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Saturday, November 15, 2008

To know the truth

I got a lot of reading done while I was in Atlanta, between airports and all the airport-associated waiting and evenings back at the hotel room with not much else to do.

First, I started a book about the identity of DeepThroat (written in 2000) that looked really good--so good, in fact, that I had renewed it from the library to their limit and I had to return it on the 12th. In it the author began at the introduction stating how he would prove that Deep Throat was John Sears. Wait a second, I thought, he's not Deep Throat! So I stopped reading the book. I still have "All the President's Men" on my to-read (and to-watch) list, and I certainly don't want to confuse myself. (Note, I just attached the hyperlink book review and the review makes the book look really good. I'm kind of regretting returning the book to the library unread, but alas, I was out of time).

Next, my book of irony: The Coming Crash of the Housing Market (written in 2003). I bet a lot of people are kicking themselves that they didn't read this book and prepare themselves! I found the book very interesting, and it took me exactly the length of a flight from Atlanta to MN to read it.

In Atlanta I also read a couple works of fiction, more specifically two books by Jodi Piccoult ("Mercy" and "The Tenth Circle"). Good enough. Her books are easy reads with fairly good stories and make good time fillers. I don't read a lot of fiction. I have a long history of skipping the unnecessary words while reading... I just don't feel like reading a paragraph describing the texture of a dress or something, so I typically skip to dialogue. I distinctly remember my parents doubting my true reading speed as a kid, understanding that I finished books much faster than would be possible. Once they gave me a test... gave me a short amount of time to read a passage in the book, and then quizzed me on the details. One of the questions was "What did so-and-so eat for lunch?" I had no clue. The answer was "nothing"--in the book this kid says he ran out the door without eating. Fine, I was busted. I did NOT read and take in every bit of the book, but really? Was it that important?

I also do this with movies, especially action movies. Why do I need a long fight scene? My mind tends to wander and I tune back in when there's a winner.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Atlanta musings

I've been going through books like there was no tomorrow, what with audiobooks at the part time job. Over a 3 day period I listened to both "Culture Warrior" by Bill O'Reilly and "I am American and So Can You!" by Steven Colbert. Very interesting juxtaposition, as the latter is essentially a parody of the first. And you know what? I liked BOTH of the books, taking the first seriously and having a jolly good time listening to the second.

Also, remember the accident a few years back where a survivor was hospitalized for a month before it was realized it was not who they thought it was? Very tragic. I listened to the book "Mistaken Identity" and was entertained (in a most compassionate way).

Also I listened to the book Blink and it was absolutely GREAT! It was recommended to me and I dutifully put it on my to-read list and I loved it. I was enthralled by certain sections and after finishing it, almost started from the beginning again. Stew: if you liked "Stumbling On Happiness" you should read this one, too, as it covers similar ground surrounding how a person's brain works.

I'm reporting to you from most lovely Atlanta, where I am until next Tuesday for a work conference. I enjoy most of the classes I take, although admittedly some more than others.

Homeless Joe told me that someone was threatening to kill himself from jumping from some window of my hotel. Sure enough, there was a cop out front, but I saw no potential jumper, nor any evidence of a successful jump.

My room was upgraded for me beyond any possible reason: I am in a 2 bedroom apartment suite, so yes, even though I am only 1 person, I have two double beds from which to choose. I also have 2 full bathrooms, a living room, a dining room, a kitchen, and in case I have subjects coming to beg for something, a separate sitting room as well. It's almost too much room.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

More leaves, treadmills, and money

I finished my leaf project in 3 hours today before going in to pick up some hours at my part-time job.

Final tally was about 7 hours and 8 big lawn and leaf bags.

I think I'm going to start a compost pile, something I'd been considering for awhile. So, in the corner of my backyard I dumped the equivalent of 2 big bags of the pulverized leaf material as a start. I think I'm going to try to find a couple of pallets from a local store of some sort to create a couple walls. In addition I am going to try to mow mine/RR's lawn one last time to collect the grass clippings to add to the pile. When I'm going to do this, especially with the dark evenings, I do not know. Most likely will work Wednesday night at ptj (part time job), get up Thursday a.m., mow, make sure I'm packed, maybe head into work for a few hours, and then I have a evening flight to Atlanta for a work meeting, not getting back until next Tuesday.

PTJ is good, as I get a lot of podcast and audiobook listening in, and the work is easy (simple data entry). It's nice making a little extra money to pay off some of my debt.

At work co-workers and I will sometime chat about the economy. I find it interesting that while most everyone I talk to is bemoaning the fact that they are upside down in their mortgages, I actually have 2 houses that are both worth more (based on tax value) than what I owe on them. I'm holding firm on my belief that the economy will turn around and my homes, purchased low, will have been good investments.

I do have a pile of credit card debt, mainly important house stuff (like furnaces) as I've always been good with money and have not been prone to impulse spending or getting way out of control. (Except, as I told V last weekend, I probably didn't NEED to buy the 43" television the day before my annual superbowl party [to which you are all invited] to make sure the Nightman was completely satisfied with the party).

I have 12 credit cards, but I used to have way more. Right after high school I used to collect credit cards, applying for as many as I could and getting all the free t-shirts. I even had a card in the name of my friend Nora's dog Bonnie (see my last post to read about Nora in my first webpage from the late '90's). After I received the card in her name, I started getting credit offers for her. Eventually Bonnie passed on, yet I still got credit offers--for a dead dog.

The media warns of being careful of cards cutting credit limits. Not mine... I've had 2 cards in the last two weeks raise my credit limits. Fine by me, because my credit score will improve because I'll be using a lower percentage of my credit limit.

As far back as high school I used to tell people I was good for the economy: I always enjoyed working and making money, but I also enjoyed spending it.

When my old treadmill finally died, I bought a new one, cancelling my gym membership and justifying it saying my treadmill payment was $0.08 more than my gym membership. So I had a nice treadmill and committed to turning my garage into a workout room of sorts.

Problem: Treadmill is additional debt. Also, I wasn't using it because either I was getting home WAY too late from ptj and didn't want to wake my renter, or I was exhausted and going to bed early. There was no way to force myself into a routine.

So, I sold the treadmill. Posted it on craigslist and had it sold (with only a slight loss) within a few days. It felt really good to turn that money around and pay off the card it was on.

Now I have no treadmill and no gym membership. I have considered just running outside for free. Well, again, because of ptj, I don't feel secure running around Coon Rapids at 3am (whereas yes, I would go to the gym at 3am). So now I'm considering joining Lifetime again, as it is 0.25 miles away from my house.

I may also try to run outside at least one weekend day a week, but we'll see about that.

Another problem: I spend 20+ hours per week at ptj listening to audiobooks/podcasts. Can I really train on a treadmill at the gym and listen to it MORE? Any ideas for a small DVD player I can balance on the treadmill so I can watch my shows? Or maybe not balance, but somehow prop in the book holder?

My first webpage

Check out my very first webpage. I'm stumbled upon the link a little bit ago and am shocked that it still works.

I believe it was made in 1997-98 time period and I worked on it for about a week before never touching it again.

Leaves

For my b-day present (back in August) I asked my parents for money to buy a leaf blower/sucker mulcher. I finally got the opportunity to use it this afternoon.

In between my yard and RR's yard is a HUGE sugar maple (legally it's HIS tree, but it drapes my entire side yard). It's because of this tree that during the summer months I'm unable to "monitor" him from my bedroom window into his living room. Note: I don't do that and wouldn't do that even without the tree. The tree provides a lot of shade that probably brings down my summer cooling costs.

The roots are very close to the surface, making it tough to mow around. The roots also make it difficult for grass to grow, so it's not that big of a deal. It also drops a ton of leaves, and as the leaves inconveniently for me drop during fall hunting season while RR is away, I have taken it upon myself to "deal with" the leaves in both our yards. Again, this is his entire backyard and my side yard, my front yard (another big sugar maple) and my backyard (2 sugar maples--one in my backyard and the other one just over the border in my other neighbor's yard).

Last year I raked. And raked and raked and raked. I was sore and had blisters all over my hands (well, honestly I think it was only one blister, but it hurt and was in a poorly located spot). I had big paper bags from Home Depot that I dutifully filled, one after another. When all was said and done I put 20+ hours into the project and it took 25 of the big bags filled twice. (How did I do that? Eforce took me and my leaves to the Anoka County compost place to dump the first batch).

This year I decided to try the blower/sucker thing and so far so good. The most frustrating part is the extension cords; I have to be very careful else I pull out a connection on one of the 3 cords. Yes, I could have gotten a gas powered machine, but I think that would have been tougher to maintain through the years.

The blower part is fantastic. I VERY quickly blew all the leaves into multiple large piles. The vacuuming is slower than blowing, but I believe faster than the bagging by hand. Also much less physical work. The machine also mulches the leaves down to (advertised) 1/16th of their original size. I tend to believe the advertising because when I dump the bag the leaves are close to dust.

I am halfway done or so in about 4 hours and have 5 big lawn and leaf bags filled. Talking to my mom tonight I think I may start a compost pile in my backyard and may just dump the leaves I take care of tomorrow into a pile.