Saturday, September 19, 2009

My media stand

One of my projects this weekend was to create a media stand. We just switched from Time Warner Cable to DirecTV this Friday and that left my receiver sitting on top of my blu-ray player which I didn't like. In general - its a bad idea to stack AV equipment on top of one another because they all generate heat and heat is bad for electronics. So, I needed to create some space between them but our Pier 1 entertainment center only had one shelf..and they don't sell it or the extra shelf for it any longer. So, I decided to make a simple stand for the receiver...

I started by getting a 4 ft long dowel rod from home depot that was 1" in diameter. This cost $3.35. Next, I reused a piece of particle board I had in the garage that used to be shelves in our garage when we bought the house. IMG_0435

That particle board was perfect, just less than 1 ft wide. I cut that board to the right length, 20", and the dowel rods for legs at 7.5" high. I attached the dowel rods with some wood screws I had around the house and used some plywood left over from when we refinished our kitchen to create a small DVD shelf on the front 2 legs of the stand. Then I used a cheap $1 can of flat black spray paint to paint it so that it would be unnoticeable in the cabinet.

It is very stabile and fits perfectly. I am going to enjoy being able to look at that stand and think I put it all together for less than $5...while people that don't read this will never notice it :-)

With a light shining on it:
Closer up view of media stand

Normal view with the speaker above:
Erik's media stand

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Saving for college

Reading this Sunday's Wall Street Journal article on saving for college, one might view our children's future ability to have a debt free education as hopeless. In the article, there were some important facts:

For the 2008-2009 school year, the average cost of attending a four-year public school for in-state residents -- including tuition and room and board -- rose 5.7% to $14,333, according to the College Board. The cost was up 5.6% to $34,132 for a private university. (These numbers aren't adjusted for inflation.)

Well, if you round up to $15,000 for public school and 6% per year, in 12 years that will double to $30,000 per year. If you have younger kids you might have a couple of extra years but let's assume those last few years won't get much interest as you pull the money out into conservative investments. It would mean that you have 12 years to save $120,000 per child. This is amazing to me and I can't even fathom at this point being able to save $10,000 per child per year. But, you have interest on your side, right?

Using an investment calculator, I figured that if you could save $430 per child per month for 12 years at 10% return per year, we could save our $120,000 in those 12 years. If you assume 12% return, you only need $375 saved per child per month. At 8% return, you need $500 per child per month. And that's just for an average public school!

What were we thinking having 2 kids only 1 school year apart? I can hope that we are able start saving $1000/mo within a couple of years for the kids but it can't be easy. I can also hope that we, as a society, get control of these college expenses and don't continue to let them grow at such a high rate assuming our children can bear the brunt of it through student loans. Until then - this is something to think about for sure..

Monday, September 14, 2009

2 years of exercise with the last 6 months of frustration

I have spent a lot of time thinking about this month and the one special thing it means to me. See, as of this month i have been working out consistently for 2 years. I have never worked out for 2 years straight without a break of at least 2 weeks. I always slacked off at some point and going into this, I unfortunately expected to do the same. In the last 2 years though, I haven't slacked off. It started at 4-5 days a week and has grown to 6 days a week with a couple of exceptions for vacation and business trips. Even on vacation and during business trips, I try to squeeze in workouts every time I can. When I went to the Venetian in Las Vegas last Spring, I knew I wasn't willing to pay the outrageous amount they were asking for their I brought my Perfect Pushups and did those plus some in place cardio and ab workouts.

People often ask about results and I am pretty happy with mine. You have to first understand that my primary goal when I began was not to lose weight. I had started and failed at that goal way too often. I didn't want to go on a special diet that I would eventually fall off the bandwagon. Instead, my goal was to be able to be active with my family again. You might remember when I wrote extensively about this goal in January of 2008 when it seemed to be working. I didn't want to have to hesitate when doing something active with my girls. I didn't want to make an excuse when asked to help a friend and I thought I was too out of shape to help them. I wanted my daughters to grow up in a physically active and healthy environment.

Within one year of having a normal exercise routine, I was comfortable doing whatever. I wrote extensively about that last October. I was able to do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted at the time. In that first year I had lost 40 lbs without going on a diet and I felt great.

One might expect similar success this past year. But in the past 6 months, I have had to deal with a lot of frustration. From that October timeframe til April, I gained about 15 lbs back, theoretically all muscle. Then, in May, I went to Las Vegas for a business trip...the one I mentioned above. Two of my good friends went with me and we were supposed to go indoor skydiving. The indoor skydiving place put us on a scale when signing in and I weighed too much to do it. I had been looking forward to it for weeks and I couldn't do it because my weight. This was the first time since I was back in shape I couldn't do something I wanted to do because of my body. It wasn't that I wasn't in was just I weighed too much.

Since that point I have had nothing but frustration with myself. I have been pretty hard on myself as my wife would probably attest. My goal is and has been to be in good enough shape to do whatever I want to do. But it wasn't about physical fitness, it was about weight. Unfortunately I don't have the answer to my frustration. I know how I can lose weight, either by focussing on pure cardio and not building muscle or by going on a diet.

Until I find an answer I will make my primary goal to stay in healthy enough shape to do whatever I want. I do have a secondary goal to lose enough weight to do the indoor skydiving I missed out on last next May when i am back in Las Vegas. However, I don't plan on altering my diet or exercise routine, so I don't know if this is feasible. However, since May i have lost another 5 lbs.

For now, I will be bouncing in inflatable toys with my girls - something I wouldn't have felt as comfortable doing two years ago:

TK Jungle - Mallory's bday party