Monday, October 16, 2006

Social Security doesn't follow the CPI?

I decided to hunt for the changes to the social security amounts today and was intrugued to see that the amount at which you stop paying social security (for an individual mind you) is at now at $94,200 whereas it was at $90,000 last year. Thats just over a 4.6% increase year over year. Also, the amount an individual must pay for 1 work credit went from $920 to $970. Thats a 5.4% increase. Why don't these things follow the Consumer price index(CPI), also known as the inflation rate? They are never that high. My two thoughts as to the reasons are:
1) It wasn't indexed previously and now they are making up ground.
2) Its a means to make up for the under-funded future of Social Security. The 4.6% is higher to get more money from the rich and the 5.4% is higher to pay less out in the long run....thus allowing SS to be funded longer.

Here is the referenced government article on SS rates.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

My favorite political statements yet

I hear these two things from Democrats on the news:
1. "President Bush tricked us into going into Iraq by saying they had WMDs" I assume this is from the MANY Democrats which supported going into Iraq.

2. "President Bush is dumb." I heard this the other night on O'Reilly factor from a prominent democrat.

Ok, so if a "dumb" guy "tricked" you...what does that make you? Ha!

I disagree with both of these statements. I think the evidence supported the Iraq war and everyone was fooled by incorrect evidence. I don't think it was Bush's fault. And, anyone that can win 2 presidential elections...isn't dumb. He seems quite intelligent to me. I do think he is a poor public speaker compared to some politicians...but he is better than I have no room to talk.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Back in shape

With the goal to get back in shape, I am working out a lot again. A couple of observations:
1) Every year you wait it gets tougher.
2) My definition of "in shape" is different than it used to be.
3) I need to not stop again...

First, every year it gets tougher. Its true..your body just can't recover from muscle pulls, cramps, and just from the overall stress of working out. I remember when i started working out again after about a 3 yr hiatis (sp?) when I was 21. In 2 weeks, I was on my my way. Now that I am 27 and have had a 3 yr hiatis again, I am still struggling to get a second set of any muscle group in. The wall is a lot closer.

The other thing is my definition of in shape has definitely changed. It used to be, "muscles, muscles, muscles." And, I had them. But now, whether it is my age, maturity, or fact I have a wife and a kid on the way, the bigger concentration is now "cardio, cardio, muscles." Why cardio? Well, for me its not so much about losing weight, although that would be nice. For me its about health. I am a big built guy, always have been and as far as I can figure it, always will be. Even in my worst shape, I had to wear "athletic cut" suit/tux jackets because my shoulders were so much bigger than my gut. While my frame/bone structure can handle me being bigger, the reality for me is that my heart may not be able to. I need to keep it in shape.

Finally, I need to keep the momentum going and not stop. This has been painful and every time I do it it gets worse. I need to keep going...and hopefully, Lord willing, I will be able to.

Getting closer

Well..we are within 3 weeks of the baby's due date...Everything was progressing well as of our doctor's apptmt Friday...we are ready for the little one to come bless our life :-) We had our second and final baby shower on Saturday in Heather's hometown, Burlington. I spent the afternoon with Heather's dad and had some great conversations and watched football. We got a lot of wonderful gifts at all of our showers. I think the majority of the gifts were clothes. Heather and I shouldn't have to buy clothes for the first 6 months. :-)

On Saturday, our neighborhood had a yard sale. Typically they are well attended, but Saturday was cold (high of 60) and misty all day, so not a lot of people came by. We did sell $25 worth of stuff we didn't want and gave away a lot more! :-) I am going to spend some time on Craigslist trying to give away some of the other stuff. We need to get it out of the house!

Friday, October 06, 2006

Bad news in Apex

If you have seen the news this morning, there was a large fire at a hazardous waste plant in Apex. Here it is on fox news. I am slightly worried about it all for my coworkers. A lot of my coworkers are in Apex since it is about as close to our work as I am. Here is a map of my work (NorthWest on this map), Apex (SouthWest), and my home (NorthEast):

Personally, we aren't downwind of I am not too worried for my house...but this affects people I know and care about as well as the local environment. :-( Keep Apex in your prayers today.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Awesome dilbert

This is hilarious. What, my coworker has a life outside of work? who knew?

Monday, September 18, 2006

How much is popularity of football teams affected by Superbowls?

Check out this page from Google Trends showing the differences in searches and news from teams. I picked the Steelers, Cowboys, Patriots, Redskins, and Seahawks. Popular teams today, and watch how much the Superbowl spike effects things...or the TO hype in Dallas. Pretty cool.

The other thing to check out is the difference between the Superbowl winner and loser, Steelers vs Seahawks.

Friday, September 15, 2006

baby craziness

Well, we are 6 weeks away from when my life is scheduled to be flipped upside down. People are beginning to send us gifts as Heather has her first baby shower soon. Thats a huge blessing and has me less worried about all this stuff we have to buy. We have the swing, a rocker, and a high chair out for Cassie to start to get used to it.

Heather and I finished the 5 birth classes and 1 breastfeeding course. We are signing up for an Infant CPR course that is happening at our Y next Tuesday. Then, the following week we have a free class from the Family Paws folks on how to train our dog to deal with a new baby. I am excited about both of those classes...but I guess I feel more ready now overall.

Sorry I haven't updated this in a couple weeks, we have been stormed with stuff to do.

Friday, September 01, 2006

To DirectTV, or not to DirectTV

I have been recently again angered by the NFL. I am a huge NFL fan, but do not have DirectTV so I can't get NFL Sunday Ticket and now for now, Time Warner Cable does not offer the NFL there goes another NFL.

Reasons to go DirectTV:
1) NFL Sunday Ticket is exclusive to DirectTV.

Reasons not to go DirectTV:
1) They don't have low profile receivers or CableCards...which means my LCD TV would need a BIG KLUNKY receiver...or the BIGGER KLUNKY receiver with a hard drive aka a DVR.
2) They still expect you to have a phone line, which means I have to wire a phone line.
3) Dishes on the roof don't help make a house look attractive.
4) I'd have to pay for HD in each room, I get HD for free with the TWC basic package now.

Also, they don't let you purchase NFL Sunday Ticket without a full package, monopolistic jerks. Since I am paying for cable already, I guess I can deal with this for now.

Yea, I will admit the only thing stopping me is #1 up there...if they fix that, I would probably go to direct TV. But, for now, I am waiting for IPTV to take off.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The Primantis sandwich

Looking through the hard drive at old pictures, I found an old shot of a primantis sandwich. Check this out:

In case you are wondering, we are talking about good old fries and slaw on a deli style sandwich..thats quality Pittsburgh style. I miss Primantis so much this picture makes me hungry :-)

Finally bought a car seat/stroller

We debated which car seat and stroller a bit, and in the end we had decided on buying a Peg Perego..because we heard its the safest. We ordered the one we wanted at 10% off...still $475...and then it wasn't coming in for a we cancelled that order and somehow went back to the drawing board. Not that the original price at $530 was that much more, but man its a lot. So, we decided to go back to the drawing board, look again at the metro lite. As I researched it, the I saw a lot of nice reports on the Chicco Flex Lock as well. So, we were going to look at the Graco MetroLite, the Chicco Cortina, and the Peg Perego P3/Viaggo SIP again. Man, we didn't realize how heavy that PP was compared to some of the others. We really liked the Chicco and the features that the Babies R Us employee ran through, won us over. So, we finally have one. It is here...and we saved $250 from the PP :-)

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Birth classes

So, we are taking birth classes at Rex wednesday nights. Its very interesting, I have learned a lot. Our birth class teacher is all about "optimal fetal positioning" which is basically getting the mothers pelvis in the right direction to help the baby pop out more easily. Its interesting, but she is pushing that doll through the pelvis a much I dreamt about it last night. Whew...

One of the other things last night is that she told the men they can do as much as they want in the delivery room as they want to. Specifically, that the nurses would allow you to help go fetch ice chips, blankets, etc. Meanwhile, in the back of my mind is what my cousin Ken told me...he just sat there and the professionals handled it all. I think I am going to sit back and enjoy the experience, let the professionals handle the rest.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Steelers tickets!!!!!

So, I am so pumped. I used some of my patent money to get a pair of Steelers tickets for John and I for the game when they play the Carolina Panthers down here in Charlotte on December 17. I picked up a pair of tickets from ebay in row 11 of section 230. Section 230 is right behind the goal posts:

Hopefully, this will be high enough to get a good view. Here is a small image of the view from there from

Next, I ordered my favorite player's super bowl replica jersey. Here is what it looks like:

Yea...I am excited. Go Steelers!!!!

Friday, August 11, 2006

Coke in a bottle

There is just something about an ice cold Coke in a bottle. Heather got these 8 oz bottles of Coke in a bottle the other day...there is just something that makes that Coke test better. Maybe its the painted label on the glass, the cold condensation off the bottle, or the perfectly round cold drinking spout also known as the bottle top. I haven't enjoyed 8 oz of any beverage so much in quite some time.

What do you do with caught suicide bombers?

I have been wondering, what do you do with caught suicide bombers. But, I wonder how our courts would handle it. They never actually killed anyone, so they may not get the death sentence. But, I don't see how time in prison will make them want to blow themselves up and kill a bunch of normal civilians any less. I personally think being sentenced to death lets them be they will be happy and the world will be safer.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Fidelity adds a bunch of jobs to Raleigh/RTP area

Fidelity just announced adding 2000 jobs to the RTP area and buying a 268 acre campus in RTP. To do this, they got a package worth almost $70 million. Here is some of the coverage:
News and Observer
WRAL video coverage

Cool stuff. The disclaimer is that my wife does work for Fidelity...and I personally think the company is just about the best employer around. :-)

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Steelers sadness

So, in case you didn't know, I am from Pittsburgh which means I bleed black and gold. Steelers will play the Panthers in Charlotte this season...and won't play them again in Charlotte til 2014. I failed to get tickets early...I tried to get early tickets and tried to get tickets when they went on sale Saturday and I could again. Its now the question is whether to buy tickets at $400...hmmm...

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

How much life insurance do you need? I decided to find a "how much life insurance do I need" application and tried the one here on

I was absolutely amazed that it didn't come up with 3 million or something outrageous. I guess it was written for people and not to help insurance agents. I found out that I was over insured and I was very happy that was the case. :-) Check it seems fairly legit.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Dyson vacuums and how I will not buy from Sears again

The excitement of the night was the new Dyson DC-14 animal vacuum cleaner we bought. More on it in a second.

Basically, this past weekend most of the floors were vacuumed by our Kenmore Progressive cannister vacuum and cleaned with a fairly new Rug Doctor rented at the local grocery store. The Kenmore bit the dust in a mild way, one of the prongs in the power cord pulled off. To fix it either meaned a "big daddy job" splicing the wires together with another plug or paying Sears "at least $50" to put on a new power cord. So, we choose to have it fixed and after talking to the people on the phone to see how much it would be, I looked on the site to locate my friendly sears repair shop Sunday. Monday I drove the vacuum over the the local Sears store where the website said to go, the store said they don't take the things anymore and I had to drive about 20 mins away and that repair shop was only open til 6 PM. It was about 8 I knew I would have to wait til another day. This evening, we went out of our way..8 miles and 23 stoplights each way...we counted...and we get to the store at 5:25 PM. They close at 5:30 PM. We just made it in time and walk in and the guy says, LAUGHING, you need the hoses with the base. Its a stinking power cord...they wanted every piece of the vacuum to just replace the power cord which should have never broken to begin with. Then he tells us it will take at least a week to fix! Its a power cord!! I was fuming mad...I told Heather on the way home we weren't going it was a new vacuum.

When we got home we got a 20% off Bed Bath and Beyond coupon (perfect timing) and after some post-dinner research on vacuum reviews/ratings at and some reading the Dyson website...we were ready to buy a Dyson. So, I told Heather the best seems to be either the DC-15 or DC-14 animal for our lifestyle. At BB&B, only the DC-14 and DC-07 animal units were available, so we bought the DC-14 and brought it home. Within fixe minutes and without any tools (including no knives/scissors needed to open the box), we had that thing cleaning carpets like the carpets hadn't ever been cleaned. I was absolutely shocked that not even a week after the rugs had been vacuumed and steam cleaned, that Dyson sucked up enough dog hair, dust, filth and grime to fill up 3 of the old vacuum bags...those inferior vacuum bags. I started to use Dyson as a verb, "Let's Dyson the stairs!" and it was one of the coolest cleaning experiences of my life. I mean, I haven't cleaned too much as my wife can contest...but that Dyson cleaned everything better.

Bottom line on this somewhat amusing article is that Sears stinks and the Dyson DC-14 is better than a Kenmore vacuum + a rug doctor. :-)

Interest only mortgages

I would love to see some statistics on interest only mortgages. I believe there are three types of people who get interest only mortgages. One type is like myself, who was looking to put down more money early in the mortgage and when the payments ammortized to have that be lower. Although we have a plan to still pay off our house at the 16 yr mark of our mortgage, I thought that locking myself into the higher interest rate was a higher risk.

I am afraid that the more popular type to use interest only mortgages are those who want to live beyond their means completely. The lower payment attraction of the interest only mortgage catches many eyes...but when someone isn't making ground on their mortgage many of them will have no choice but to refinance when the payment schedule is ammortized and they would have to pay their principal in 15 or 20 years but are only used to paying interest.

I believe there is a third type which is the type to speculate on property values and try to take advantage of a large growth area. Most places, someone could purchase a house in a potentially booming area, rent it out and pocket the piece above the interest, then cash in after 10 yrs from the property increase. However, this assumes property will continue to go up...but I know some people who have thought about this and some who are doing it. So, maybe it is also a popular model?

I would love to see some data about which ways the interest only mortgages are being used. I worry that it is another way that Americans are spending their money without accumulated assets and therefore hurting the economy in the long run. I hope that instead the property values continue to climb and the people making the decision to do the second piece there actually are making money on property values in the end.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Emergency Fund savings...

So, in order to ensure that we have cash should something bad happened, we have an emergency fund as a backup. Most things we read suggested 3-6 mos of your salary as the emergency fund. I think for me it should be 3 mos of bills. Giving, Saving, and Taxes won't be an issue if it is an emergency like loss of job...and you shouldn't be spending it on frivalous things at those points its really just bills.

To battle inflation, we started an HSBC Online Savings account which is offering a 5.05% online only savings account with an ATM or Debit card. Our credit union, Coastal Federal, only offers 1% or 1.25% interest on savings accounts...essentially meaning you lose 2-3% per year due to inflation. I found the HSBC through the comparisons at it out for yourself if you are looking for an account.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Switching to flickr

I am switching to flickr since photobucket has a cap on the size of images they will store which is annoying if you want to re-download them and save them one day.

Why save before spend?

Americans are in debt. No big news. But how bad is it? For the first time in my life time the average savings rate from Americans is a negative number.

Here is an article about the American savings rate. And here is the chart of interest showing the bank rate over the past 10 years:

So, for the first time in 10 years the negative savings rate, in others words I believe this means that people either got in more debt or ate up some of their savings last year on average instead of saving! If we, as a culture do not reverse this trend you can expect very bad things. Why? Let me expand on my theory..

Debt is funded by the savings of the masses. If the masses save less, there is less funding the debt. So, to encourage saving, interest rates will have to go up. If the savings rate goes up, the debt interest rate will also have to go up. Causing people's credit card and home rates to go up means that less people will be able to spend on other goods and/or go bankrupt which will hurt the economy. The downward spiral will cause a recession until the government has to step in and stop the madness driving the government into larger debt.

Ok...that might be a "the sky is falling" kind of attitude...but its only meant to say that we need to reverse this trend. Its vital to our economy and our future in terms of the younger generation. So check out my last blog and think about transforming your approach to spending your net income.

Savings before spending...

At our Sunday school class I heard something thought provoking. It was a concept which had never been made this clear to me. Here is the idea..

The typical American lifestyle goes like this:
Spend->Pay Bills->Save->Give

This leaves little money for saving or giving. I would say the disciplined and well instructed Christian has moved Giving to #1 and maybe Pay Bills to #2 to something like this:
Give->Pay Bills->Spend->Save.

But, the idea was to move the Saving up, especially while you are young and have time on your side. So, it would look like this:
Give->Save->Pay Bills->Spend.

That is absolutely logical when you think about the importance of most of those things...but do we actually do that? I know this is something I have struggled with...but it has me rethinking and relooking at our budget. Can we not have a catch all leftover savings and spend on things even like cable TV at the end? How can we transform our lifestyle and spending to accomodate that? Its an interesting challenge we should all aim to become. More on this soon...

To my Haifa colleagues

I have a lot of Haifa colleagues, and my prayers go out to them especially this morning. I read this:
"Rockets fired from Lebanon rained down on the northern Israeli city of Haifa"


Monday, July 10, 2006

Mortgage Debt craziness

I heard yesterday a couple facts. To me, these are scary:

  1. 90% of mortgages are 30 years.
  2. Most 30 year mortgages don't have half their principal paid off until about 21-23 years into the mortgage. The rest of the first ~22 years is all interest!!
  3. The new trend in interest only mortgages has people not paying off half their mortgage principal until 24-26 years into their 30 year mortgage.
  4. 95% of Americans consider themselves not in debt if they have a mortgage.
To me, these facts being close to true are extremely scary. Mortgage is a more binding debt than most of our debts...and the fact that most american's don't view themselves as in debt shows that the mortgage industry is getting what it wants, people locked into mortgages for life.

One thing I firmly believe, everyone should establish a goal when to pay off their mortgage. Of course, that goal shouldnt be in 30 years either. As Heather and I plan for college savings, one thing is evident. If our money wasn't tied up in our mortgage, we could more easily pay for our child's education. We could also save more for retirement and possibly retire earlier. We could go on more family trips and do all sorts of things.

Two weeks ago we didn't have a goal to pay off our mortgage. We are far from perfect. But, now our goal is to pay off our mortgage in 15 years. Since we have been in the house 1 year, this would be 14 years earlier than our mortgage. I hope we can do it..and we will try hard. If we are able to do it, our daughter will be 15 and we will have a few years of being abble to save a lot of money for her to go to college. We aren't throwing away other savings to get their either...we are still going to be saving aggressively for her college. But, as we do so we will also be trying to pay off our house to free up that cash.

To start...who am I

So, I thought I would start at the logical beginning of this blog. Who am I? My name is Erik, I have a beautiful wife named Heather, a fun dog names Cassie, and a baby on the way. We live in Raleigh, NC in the USA. I am a Christian and attend Crossroads Fellowship church in Raleigh. This blog is intended to be my personal blog. I also have a work blog here and a blog about my travels here.