugar. He suggested I schedule a diabetic eye exam, but that's normal for any diabetic I guess, otherwise he didn't seem to concerned.

Still, I've had bad vision all my life. The last thing I need is for it to get worse.

Amazon Offering 3 Free Games

Amazon has just launched a new part of their site, offering downloadable games for the casual gamer. (Like Pogo players) To show off the new site, they're offering Three Free Games. These games are only free for a limited time, so download them now before the prices go back to normal!

HP's New Home Servers Shipping

Some of you might know I have a Windows Home Server running at home. To anyone who has a multiple computer household, I can't recommend it enough. HP recently announced two new models of their Windows Home Server based machines. The HP EX485 MediaSmart Home Server sports a 750GB Hard Drive, up from 500 in the previous incarnation. The processor has also been upgraded, from an AMD to a a 2.0 GHz Intel Celeron 64-bit.

Overall, it looks like it's still the same machine. Tiny size, but huge features. If you don't already have a home server, seriously consider picking one of these up. Or, if 750GB isn't enough for you, choose the EX485's big brother, the EX487. At 1.5TB of storage with 2 bays available for upgrades, that should suit almost any home user's needs.

Monday, February 02, 2009

That’s What Family Is For (Part 2)

I woke up a little bit ago with a kink in my neck, and couldn’t get back to sleep, so I came out to read my morning email and news sites.  As I’m reading about the big ads from the Super Bowl last night, it hit me.  One year ago, on Super Bowl Sunday, I was the one who needed help.  My situation wasn’t quite as urgent as Michelle’s was yesterday, but I got heroic response from family, all the same. 

On that Sunday in 2008, Ryan had stayed the night at my Mom’s house.  We were going to drive down and pick him up later that afternoon.  In the mean time, Allison and I decided to take advantage of being without the kid and went to see a movie at the Putnam Museum’s Imax theater.  (Batman, if I recall correctly.)  We got there in the early afternoon, and after parking the car, we headed in to the museum.  It was about that time that Allison realized she had locked the keys in the car

After a bit of frantic searching pockets and checking the locks on the car doors, we confirmed we were in trouble.  I think we called a locksmith or two to ask for prices on unlocking the doors, but in the end, we decided to call Mom.  The line of thinking went something like this: “Hey Mom, instead of us driving down to get Ryan, could you bring him up here?  And while you’re in town, swing by the museum and pick us up so we can get the spare keys from home.”  Well, it sounded like a good idea at the time.  Allison and I went on into the museum to watch the movie, and 2+ hours passed.  We expected Mom would probably be waiting outside when we got out. 

Instead, we found inches of snow on the ground outside, and heavy snow still coming down.  I called to check on Mom, and found out that she wasn’t coming alone.  Before leaving, she had contacted my Grandparents, and they insisted on driving her down here because they were expecting an ice storm.  (Mind you, it was fairly nice out when I called Mom, and I hadn’t seen a weather forecast for the day.)  So, knowing that they would be driving into hazardous weather, my Grandma, Grandpa, and Mom piled into a minivan and came to the rescue.

It took them quite a while to get to the museum, due to the weather and also to Grandpa’s not being familiar with the Iowa side of the river and where the museum is.  When they did arrive, it was in almost zero visibility, and very hazardous road conditions.  The snow had fallen so quickly, plows couldn’t keep up.  Still, with Grandpa at the wheel, we slowly began the drive back across the river to my house.  At the house, Grandpa pulled into my (Inclined, Snow Covered) driveway, and had to really fight to get the van far enough into the drive to be out of the street.  In the process, he got off to the right side of the drive, and stuck in a snowy rut.  We got him out, and everyone came inside for pizza while we waited out the snow.  The Super Bowl was on TV, and Pizza Hut was delivering even in the bad weather. 

An hour or so later, the snow let up, and Grandma, Grandpa, and Mom piled back into the van to drive home.  They made it safely, and now this is a funny story.  A year ago though, it was a big reminder that when you are in a bind and really need help, “You Find Out Who Your Friends Are”.  (Or, in my case, “That’s What Family Is For.”


P.S. Allison and I waited until the next day to drive back to the putnam with the spare set of keys. 

Sunday, February 01, 2009

That’s What Family Is For

I am reminded tonight of a Tracy Lawrence song I hear on the radio now and again.  The song is called Find Out Who Your Friends Are.  It talks about how you when you are really in a moment of need, your true friends will drop everything to come and help you, no matter how big the task.  There’s a lot of truth in that song.  What it doesn’t say is that sometimes those friends are actually family.  In reality, that’s what family is for, isn’t it?

The reason this song came to mind is that my cousin Michelle had one of those moments today.  While driving down the interstate, she came to an area of congested traffic.  Due to one lane closed on the bridge, traffic leading up to the merge was stop and go for a couple of miles.  As she saw the back up and realized she would have to stop, she applied the brakes, only to find that they didn’t work.  She pushed on the pedal again and again, but the car didn’t stop, it didn’t even slow down.  With stopped traffic just a short distance ahead, my aunt took the wheel from the passenger seat and turned it enough to run the van into the cement wall dividing their lane from traffic going the other direction in the next lanes of interstate. 

I’m not sure exactly how things played out next, except that one incredibly rude person stopped to yell at them as they were sitting crashed on the side of the road, and one kinder, more reasonable person stopped to make sure they were OK.  Whoever the guy in the yellow mustang was, my aunt and cousin are grateful for your kindness in checking in on them.  To the lady in the white car, I only hope that if you ever find yourself in a similar situation, you’ll find someone kinder than yourself to help you out.

At some point, Louann (my aunt) called my cell phone.  Since they were 40 miles from home, they needed someone to come pick them up, and I live close by.  Luckily, I had set my phone on vibrate earlier today, since the ringer hasn’t been working for a week or so.  (I’ll probably end up having to do a master reset to wipe it out to get ringers working, but first I’ve got to back up my contacts etc…)  I was sitting at home, and hurried to pick them up as soon as I got the call.  When I arrived, there were 2 police cars behind their van, and a tow truck just arriving on the scene.  It took a little bit to get the van loaded up on to the tow truck, since it was turned into the side wall.  I ended up having to crawl in the passenger side and steer away from the wall as the tow truck driver pulled the van closer and onto the flatbed tow truck with the winch.  (He asked Michelle to, but she was too shaken up to get back into the van just then.  She’s since said repeatedly that she isn’t going to drive anymore.)

Fortunately, I know a good mechanic, and we were able to have her van towed to his shop.  ($70 to tow it across town, isn’t that a little steep?)  In the accident, the front drivers side tire was flattened, so the mechanic took the wheel off for us and we drove over to Sam’s Club to buy a new tire.  Once the new tire was mounted, we dropped it off back at the shop with her van, and I gave them a ride back home. 

In the end, nobody was hurt, and hopefully a flat tire and the brake repairs will be the worst of it.  Michelle and Louann have calmed down, and in a couple of days they’ll have the van back good as new.  I’m incredibly glad that they were able to reach me, and that I could help them out in a very stressful situation.  I know Michelle has been there for me plenty of times in the past, and would be there for me again if I needed her.  Tracy’s right, you do find out who your friends are in times like this, but sometimes the best friends are family.  When you need it the most, they’ll be there for you.  After all, That’s What Family is For.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Toby Keith's album Big Dog Daddy on sale for $1.99

For any country music fans reading, I just picked up a copy of Toby Keith's album Big Dog Daddy from Amazon MP3. The album is currently on sale for only $1.99

Also on sale is Bryan Adams' Reckless, which includes Heaven and Summer of '69. For $.99, I couldn't go wrong!

New Features

I’m trying to add a few new things to the blog again, hopefully all one or two of you who read my blog will find them worth using.

The first thing I’m adding is an integration with Twitter. I’ve set up my blog so that every time I write something new, it will send an announcement to anyone who follows me on Twitter. If you’ve never heard of twitter, it’s a sort of social network tool and microblog service. I can send very short messages through it, which get sent out to anyone who chooses to follow my twitter account. It will send it to you by your choice of email, text message, or IM. The nice thing about it is that I can follow you as well, so that if you send a tweet (a twitter message), I’ll get it. It’s a great way to keep up with what your friends are doing, and to keep them posted on your status.

That Twitter integration is also working the other way around. Not only will my blog send a tweet when I write a new posts, but all of my recent tweets will be listed on the side of the blog. So if you don’t get my status messages by sms or email, you can always look at the most recent ones right here on the blog.

I’m also going to start using DIGG buttons on some of my blog posts. If I am writing something that’s not a primarily personal post, I’ll include a small square DIGG icon to the right of the post. If you think what I wrote is good, and worth sharing with other people (the general public), click the DIGG button. DIGG is a social bookmarking site, where a post gets added to their list and ranked by how many DIGGs it gets. A post might start at the top of the list, but if nobody diggs it, it goes down fast. If lots of people digg it, that means it’s worth reading, and it goes to the top of the list.

The last feature I’m adding tonight is related to everybody’s favorite web store, I’ve signed up for an associate account with amazon, and will begin linking to items I talk about in the blog. If you click the link and decide to buy the item, I get a small percentage of the cost. I’m not going to link to things just to try and get people to buy them. The links are there more as a convenience to readers, and as a ‘just in case’ thing if someone should want to buy what I talk about. For example, if I write a short post talking about a book I am reading, I’ll link to the book on Amazon. If you read my review of it and decide you want to read it yourself, you can buy the book in just a couple of clicks, and a few cents from your purchase goes to me. Also, even if you don’t buy that particular book, but end up ordering something else, if you went to amazon through my link, I still get the percentage of it. Again, I don’t expect people to go out and buy things just to give me money, but if you happen to be buying something from amazon anyway, please use these links. This Link will take you right to the main amazon page, so you can search for whatever you want, and includes my associate link.

So, that’s about it for now. Nothing major, but 3 small new features for the blog that I hope people will use and enjoy. I’ve also added a couple more widgets to the right side column of the blog, and moved things around a bit. Check it all out!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

I’m going to miss food

Tonight, I walked through the grocery store, reading labels on foods and snacks that I like.  I also looked at things I hadn’t tried, but thought might be somewhat healthy for me.  It made me want to cry when I saw just how many foods I wouldn’t be able to eat anymore.  I mean, I could still have oreos, but if I want them as a ‘snack’, I can have 2.  I could go as high as 6, if I wanted to call it a meal.  Lots of other foods I looked at were similarly unhealthy. 

You see, last night, Allison and I met with a dietician who works at the local Hy-Vee store.  She spent nearly 2 hours with us talking about foods, suggesting meal plans, and walking through the store to show us some good and bad products for a diabetic.  I have an appointment next week to meet with the diabetes educator and a dietician from the diabetes center at Genesis, but I wanted to learn something about what is good and bad to eat ASAP so I can start practicing new eating habits.  At the time I scheduled the appt at Hy-Vee, I hadn’t heard back yet from the Genesis diabetes center to schedule an appointment. 

One good thing I learned from the dietician, she told me that meats, eggs, and cheese are just fine, since they don’t contain any significant carbohydrates.  So a breakfast of 2 boiled eggs and a couple of sausage links wouldn’t affect my blood sugar much at all.  At least there’s SOMETHING I can eat when hungry that doesn’t screw things up!

For what it’s worth, it looks like the Metformin is helping my glucose some.  I am only just beginning to make diet changes, and yet my glucose the last couple of days has stayed in the range of about 200-300.  That’s not great, but it’s much better than the over 600 from last weekend, and 450’s in the beginning of the week.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Goin’ thru the big D(iabetes)

Well, it’s official.  I just got back from my Dr appointment to review my blood tests, and he confirmed I do have Type 2 Diabetes.  My fasting blood sugar yesterday was 331, with a Hemoglobin A1C of just over 14.  I’ve got a prescription for 850MG of Metformin daily, and appointments with a dietician and diabetes educator.  This should be loads of fun! Or perhaps not.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Announcing: A new blog joins the family!

I suspect most anyone who reads this blog knows my mom, and knows what an interesting character she can be.  Now, you can enjoy her unique (We love ya mom! :) ) style online.  You can find her new blog “Rena’s Ramblings” at .  Don’t forget to sign up as a follower, and check back frequently for Rena’s latest Ramblings!

Another day, another President. . .

Okay, so maybe getting a new president isn’t an everyday event, but I sure am glad it’s finally over.  It seems like the election coverage started years ago, and after that ended it went straight into what will Obama do for this or for that.  We even had about 2 solid weeks of ‘pre-coverage’ of the inauguration, which is what, an hour long event?  I’m very happy for the guy, but enough is enough.  Maybe the newsies will finally let the President settle down and get a few days out of the media eye.

As for the ‘another day’ part of the title, I guess that’s just life.  One day at a time.  I received somewhat disturbing news yesterday morning, and have spent a lot of time thinking about that.  I don’t want to say a whole lot more about here it until I get confirmation, but suffice it to say I’ll be thinking about it a lot for the next week. 

One bit of good news, Ryan had a pretty darned good day today.  He woke up for breakfast this morning without a fuss, took his pill very smoothly, and even got dressed and ready for school all with a great attitude.  Thank goodness for small things, because last night he was very ADHD and with things on my mind, I wasn’t in the mood. 

I guess that’s it for today.  I’ll leave you with a pic I snapped tonight of Ryan as he was working on his homework. Daaaaad!

Of course, he didn’t want his picture taken, so it’s more of him hiding from the camera than doing homework.  

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Campin' out at Mom's tonight

Mom's computer hasn't been working right.  After a thorough diagnostic, the hard drive turned out to be bad.  After someone was gracious enough to buy a new drive for her, I came down to install it and setup windows for her. 

I'm trying to get the new Windows 7 public beta installed, but not sure if it's going to go.  Overall, I've heard nothing but great reviews about Windows 7, and have been running it on my home pc for a short while now.  I think it will work well for her, if it installs.  At some point during the install, the screen goes black and I can't tell if it is still going in the background and or if it's never going to come back.  It could also be because I'm using the x64 build, rather than the x86, so I'll give that a try if this doesn't work.

Anyway, we're all here, watching "The Pacifier" on ABC.  Mom's watching with us, but Brad has already turned in for the day, since he has to get up at some ungodly hour for work.

Enjoy the weekend!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

No school again tomorrow

Based again on the forecast for extremely low temperatures tomorrow, local schools have decided to take the day off.  Unfortunately, Fridays are a day I really need to be at work, so I’ll be going in tomorrow morning while Allison sleeps in at home with Ryan. 

With Monday off for the MLK holiday, this will make a 5 day weekend for students and teachers.  Though I’d rather they close school for actual ‘snow days’, rather than for extreme cold, but either way I’m glad they are giving the kids a couple of days off.  Everybody enjoys an ‘extra’ day now and again.

This would be a good morning to stay home from work and curl up in bed…

So that’s just what I’m doing.  After our 6” snowfall yesterday, the local schools saw fit to stay open, so Ry went to class as normal.  By noon however, they had decided to close schools for today, due to the predicted below zero temperatures and high wind chill factor.  Since Ryan was going to be out of school, I decided to take the day off as well.  He’s still tucked warm in his bed, sound asleep.  I should be in bed too, but I’ve still got this itch bothering me, and woke up half an hour ago unable to sleep because my legs itched so bad.  Hopefully these meds the Dr gave me this week will help clear it up. 

Anyway, my sympathy to all of you who had to get up this morning and go to work in these bitter cold temperatures.  I’ll be thinking of you as I climb back in bed in a few minutes and try to catch a few more Z’s before Ryan wakes up.  :)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Just when you thought Sudoku was taking over the world...

I've just finished reading My latest puzzle love: KenKen, in which Stephen Shankland describes the latest puzzle game to migrate to the US from Japan. Well, finished reading the article and trying out a puzzle or two.

A KenKen puzzle, like Sudoku, consists of a square grid of numbers. Also like Sudoku, the rows and columns of the grid must contain one of each number available in the puzzle, with out repeating. That is where the similarities end. Unlike Sudoku, a KenKen grid can be made up of anywhere from 9 to 81 squares arranged in a 3x3 to 9x9 grid. Instead of dividing the big grid into 9 smaller square grids, you'll find the KenKen grid divided up into various odd shapes made out of any number of squares. A bold black line divides these sections, called cages. A cage may consist of two or more squares on the grid, or even just one single square. Inside each cage, you'll find a number and a mathmatical operator. (+ - x or ÷) You must use the number of squares in the cage, along with the printed number and operator in the cage, to fill in the squares. To do so, you determine which number or numbers, when combined with the given operator, result in the given number. For example:

In a cage made up of 2 squares, one of the squares has a small 3+ written in the corner. For this cage, you need to find 2 numbers that add (Because of the +) up to the number 3. In this case, hopefully you all know that the only possible combination of 2 whole numbers to add up to 3 is 1+2. So you know that these two squares will have a 1 or 2 in them.

To figure out which number goes in which square, you fall back to the old rule of no two squares in a single row or column can contain the same number. If there is already a 1 or 2 anywhere in the same row or column as the two squares you're working with, you know that the other number must be the one to go in that square.

I'm going to give a few more of these a try. In the mean time, click through to the linked article and check it out!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Another weekend wasted, and it’s all Mom’s fault

It’s Sunday evening, the end of the weekend.  Tomorrow Allison and I will return to work, and Ryan to school to start a new week.  So, what did I do this weekend?  Nothing.  Well, not quite nothing.  I read.  Other than that though, I did nothing.  I didn’t even get dressed.  I laid around the house all weekend and read a couple of books by my favorite authors.  See, for Christmas, Mom bought be a new book.  It was on my wish list, had been for a year or more, so it was a good choice.  But the trouble is, once I start reading, I can’t quit.  If I get into a good book, then I want another, and another, and another.  So, I’ve been to the library 5 or 6 times in the last 2 weeks.  I picked up a couple of good books by Stephen J. Cannell, and a couple by J.A. Jance.  I also grabbed books from a couple of authors I hadn’t read before, including David Baldacci.  These are all excellent authors, and the books are all page turners.  They all write much better than I do, as evidenced by this post.  Anyway, because mom bought me a good book, I have been reading every free minute for the last week or two, and haven’t accomplished much of anything.  And it’s all Mom’s fault.

Oh, one exciting thing did happen this weekend… Ryan got to go see the Globetrotters today with his Grandma Connie.  He got a red white and blue basketball, and got 2 autographs on the ball to go along with the autographed T-shirt he got 2 or 3 years ago.