Thursday, July 31, 2008

Where's mine?

I like this picture of Madelyn as it shows something she is often doing these days.

Where's mine?

As her eyesight continues to improve, she is often staring at things, learning, distinguishing colors, and trying to gain more knowledge. I love to watch her learning in these ways. Anyway, in this picture of Madelyn she is staring at a plate that previously had a brownie sundae on it. Unfortunately for her, she isn't able to eat this deliciousness :-)

Troubles when away

I hate being away from home without my family...specifically my wife. Not only do I lose easy access to my best friend, but the toughest part is the lack of sleep. I average probably 5 hours of sleep on the nights away from Heather. Sure, it stinks to be in a bed often not as nice as mine, with pillows I don't like as much...but what's worse is not having her warm body beside me. How do I know this? Its because I don't have trouble sleeping when she is next to me ever even if its not in my own bed.

Sure, its nice to have a king size bed all to myself with no blanket stealing. :-) But, in reality I must like the blanket stealing because I sleep better when she does it.

I miss you honey and will be home tonight!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Tickle Me Scared of Elmo

As my wife wrote, Aunt Suzanne got Anna a TMX Elmo and she is scared of it. It is only allowed to sit in her stroller and she is afraid of it being moved outside of it. Here is a video showing her reactions when she doesn't just start crying:

The Stone Age didn't end because the cavemen ran out of stone.


At the time of the last energy shock in the 1970s, Sheikh Yamani, the shrewd Saudi oil minister, famously told his greedier Opec colleagues that they would encourage replacement of oil by other energy sources and kill the golden goose that had made them wealthy if they kept pushing the oil price too high. "Remember," he said, "the Stone Age didn't end because the cavemen ran out of stone."

The last three global recessions -- in 1974, 1980 and 1991 -- were all triggered by an oil shock and it looks as if Opec is now determined to repeat this experience. How many such shocks will it take before we control our addiction to oil?

Those well written words from this article.

For those that don't know me that well, I am a car enthusiast and a technologist. You wouldn't know it by the cars I drive necessarily since I am more anti-debt than pro-cars and so, as long as we have a house mortgage, I won't be getting my toy cars. But, what I am really amazed at anymore is the technology and shift in research towards alternative fuels. 20 years ago, this wouldn't have and didn't happen when fuel prices got outrageous. But today we have the technology and know-how to create something better, and anything that is high tech I am generally interested in learning about.

Basically, if you are looking to learn about what is happening in tomorrow's efficient cars the best place to go is AutoblogGreen. There you can keep up on the new trends in alternative fuels, electric cars, new cars coming to the market, and analysts/pundits comments and opinions on the efficient auto-market.

Having followed the trend closely for the past year, it has become more and more obvious to me that some predictions are correct:
1) Cars will be more fuel efficient in 3-5 years when you are looking to sell your now hybrid...therefore your hybrid might not be as valuable. If we move off of oil successfully in 5 years, there may be no market for a hybrid at all.
2) Hybrids still do not justify the expense that people are so willing to pay. Sure, it will help the environment and I commend you for that. But don't think you will save money. I think the first hybrids that may be able to save significant money is the plugin hybrid that you will essentially be able to run up to 100 miles without the gas engine kicking in...and the gas engine will be there for longer hauls only.
3) The first green car company willing to take the east coast market seriously will have a big advantage. There are a lot of people on the east coast angry online about the car manufacturers only focussing on the left coast.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Phoenix again


For the third time this July, I am headed to Phoenix tomorrow. While I have enjoyed seeing the town, I wouldn't recommend visiting in July. At the hottest, it was around 115 with a breeze like blowing a hair dryer on yourself the whole time. This week I will stay at the Pointe Hilton - Squaw Peak Resort which is right next to this Phoenix Mountain Preserve called Squaw Peak Park.
Squaw Peak Park pictures

Its neat that right there in Phoenix there is this park that preserves the desert mountains and cactuses. As I drove through it two weeks ago, I saw several people running up the mountain side (it was only 98 degrees at the time) for exercise.
Squaw Peak Park pictures

While I don't like to leave my family it is always neat to see a new place. This month has included my first, second, and third trips to Phoenix ever. I hope to one day be able to take my wife and be able to spend leisure time there maybe kayaking on the Salt River. Until then, I am just enjoying seeing such a different climate and environment...while being able to leave before I get too hot.

Happy 3 month birthday Madelyn

Madelyn is 3 months old today...here is a video of Mommy playing with Madelyn today and Madelyn cooing..

My photography being used commercially?

I figured out how I ended up being on the about sailing page I referenced yesterday. This article called Hot Features in Cool Races to Warm Places uses a picture of mine from Flickr. Cool! Thats the first time to my knowledge a photo of mine has been used...and I appreciate the proper reference back to me from the site. I think I'd like to license my photos as "just send me an email to show me how you are using it."

Here is the photo being used:
Hawaii Sunset -- Waikiki Beach

This just happens to be the background of this blog too...

Monday, July 28, 2008

How not to beat Google from Cuil

Beating Google will be tough enough...but a good way to beat yourselves before even battling Google is to have your system fail when you get all sorts of press. Cuil got a lot of press today and here is what has happened the two times I used it.

First time, servers down:


Second time, when I entered my search results I got this message:


Third time I tried it we had a success but my page loaded in about 13 seconds.

Cool looking site though..I suggest you try it another day.

Old N&O interview and search engines

I had not been able to find this old N&O interview of Heather and I where we discussed our approach to handling finances in our marriage until now. Funny enough, it was internet search Ask.com that found it whereas I had been unable to find it using the N&O search or Google. The next link was about sailing...how that ended up with my name or the other search terms I don't know. This will be the reason I don't use Ask.com except maybe when Google can't find something but Ask.com may be better at coming up with randomness. I was going to test out Cuil which is a new search engine...but it was down because its server's were overloaded.

For your viewing pleasure, here is the screen shot of that link you can get on the first page of Ask.com if you just search for my name:

My girls

Ready to go to church yesterday morning...

Anna and Madelyn matching again

Skewered

So, we have this problem in our household. I have bought one grill kit and received another as a gift. Both grill kits included nice metal skewers with handles. The first set, from Char-Broil, had plastic handles that melted leaving me with melting plastic on metal trying to pull it off the grill. Nice!

The second set, from a brand unknown, had metal handles. I thought these would be great. Upon their first time on the grill last night I realized I was wrong. The handles were attached to the long metal skewer with some sort of adhesive. This adhesive started bubbling out of the handles when it got hot and when I grabbed the skewer by the handle, the handle slid right off. The handle then shot bubbling hot sticky adhesive out. I carefully removed the food off the skewer and threw away that which may have touched the adhesive. Here is a picture of the handles, with the hardened adhesive after having bubbled out...which was all that remained:

Skewered

Do people not test their products at all? I mean, I would think people would expect skewers to be put on a hot grill..

Anyway, I do have one nice skewer set that works and will not have these problems. It is this Weber Kabob set and the metal handles on the kabobs are part of the skewer, not a separate piece. I highly recommend it.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Anna playing with Madelyn

Here is a cute video from this evening of Anna playing with Madelyn as Madelyn played with her new kick gym. Anna without prompting went over and sat with her sister and started playing. I immediately snapped a few pictures and when she didn't move, I grabbed the video camera. Anna just played around Madelyn, showing her the ball and saying "Yes" a lot. I don't know what exactly she was trying to tell Madelyn, but it was sweet.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Madelyn at 12 weeks

My littlest girl is adorable, worth a blog alone for this picture:

Madelyn at almost 12 weeks

She is looking so big now...not as much an infant anymore.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Jobs you may lose..

I read an interesting article about jobs that could not be around anymore in 10-15 years and I spent some time contemplating it. Unfortunately, I can't again find the article...but here were some of the jobs that may be lost:

1) Gas Station attendant -- Sure, we will have convenience stores, but will people still be stopping to fill up their tank? If its hydrogen, yes. If its electricity, maybe not. Some manufacturers are claiming they can come up with 500 mile vehicles given enough battery power...which I guess would mean that electric cars could win.

2) Tax brokers, some payroll, etc -- The idea was that if we ever went to a flat tax system, all of those Jackson Hewitt, HR Block, etc employees suddenly don't have taxes to do every year. Also, you take away resources from payroll and accountants as its much easier. Interesting to think about the ramifications...even the software developers at Intuit (Turbo Tax) would be at risk.

3) Flight personnel for small commuter flights -- With airline customer satisfaction getting worse and worse, the US should now be more open to domestic high speed rail as much as ever. High speed rail in the US runs at about half the speed of those in Europe such as the TGV. The TGV averages at a little over 200 mph whereas the fastest train in the US, the Acela Express going between Boston and Washington with a stop in NYC, averages just over 100 mph. Boston to DC takes 6.5 hours at that speed but going the speed of the TGV could potentially cut it down to about 3 hours, with Boston to NYC being less than 2 hours and very appealing to many commuters fed up with the airlines.

These are the only ones I remember...interesting stuff to think about...I will keep looking for that article.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

You can't be serious

I just got the silliest email from Amazon.com. Because I bought a battery for my Canon Camera for less than $10, Amazon thinks I may want to buy a "Murray 2000 PSI Gas Powered Pressure Washer" for $251. Why would a camera battery purchase make me a good buyer for a pressure washer? Click below to see a screenshot of the email for yourself.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Madelyn coos

Here are some cute little noises Madelyn is making...

Monday, July 14, 2008

Two Month old smiles

They look alike in my head, but in the photos I can't find one where they look alike. Here are some photos

Madelyn:
Madelyn!  Almost 11 weeks
Madelyn!  Almost 11 weeks

Anna:
Derick making Anna smile
Anna's first Christmas
Tori and Anna

Fascinated by social networks

Social networking fascinates me in a way I never thought it would. I am fascinated by the relationships that have come about that in many ways I never thought they would. Don't worry, I have an example. Below is a screen capture of one of my Facebook friends, Katie. Katie was a year younger than me in high school, went to the same church as me for many years in high school, and now lives in Los Angeles. But check out the snapshot of our friends in common..


Fourteen friends in common, no big deal. But 2 of those three interest me. The first one, Stephanie, I know because she is a very close friend to my sister. In fact, she was my sister's maid of honor and my sister was also in Stephanie's wedding. Stephanie is from Philly, met my sister in Syracuse, and didn't move to Pittsburgh til long after my sister, myself, and I think Katie moved away from there. As far as I know, she only came to visit us other times. So, I find it amazing they know each other.

The third friend, Melissa, is even stranger...or is it? My wife's best friend since she was born, Suzanne, has a very close friend from Chesapeake, Melissa. Melissa and Suzanne went to college together at Mary Washington. It just so happens that Katie also went to Mary Washington and graduated the year after Melissa and Suzanne...probably how they know one another but it still amazes me...

The ways in which some of my friends know other friends on social networking sites continues to amaze me. Here is another one which amazes me:

There exists a girl named Madelyn Burkart. One letter from our little girl, Madelyn Burckart. And what is even crazier...we have a mutual friend! My friend Andy found this girl when googling to see if anyone would share Madelyn's namesake. Maybe I am too much of a geek.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Books

I just finished reading all but one or two of Michael Connelly's books since I was started reading his great books. He is a great author that gives you a read like a movie...comparable to John Grisham. On a recent day trip to Phoenix, I read 3 of his books and enjoyed each one. My personal favorite is still the Poet or Blood Work if you are looking to pick up a single book to see if you like his style. The only warning I have is that his books contain a lot of profanity which is probably very realistic for the LAPD/crime circuit he writes the most about but not for everyone.

Having run out of his books, I turned to our local used bookstore Falls River Books and asked their very knowledgeable staff, what new authors would I like that compare to Michael Connelly. I was given four suggestions, two of which I read on my recent trip to Phoenix. The first was Phillip Margolin's Proof Positive. This was an excellent book combining CSI like characters and lawyers. No real language issues here and it was a very fast read. I finished the 430 page paperback in about 5 hours and it held my attention the entire time. The second book was Daniel Silva's Prince of Fire. This was an excellent book about an Israeli spy fighting against a terrorist that is supposed to be aligned with modern day real politicians. The book was good but I was slowed by the difficult names of the characters, believe it or not. By halfway through the book, I was fine. But in the first 25%, I kept having to refresh my memory as to what person was who. I think its because the names were so unique they didn't register as well. This is also the fifth book in the Gabriel Allon series, which means I may have missed some context in the previous four. It was a good read but I think if I read more of his work I will start with the first in the series which seems to be the Kill Artist.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

I shaved

So, for the first time in over four years I am facial hair free. Heather and I have been debating me shaving it off for the past 6 months or so and today she finally agreed to let me shave it off with the condition she can ask me to regrow it whenever she pleases. Not to let her change her mind, I shaved this evening and took a before and after picture:
Before:
Before Shaving
After:
After shaving

I had always called this facial hair a goatee...but having looked up a chart of different facial hair types I found that I either have a moustache/goatee combination or a Van Dyke

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Great quote - Regional transit plan

I was catching up on blogs and was reading how the Triangle (thats Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel HIll for you outsiders) can't come to agreement on a regional transit plan. This was a the great quote from Former Pittsburgh Mayor, Tom Murphy, comparing Europe to the issue at hand:


"How do 27 countries that speak 27 different languages that have been at war with each other repeatedly over the last 100 years figure out how to build a high-speed rail system from London to Moscow -- when you can't figure out how to build a mass transit system from Durham to Raleigh?"

Monday, July 07, 2008

SUV prices

Check this out:


Wholesale industry prices for sport utility vehicles and trucks declined nearly 25 percent during the quarter, about four times the normal depreciation expected over the period and greater than the depreciation expected over a full year, the company said.


Wow!

The ramifications of our financial decisions

I have been considering more and more the ramifications of our financial decisions. There are a couple of financial situations in my past that have rippled into other areas of my life and its interesting to try to find those today. The first time I have seen this pattern in my life was when I had bought my first house at 22 years old and was house poor. The stress from that financial decision rippled into my work life and affected my job satisfaction. For the most part, I kept it out of my relationships although I was upfront with the girl I was dating (who would later become my wife) and we dated differently then. I often cooked her dinner instead of taking her out and when it came to us getting engaged, she got a hand-me-down ring my dad gave my mom instead of a big shiny rock. (Yes, she has the big shiny rock now but she didn't get that until after we were married)

I have read a lot about how personal financial stress can affect you throughout your life. In the workplace, some examples are people unhappy with how much they are earning, not getting good results at work because they are distracted by their finances, becoming workaholics to get overtime or to ensure they keep employment. In relationships decisions are made that can negatively affect people. Some examples include people avoiding activities because they can't afford it, ruined relationships because one person is trying to mask their financial problems, and avoiding trips to see relatives and friends that you haven't seen because of the cost. There are lots of other ways this personal financial stress can eat away at your life.

Recently, I found another area that I myself have allowed a financial decision to affect relationships. I found this when considering this Sue Stock blog posting that said that CarMax claims SUVs have gone down 25% in value and she asked how our lives in SUVs have changed. I wrote the following:

Unfortunately where it hurts us the most is our trips to see friends and relatives that live further away. Our SUV is our primary kid carrying vehicle. Traveling nearby is not so painful, however when traveling to neighboring towns like Chapel Hill from North Raleigh can be a painful commute. I think we reconsider plans with friends and relatives when the trip itself will cost $20-40. What used to be a "one and a half hour each way trip" to see parents has now become a "$40 trip." Cost starts to become the largest factor rather than distance/time.

With cost now bubbling to the top, we do tend to make fewer trips and use the vehicle more sparingly.


I think that letting relationships suffer in the name of keeping our monthly gas expense down may be a bad decision. What do you think? Should we cut other areas to keep making those "$40 trips" to see relatives and friends? Or should we be locking down and cutting out excess trips?

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Time flies faster than ever

People often complain that their kids grow up too fast so I am guessing this isn't news to most people. But, while Anna grew up pretty fast we are seeing Madelyn grow up even faster because Anna's growth was not as noticeable. Anna is a ton of fun to be around, play with, feed, talk to, cuddle to, and everything else. This of course means that Anna gets a lot of attention, so much so that we almost don't dwell on Madelyn's stages as much. I think this picture from before church this morning shows what fun and therefore distracting our little Anna can be:
Anna in her new dress

Madelyn has been great lately. She is sleeping periodically through the night, she went from 10 PM to 7 AM yesterday night. This morning at church I played with her while she sat on my lap. Everytime I looked at her she would get a big toothless smile often with her tongue sticking out. Its sad to think that I haven't had nearly as many of those times with Madelyn as I have had with Anna. But, I think what it has done is make me appreciate the changes in Madelyn more. With Anna we spent a lot of time watching the grass grow. With Madelyn, I get less time but notice more the little changes. Whether its the smiles or the fact she now kicks the fish on her bouncer.
Maddie kicking her fish on the bouncer

Even while capturing that cute Maddie moment on camera, Anna jumps in with a "Cheese" and a smile:
Cheese

I am thankful for these two wonderful little girls and what fun they bring us.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Thoughts when away

Its mental images captured like these that I recall when I am away from my family and missing them. These precious times, like Heather playing paddy-cake with Anna and Madelyn, happen consistently around the house but we don't often get the opportunity to capture the fun. I think you can see the fun in Madelyn's expression and see why images like this stick out in my mind as special times I hold on to when away. I know things are not always this fun, but this is what I like to picture my family doing when I am away.

Paddy-cake with Madelyn

Lately I have had a lot of day trips leading me to run through books like crazy, spend long hours in airports, and be exhausted from the stress of traveling. Most of these trips have me leaving before 8 AM and getting back late the same day or the next day. Its definitely tiring...but I like to look at pictures of my wonderful girls when away and imagine them having a blast :-)

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Peekaboo

Yes, even at 20 months Peekaboo at dinner is still fun

Peekaboo

Peekaboo

Peekaboo

But it spreads the food out more... especially when Daddy makes something messy like sweet and sour chicken:
Messy :-)

Today's matching outfit

Its a repeat, but still cute

Today's matching outfit

Tuesday, July 01, 2008