Monthly Archives: May 2015

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History RepeatingYou know you’re getting old when you lived long enough to see history repeat itself.

Sure, everyone has heard about history repeating but to live it, well, that’s a different thing…

Now, I know the fashion fad of flair bottom pants around a decade ago was a complete mimeograph of the 1970’s. I was a little too young to remember the masses wearing bell bottoms back then but I do remember *everyone* wearing neon colors, myself included, in the mid to late 1980’s.

In fact, I’m pretty sure I spent some time operating the ditto machine for my 5th grade teacher while wearing flourescent pink soccer shorts…

Fast forward to today, and going to any mall or driving by any bus stop in 2014, you’ll likely notice folks wearing some of the ugliest outfits in the past 30 years and/or sneakers that are the color of tennis balls.

Yep, neon has returned.

Think ahead and start unpacking your old plaid shirts — grunge is coming back next.

And it’s not just fashion…

Even technology, something you’d think would always be progressing, has taken a few pages out of the history books.

Sony WalkmanSadly, neither the mimeograph or the ditto machine look slated to make a comeback but, for years, I *so* badly wanted a Sony Walkman for my birthday.

I never actually got one though there was a crappy Radio Shack version of one in our house. No idea where it came from… Someone probably left it at our house on purpose — total piece of crap.

Anyway, by the time I was in high school, in the early 90’s, wearing a walkman on your belt or even hidden in your pocket was about as “in” as wearing a pocket protector has ever been. It would have been social status suicide.

But then comes along the iPod… Now it’s an accessory to your outfit again — like a scarf or something, to have your headphones on, even those ridiculous looking Beats ones.

So much so that they’re accepted when you’re not even listening to music.

Weird.

And, related, I used to listen to all of my mom and dad’s 45’s on my Disco Duck record player. The record player is gone but I still have all of the ’45s in my man cave.

They’re all from the late 50’s and early 60’s and provided hours and hours of entertainment for me when I was a kid. No one has more b-side Paul Anka knowledge than me. No one.

Not even Paul Anka.

When I was of the age to be buying my own music, albums were the way to go — whether on vinyl, cassette, or CD. Sure, cass-singles (which I just mentioned the other day) were available but hardly popular. A blip on the chart when it came to music sales.

Nowadays?

When’s the last time you bought an album?

Okay, maybe it wasn’t that long ago but when’s the last time you bought (or stole) a single song online? Within the past month for most, I’d guess.

Yep, singles are back.

Thanks Apple.

The “innovations” that have made you so successful are just rehashings of the 1960’s and 1980’s. Strange that they’re, by-and-large, considered to be societal changing innovation company when their most successful innovations have all been done before.

Have I mentioned before that I’m not a fan of Apple?

Sticking with computers, an industry I’ve worked in for nearly two decades, it’s funny to me how “the cloud” has become a trendy buzzword, you know, where it’s “good” to be on the cloud.

People who have no idea what “the cloud” is really seem to want to go to there.

When I was just getting going in my career, the folks who today would say they were “on the cloud” were using what we called “dumb terminals” back then.

Entry level folks were on “dumb terminals” so-as to protect themselves from, well, themselves. I was pretty darn proud to “not” be on the cloud back then.

Mr. CoffeeUp next… Remember when everyone wanted a Mr. Coffee? I mean, even to non-coffee drinkers, pretty much every household that had a toaster also had a Mr. Coffee.

No one in my family drank coffee ever but we had a Mr. Coffee (and a bag full of filters) stored away in the cabinet where the seldom used blender lived.

The “home” coffee machine’s popularity waned as instant coffee gained more traction and then places like Starbucks started dotting the landscape marketing themselves as a premium product in comparison.

Starbucks and all of the donut chains kinda made instant coffee — and those awesome flavor crystals — feel like how I’d imagine Tropicana or Minute Maid makes Tang feel.

Making coffee at home had probably reached an all time low…

Then Keurig, with their expensive single cup k-cups, came around and revolutionized everything when it comes to the home brewing of coffee!

Or did they?

Really, it’s a Mr. Coffee that uses instant coffee mix.

Why didn’t I think of that?

Snoopy Sno-Cone MakerHmmmmm… is a slightly modified version of the 1970’s Snoopy Sno-Cone machine just around the corner? Probably.

And how about alcohol? I wasn’t old enough to drink in the 1980’s but I sure remember those Bartles & Jaymes commercials. And Ringo Starr dressed as a polar bear for Seagrams hawking “golden” wine coolers.

If I recall, they were quite popular.

They fell out of favor in the 90’s (when I could drink) and the few that were still being marketed were tucked in the back cooler of the liquor store with drinks like Zima. They’d been relagated to a “gag item” status. Chick drinks.

Enter the 2000’s and the beer aisles were rapidly invaded by an endless variety of “Hard” Lemonades, “Angry” Ciders, and those fruity Smirnoff Ice things that taste so good.

But, for real, they’re just 1980’s “chick” drinks with cool stickers on the bottle.

Am I the only one that doesn’t see this?

Or is it that I’m just that old?

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Nissan/Datsun PulsarIn 1983, my family joined the ranks of a the two-car household. I was 7 years old.

Weird, thinking back, as we’d always had a house with a two car garage but never had two cars.

In fact, 90% of our neighbors only had one car. Strange to think houses were “ahead” of the times back then.

Anyway, the “new” car was a Nissan Pulsar hatchback that peculiarly still had Datsun branding here and there.

It was, ahem, brown.

Not the branding…the car was brown. The whole car. Inside and out.

Not tan. Not gold. Not even copper.

Brown.

Now, a brown car may have been a status symbol of sorts in the funky 1970’s but by the 1980’s, well, let’s just say I was never keen on being seen in this car.

Brown?

Really, Dad?

I remember pleading with him to get a blue one instead to no avail.

Hilariously, in 1988, I made all of the same arguments when my dad purchased a Ford Bronco. Also, you guessed it, brown. Ugh…

He even tried to talk the salesman into replacing the Bronco tire covers (which were traditionally black and white) with a brown Eddie Bauer edition one. You know, to complete the brown-ness or something.

Horrifically, the upholstery inside the Bronco which was, obviously, also brown was accented with orange stripes. OMG!

1988 Ford Bronco II

Yeah, just what a 12 year old in the 80’s wants to be seen in… two brown cars.

We’re talking sparkly brown, too. It was traumatic.

So, I was in high school when I first heard the term “POS” and it was used by some of the older kids in reference to my dad’s car coming around the bend to pick me up after track practice.

It took me a bit to figure out was a P.O.S. was. Okay, no it didn’t. Even 20 years before things like BFF, LOL, and WTF became trendy and common, POS set the “lets over abbreviate everything” craze off.

The very not cool Pulsar was on it’s last legs by then but even the day it rolled off the lot, though I hadn’t used the term that far back, it *was* a POS, through-and-through.

The equally uncool Bronco “could” have been cool if it’d been blue or something.

Or white — OJ Simpson was still a pretty cool cat back then!

So from 1983 through 1990, I was shuttled around in brown cars and, clearly, it scarred me for life.

To this day, I have never owned a brown car and can pretty safely say that I will never purchase a brown car. Ever.

Can’t do that to my kids — even if some of those brown Kia’s do look pretty sharp.

And speaking of my kids, perhaps it’s because they’re still a little too young to care (or notice) or maybe it’s just that I’ve always driven AWESOME cars (in my opinion) since they’ve been around but they don’t seem to have any negative feelings towards any of our vehicles.

If only I could have been so lucky.

Thanks, Dad…

RELATED NOTE:

In the past on here, I’ve posted that I like to attend car shows. Since I’m in no way a gear head and muscle cars do nothing for me, it’s mostly because they’re outdoors and have free admission.

Anyway, one of the shows I’ve brought the kids to each year only includes Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Bugattis, and Maserattis.

Sorry, Porsche — you’re ghetto and are turned away at the gates.

Scissor Door SkepticismDuncan, my oldest, even had the opportunity to ride in a Countach a couple years back — and though I’m not one to get all excited about riding (or even just sitting) in a fancy car, that was pretty cool.

So, that show only happens once per year since the owners of that type of vehicle aren’t usually the type looking to show off their wheels.

They have the funds, they buy a neat toy, and then drive it every so often and usually for charity events. That’s what this specific show is all about.

The regular car shows (seemingly on weekly basis) that happen around here are pretty much a collection of American muscle cars and wannabe “too fast too furious” Mitsubishi’s with wheels the size of skateboard wheels.

You know, bitchin’ Camaros with racing stripes, Mustangs with the blowers coming through the hood, and t-top Firebirds that even have the bird painted on the hood — mostly driven by short fat guys with hairy backs in Confederate flag tank-tops.

And then on the other side of the street, the primer gray Hondas and Mitsubishi’s mostly made out of bondo crowd — guys and girls, rail thin, vaping, and with an abundance of cheap jewelry on — blaring tunes with so much bass, their license plates rattle as loud as the engine does.

You get the picture.

I enjoy the people watching at these events — what a collection!

Perhaps I’ll start calling them people shows instead of car shows…

Anyway, at one of them late last year, I asked my boys to show me which car they though was “better” than our Z3 because, certainly, even at the primarily domestic muscle car shows, there are some really nice (and unique) vehicles that I’d trade my BMW for in a heartbeat.

To my surprise, they both agreed — it was the Ferrari. I wasn’t surprised they liked the Ferrari, you know, I just patted myself on the back for giving them good taste — I was just surprised they actually agreed.

But a Ferrari? Here? Where?

They walked me over to a maroon 1980’s style Ford Mustang — you know the type that looks just like a Ford Escort of the same era except the Mustang had goofy plastic shutters down the rear window… This, apparently was their favorite car.

Yeah, my kids thought it was Ferrari. So much for good taste…

Horse Logos

And that might seem pretty funny but, honestly, what the hell was Ford thinking in the early 1980’s? The entry level Escort and their flagship muscle car looked nearly identical. Sheesh…

The best part was that the meathead owner of the car seemed a little offended at their mis-identification… I thought it was hilarious!

I give the kids a lot of credit for semi-“recognizing” the logo but quietly explained (our of earshot of the owner, of course) that while the logos are similar but that this car’s logo was more of a pony than a horse.

And Ferrari’s don’t come in a colour as ugly as that.

Ever.

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Michael JacksonI’m not certain how it came up but recently my two older children have become interested in what I thought was “cool” when I was their age.

No, it’s not like they want to use my old Speak-n-Spell… Wait, actually, I should bust that thing out. They’d freakin’ love it…

Okay, a better example is how they’ve have little interest in the crappy Star Wars action figures I had back then or even playing COMBAT on the Atari 2600.

What they’ve been asking, though, are things like “Is this song from when you were a kid?” or “What did McDonald’s have before McNuggets?” and “What number were you when you played soccer?”

Yes, for the record, I’m old enough to remember a time before McNuggets. I’m pretty certain the term “Chicken Finger” had yet to debut.

You wanted chicken? Go to Kentucky Fried Chicken…and order chicken. There was no original recipe then. It was all just… chicken.

Anyway, while driving home one night, we caught the tail end of Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean on the radio and I’d mentioned that it was my favorite song when I was their age…

I exaggerated slightly as I was 6 when it came out but…after 3 decades, that’s close enough, right?

They both seemed to show real interest in it, you know, being something that I really liked when I was little.

Truth be told, I can’t IMAGINE my parents as children.

I think part of that is due to the fact that I essentially know nothing about their childhood — as far as I’m concerned, they “started” when I was around four years old and they’ve never really shared any of the details of what occurred before then.

It might also be because the things that interested them never really interested me. I mean, I liked playing soccer in elementary school but I’m pretty sure neither of my parents ever played soccer, like, ever. Very little overlap, I guess.

So, I’m going to try my best to make sure my kids know that I really was a kid too — and share with them as much as they’re interested in.

So far, anyway, outside of SpongeBob, our interests are almost a 100% match.

Not sure if that’s a sign of good parenting or not…

So, listening to MJ in the car that night had me reminiscing of the night I first saw the moonwalk.

The next day, all of us at the bus stop were talking about it. Trying to imitate it. And eagerly awaiting the next time Michael Jackson would be on tv.

Mentioned this all to my kids and they asked…

“What’s a bus stop?” and “Why did you have to wait for it to be on TV?”

Yeah, I hate when we’re listening to the radio and they insist it play a certain song… Ahhhh… products of the “content whenever I want it” digital age…

Last night, on YouTube, I pulled up this MJ video with 13 minutes of moonwalking all compiled into one video.

I was a little disappointed it didn’t start with one of his early ones (I thought it was interesting how he slowed the beat down as he aged…) but even still, the kids were transfixed.

Crazy, the first moonwalk I ever saw (at the 12:20 mark of the video) was barely three steps. Some of them in this video are all the way across the stage with some sideways thrown in too.

So, less than four minutes in, both of my kids were laughing and giggling while trying to do it.

Just like I did 33 years ago at that place we used to wait for a bus to pick us up.

Vintage Youth Soccer ShirtPIAC Addendum:
For the record, my older son does ride the bus to school each morning but I suppose no one ever refers to it as a bus stop anymore…

Probably because it’s practically a door-to-door service now. Didn’t I blog about that, like, forever ago?

Oh, and my middle son Henrik, after just 15 minutes or so, practically has it. Even with shoes on, he does a better moonwalk than I ever could. Crazy how fast this species of ours is progressing!

Speaking of the soccer number (way up in the fourth paragraph), my older son thought he looked so cool in that 30+ year old youth soccer t-shirt he wore at soccer practice tonight. I mean, nothing but pride on his face.

Sure, call me a hoarder but I’m certainly glad I held on to it.

Err, all 20 of them.

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I’m now four weeks into to my 20-week auto loan payback plan and, while I stumbled out of the gate and ran out of money early on, things are feeling pretty good right now.

Just knowing that I’m 20% of the way there, already, has me motivated to keep going and I think I’ve managed to settle in to this new budget.

To date, I haven’t been able to send in an extra dime over what I’m already aggressively paying down on a weekly basis but I’m sure that as the balance remaining falls within a striking distance, I’ll be able to scrounge additional funds somewhere to rid myself of my largest monthly non-mortgage expense.

At worst, just 16 weeks to go.

My gut tells me it’ll be gone 12 weeks from now — week 16 below.

Weekly Payment Plan

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So today was Emmet’s toe’s appointment with the miniature guillotine I’d imagined would be used to chop his extra toe off.

Fortunately, it didn’t quite go down, err, come off like I’d thought it might. Or maybe it did? I dunno, but it was really cool.

Here’s the “after” picture.

Before pictures can be seen here and the fun and exciting backstory is here.

It all went down pretty quick. Doctor came in, drew on his foot a little with a sharpie, then injected novocaine in a couple of places around that pesky extra toe which resulted in some minimal tears. Then we nervously waited…

Any one remember that awesome waiting room post I had back in 2008? It wasn’t like that I all, I’m just sayin’.

Anyway, the doctor came back in after a few minutes, and from my vantage point, I swear, he pulled the damn thing right off with a pair of giant tweezers with one abrupt tug and dropped it into a pickling jar.

I mean, it was quick and powerful. No nonsense.

The truth of it is, he used some fancy scissors down at the base (according to my wife) but I couldn’t see that behind his “tweezer” hand. I’ll keep on thinking the dude just yanked it off. Old school awesome.

Emmet didn’t make a sound. I mean, I know I would have shrieked — this kid is tough.

Moments later, the doctor stitched him up and, having seen stitches going in before, I’m always amazed at how it’s possible to just sew a person back together like they’re a ripped pair of pants. I dunno, it just seems like we’d “tear” but for whatever reason, we don’t. Crazy.

So now he’s got more traditional looking feet.

How about that?

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Toe-ing Away PartySo, tonight my family had a ‘toe’-ing away party for my infant son Emmet as, tomorrow, he’ll be having that, ahem, extra toe removed from his left foot.

The procedure has been planned for a few months now and the plan tomorrow is just to have the “extra” toe removed but not separate the two toes on each foot that are webbed together.

The extra pinky toe has to come off if he ever wants to wear shoes but the webbing issue is only cosmetic. Apparently there are tons of people with webbed feet walking among us. Who knew?

Anyway, both would be covered by health insurance but we’re not vain enough to put him through any unnecessary pain simply for the sake of what will likely just end up being ugly feet anyway…

Tonight, to celebrate his extra digit and give him support, we played tic-tac-toe, pin the bandaid on the toe, and painted our toe nails — it was a lot of fun as you can see in the picture below.

As for tomorrow, well, I’m a little apprehensive about it, honestly — it’s sure to hurt like hell – but also kind of excited for him too.

I mean, not that he’ll remember any of this but it’ll be nice for him to have semi-normal looking feet for his first summer. It is getting to be flip-flop season, afterall…

In related news, the test results for the syndrome that had me concerned that he could potentially turn out to be an evil swashbuckling tiny headed sloth creature that swims like Michael Phelps and loves Rocky Road ice cream turned out to be nothing to worry about at all.

Results were negative for Smith-Lemli-Opitz Syndrome (SLOS) so instead of being potentially “sick” (or evil, or swashbuckling, or tiny-headed) for the rest of his life, he’ll just be “that” guy with the cosmetically altered (meaning beautiful) feet that tells the story all too often about how he used to have eleven toes.

Or was it nine toes?

It’s complicated.

Either way, he’ll always be a little mutant to me.

And I’ve got the pictures to prove it!

Polydactyly and Webbed Feet on an infant

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Wow, just a couple of weeks in and I’m already feeling really, really, really cash-strapped.

It’s sunk in now how far “out-of-game” I’d allowed myself to get over the past couple of years of not posting on here.

I unveiled that really aggressive plan to pay down my auto loan just, what, like two weeks ago and, ALREADY, I’ve had to dip into my savings account to cover my regular bills.

It wasn’t supposed to happen this way.

I mean, I’m an expert at this sort of thing, right?

I used to be.

So my stumbling out of the gate is clearly a result of my finances going nearly unchecked for the past couple of years. If I wanted something — and I could justify the costs — I bought it. It’s pretty simple, really.

In my head, two weeks or so ago, I though, eh, I’ll just move some automatic payments around to knock out the auto loan, you know, and things will be just like they’ve been for what feels like forever. No big deal.

But then I see something I’ve gotta have on eBay. I spend a couple hundred bucks on my business. The auto insurance bill comes in. I buy a new tablet for my son’s birthday. You know, stuff.

Add all of that up and, well, hmmmmm…that was all of the extra money I’d had slated in my plan to go towards the auto loan.

Crap.

I can’t have it all.

Even still, I haven’t stopped the payment plan.

I didn’t even hit pause.

To get me through this rough patch, I brought over $500 from my savings account to get me by until my next paycheck.

And, hopefully, from here on out, I can curb my spending back to where it needs to be to make this all work…

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I’m often asked why I’ve repeatedly chosen to pay down my some of my lowest interest debt ahead of all of my other “higher cost” balances.

Actually, that’s not true at all.

I’m almost never asked about money since most people are afraid to talk about it. But, I’m going to pretend people ask me that all the time anyway…

It’s about options — and having more of them to choose from.

For most people with pretty decent credit, the debt with the lowest interest rate attached is pretty universally a car loan.

I mean, I could go out and finance an $80k Range Rover Sport this afternoon at a crazy low rate. Probably even drive it home tonight…

It’s cheap money that’s readily available.

Sounds great, right? Well… it sort of is and sort of isn’t.

Nearly everyone can afford a sweet ride. Not everyone can afford to keep it.

Anyway, in my “real-life” case, I’ve got an 2.9% auto loan with a little over $10k remaining on it. And I also have an outstanding $3500 balance on my credit cards with an APR over 10%.

Suze Orman, Dave Ramsey, Clark Howard, any televised money guru, really, would recommend that I pay off the lowest balance or the highest rate first.

In my case, the credit card wins on both terms — it has a low balance and a high rate.

I understand the methods — Ramsey wants people to gain momentum and accomplish things quickly. Basically, wipe one balance out quickly to get yourself going.

Totally get that.

The mathmatically sensible thing to do, though, would be to pay the highest rate balance first since it’s “costing” you more each month than the lower rate balances.

And, clearly, that makes sense too. There isn’t any grey area when it comes to math.

But what those two ideologies are overlooking is — insert menacing fanfare here — the minimum monthly payment.

Say that again in a monster truck commercial voice.

MINIMUM. MONTHLY. PAYMENT.

So, back to my real-life example…

Credit cards, by design, have insanely low minimum monthly payments. I mean, their whole business relies on you not ever paying them back in full — that’s why there is no term.

They don’t want you to default…but they want you just short of defaulting…forever. That’s how they make money.

In my case, the minimum payment on my $3500 balance is $55. Hardly budget busting.

In contrast, the minimum monthly payment on my auto loan is $444.

That’s the equivalent of 8 months worth of credit card payments…in the span of two biweekly pay periods.

Financial freedom is all about having options — you know, money available to spend on what you choose to spend it on.

With that in mind, wouldn’t freeing up a mandatory $444 monthly expense be the faster path to financial freedom?

I mean, once that’s gone, I’ll be able to make double minimum payments to the credit card and still have an “extra” $400 to use in my budget where ever I choose.

That’s freedom.

Eliminate the big (non-mortgage) bills first — regardless of the balance or the rate.

It’ll make everything that follows so much more manageable.

Can You Dig It?

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