Aug 31, 2009

F.A.Q.: Everything you've wanted to know about health care reform

Looking to get some of the straight scoop on the health care proposals, click the link and get some answers to frequently asked questions :o)

F.A.Q.: Everything you've wanted to know about health care reform

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Superheroes team with the Mouse: What will happen to our heroes at Universal Studios now?

A great time for the mouse with the most to make a play. Glad they are not going to mess with the Universal rides. Could be some more great SH movies in the offing :o)

Superheroes team with the Mouse: What will happen to our heroes at Universal Studios now?

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Sayano-Shushenskaya Accident

We received a slide show on this accident at work, and the damage was horrible. Only one of the nine hydro-turbines remains potentially functional. Estimated repair cost is $310 million, and it will take years to get the other eight working. Take a close look at the low structure building in the beginning of the video, and then the missing structure at toward the end.

Aug 30, 2009

What Would You Do for a Klondike Bar?

Wow, is the weather wonky lately. We made it up to a whopping 68 degrees today, very unusual for Indiana in August.

After our foray to GCFB yesterday, we decided to have a light dinner of popcorn and a Klondike Bar (What Would You Do For A Klondike Bar ???),

and we watched Scanners. In todays age of CGI, it was subtle, but in its day it was leading edge.

Today was a quiet morning, spots of sunshine and yet bouts of overcastedness (my own word :o) I headed out about noon for a quick weight workout, and then on to mow the lawn, trim some trees in case we can play horseshoes next weekend, do a spot of weedwacking, and work on the marsh path. Always good to get some outside time in, especially when the sun started shining for real for the last 30 minutes.

Currently watching Barclay's and Tiger, while he is not in the lead, he is honing his game, and there are three more events left for the FedEx Cup :o)

Beth is making enchiladas, and we are going to have some Sangria, and watch Da Bears.

Hope your Sunday is going well and that you are getting ready for another week in the grind.

Sunday Silliness - Ignorance :o)

It's amazing how much easier it is for a team to work together when no one has any idea where they're going.

Aug 29, 2009

Growling Good Time :o)

Kind of a quiet, but very pleasant day today.

Sheeba (bastard kitty) came in at 0830 to make sure we were awake :o)

A spot of coffee for me and Lipton Green Tea for the Birthday Girl. We lazed around on the computers, watched Senator Kennedy's funeral service. Ted Jr. made a very moving remembrance speech, and Patrick did a nice job. Then it was President Obama with the eulogy, I think he showed proper reverence, humility, and poise - he is such a great orator.

Then it was a quick jaunt to Big League to get my hairs cutted :o)

When I got back home, we decided to head up to our new favorite spot in Mishawaka, Granite City Food and Brewery, and had appetizers (flat bread pizza and a quesadilla), a couple of Mugs ($3.45 for a 25 oz brew), and then ordered a couple of Growlers to go. A Growler is a 2-liter container of their nicely brewed beer. That converts to 67.6 ounces, or a little more than 5.5 beers. The refills on Tuesdays and Thursdays are only $5, so that makes it less than a $1 per really good beer :o)

Hope your Saturday is nice, and Sunday even better.

Rest in Peace Senator Kennedy.

The funeral was held at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Basilica in Boston's Mission Hill section. The church is commonly known as the Mission Church. It is a short distance away from the Kennedy library. Nothing fancy, just simple. In its hey-day, eight services a day totalling 15,000, today, only 900.

I think it is very cool that President Obama will deliver an eulogy. Senator Kennedy often frequented the spot to pray for his sick family members, as the Lady was believed to have healing properties.

Today, he is being interred at Arlington Cemetery.

Rest in peace Ted.

Happy Birthday to my Bride :o)

In case you have not been able to tell, I am just a "little" bit [hah,hah,hah] fond of my bride of almost eight years :o)
So, here is a shoutout to her, to say, thank you for being a part of my life and being my wife.
Hope today is special and that you get tons of visits today :o)

Aug 28, 2009

Science Scene - Bacteria Biodiesel ???

As a person with Native American blood (Osage) coursing through my veins, I was bursting with pride as I read this entry. I may need to do some investment research on the Ute's :o)

The New York Times (8/17, by Kirk Johnson).

An unusual experiment featuring equal parts science, environmental optimism and Native American capitalist ambition is unfolding here on the Southern Ute Indian Reservation in southwest Colorado.

With the twin goals of making fuel from algae and reducing emissions of heat-trapping gases, a start-up company co-founded by a Colorado State University professor recently introduced a strain of algae that loves carbon dioxide into a water tank next to a natural gas processing plant. The water is already green-tinged with life.

The Southern Utes, one of the nation’s wealthiest American Indian communities thanks to its energy and real-estate investments, is a major investor in the professor’s company. It hopes to gain a toehold in what tribal leaders believe could be the next billion-dollar energy boom.

But from the tribe’s perspective, the business model here is about more than business. “It’s a marriage of an older way of thinking into a modern time,” said the tribe’s chairman, Matthew J. Box, referring to the interplay of environmental consciousness and investment opportunity around algae.

The tribe, whose reservation sits atop one of the world’s richest fields of natural gas from coal-bed methane, had to surmount many hurdles to find an alternative energy idea it considered suitable. For example, any project that would displace land used for growing food was tossed out for philosophical reasons: the Southern Utes’ belief that energy and food should not compete in a world where people still starve. That eliminated discussion of corn-based ethanol.

And whatever was chosen had to be at least technically feasible, if not immediately profitable. The 1,400-member tribe also has a long history of herbal medicine use that made growing algae for fuel appealing, Mr. Box said. “It reminded people of herbs that are helpful here, like bear root, which is harvested in the mountains,” he said.

The Colorado State professor, Bryan Willson, who teaches mechanical engineering and is a co-founder of the three-year-old company Solix Biofuels, said working with the Southern Utes on their land afforded his company advantages that would have been impossible in mainstream corporate America. The tribe contributed almost one-third of the $20 million in capital raised by Solix, free use of land and more than $1 million in equipment.

“If you’re going with strict venture capital, they’re looking for a blistering return on capital in three to five years,” Dr. Willson said. “The Utes have a very long economic view. They’re making decisions now for future generations as opposed to the next quarter, and that is just fundamentally different.”

“This is still a very young industry, with a lot of claims out there that are sometimes difficult to believe,” said Al Darzins, a group manager at the lab’s National Bioenergy Center. Mr. Darzins said Solix’s model was different from most: the algae is grown in closed bags, lined up vertically in the water tanks, with the intent of increasing yield. But for every hopeful, he said, the crux will be controlling costs.

Solix’s facility project is next to the natural gas processing plant for access to the carbon dioxide waste stream, which will be used to nourish the algae — a kind of biological recycling of carbon dioxide before its discharge into the atmosphere as the vegetable fuel is burned. The plant also produces waste heat, which could be used to warm the algae beds in winter. In addition, the high desert plateau of southwest Colorado is one of the sunniest spots in the nation, providing solar radiation that accelerates algae growth.

Central to Solix’s business model, Dr. Willson said, is the hope that power plants and other factories now venting carbon dioxide will allow the company to build an algae farm next to their carbon dioxide vent pipes. A plant could sell the oil or biodiesel, and Solix would earn its return by being a part owner-operator, or by licensing the technology.

If Solix can expand its operations to a commercial scale, the Southern Utes will have certain first ownership and operating rights in Solix plants throughout much of the Western United States. Karl Jacob, the director of public finance in state and local government ratings at the credit rating agency Standard & Poor’s, tracks Native American economics and has assigned the Southern Utes’ debt a AAA rating, the agency’s highest. Mr. Jacob said the tribe had proved a canny investor by doing its homework and not moving too fast.

It operates businesses in 14 states, owns office towers and land from Denver to Oceanside, Calif., and controls a company that processes about 1 percent of the nation’s natural gas. But it has only about $69 million in debt according to S.&P. Compared with most companies, that is a tiny debt-to-asset ratio.

“They have always been very prudent,” Mr. Jacob said, “looking out into the next generation.”

Aug 27, 2009

Aspray - See it to believe it :o)

Perhaps the most offensive infomercial you'll ever see is an advertisement for a spray that claims to be able to prevent butt-stink and every other odor no single deodorant would dare to tackle."Aspray goes where other deodorants can't. Aspray your butt," the announcer boasts. "Aspray under your arms. Aspray your feet. You can even Aspray your privates."Then, to top it off, a woman is shown crossing her legs and spraying her crotch, followed by this line:. "Aspray is safe for all your odor zones."MSNBC told The Washington Post the network aired the commercial once in the overnight hours and will never air it again. Instead, it is a sensation on YouTube.

The "Doc Bottoms Aspray" -- it's pronounced A-spray, though most certainly intended to be remembered for an alternative pronunciation -- seems more like a Saturday Night Live skit than a real product.

Case in point, the commercial includes a supposed testimonial from sweaty contractor "Lanny F.," who proclaims in animated fashion, "I've got odors in special places," later noting: "My butt."You can get two Aspray containers for $14.95 plus $7.95 shipping and handling each. That brings the total to $30.85. But wait, there's more. You also get the "Pocket Shot," which we're told is "Perfect for on the go or give it to your smelly friend."Charming.And there you have it: the special recipe for getting a product noticed for the depths it has plummeted. The best part is all this publicity is free -- a big savings over the cost of airing an infomercial.Oh yeah, it is good for a laugh, too.

I found this over at :o)

Aug 26, 2009

Sink Wash or Machine Wash?

We have heard that dishwashers are better from a water savings perspective, it was great to find this at that shows the comparison of sink versus machine washing. Cheesy, but informative :o)

Appears the video is touchy, bottom line is that sink washing is about 24 gallons versus 7.3 gallons for a dishwasher. Much better for our scarce water supply. Click the above link to watch the video :o)

For Richer or Poorer :o)

I would absolutely have to say that I am richer today, on multiple levels, than I was before :o)

We have all heard the jokes, "there were checks left in the checkbook," or "they accepted the card."

For me, it was not a joke, but a reality. The above mentality was what, 10 years ago, caused me to be on the verge of bankruptcy. I was in a very unfulfilled marriage and was very unhappy, and the money issues was a big part of the picture. You see, the harder I worked, the faster it was spent. It was a death spiral.

Fast forward to today. Beth and I are by no means frugal, but we are definitely more on the tightwad side of the fence, and of the same mindset. If we do not have the cash in the bank, then we are not going to buy, period! Today, our only debt is our primary mortgage, and we are paying that off at a 20 year versus 30 year clip. Together, we rock :o)

If you wondered what inspired the entry, take a look below, and if you want more detail, click the link.

If you think you butt heads often with your spouse or significant other when it comes to money matters, you're probably not imagining it. Science has confirmed what many people have already suspected: When it comes to viewpoints on spending and saving, opposites really do attract.
Unfortunately, this difference in outlook can lead to marital friction (if you've ever been on either side of a tiff resulting from an ill-planned impulse purchase, you already know this). Here's what the studies found: Spendthrifts and tightwads (yes, those were the actual terms used by the researchers) tend to gravitate toward partners on the opposite side of the spend-save spectrum.
All too often, though, the result of this discrepancy is marital strife. It's familiar sitcom fodder, whether the depiction is of a shoe-loving housewife or a husband with a penchant for pricey power tools. In real life, though, not seeing eye to eye on money is cited as a major cause of friction and even divorce among couples.

Aug 25, 2009

Bucko Superhero :o)

Do you love my Superhero as much as I do :o)

Walk softly and carry a BIG stick LOL

Science Scene - Carbon Capture, is there a future?

As you read and hear about the potential for use of the stimulus funds, please recognize that some of the stimulus will be going toward things that will really help our environment, and based on the jobs and technology, will also help stimulate our economy. Some of these initiative are shorter term (i.e., cash for clunkers), and some are longer term. An example of the longer term can be found from the following press release from my company.

COLUMBUS, Ohio, Aug. 20, 2009 – American Electric Power (NYSE: AEP) will apply for funding from the U.S. Department of Energy Clean Coal Power Initiative Round 3 to pay part of the costs of installing the nation’s first commercial-scale carbon dioxide capture and storage system on its Mountaineer coal-fired power plant in New Haven, W.Va.

The application deadline is Monday (8/24/09). AEP’s application will seek $334 million, about half the estimated cost of installing the system that will use a chilled ammonia process to capture at least 90 percent of the carbon dioxide from 235 megawatts of the plant’s 1,300 megawatts of capacity. The captured carbon dioxide, approximately 1.5 million metric tons per year, will be treated and compressed, then injected into suitable geologic formations for permanent storage approximately 1.5 miles below the surface.

The system will begin commercial operation in 2015, according to the company’s application for funding.“Commercialization of carbon capture and storage technology is an essential component in a successful climate strategy for this nation, which relies on coal-fired generation for about half of its electricity supply,” said Michael G. Morris, AEP’s chairman, president and chief executive officer. “Coal is a low-cost, abundant domestic fuel source, but its use is a significant source of carbon dioxide emissions.

“First-movers like AEP who push the commercialization of technology will face higher costs than those who wait for others to act, costs that would be borne by our customers,” Morris said. “But without efforts like ours, the availability of solutions for reducing carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants will be needlessly delayed. It’s an appropriate use of federal stimulus funds to spur the advancement of this technology and to offset the financial penalty facing our customers and our company for taking the initiative.”

For this commercial-scale project, AEP is forming a diverse technical advisory committee that includes recognized experts in the field of geologic carbon dioxide storage. This group will include participants from Schlumberger Limited, Battelle Memorial Institute, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, The Ohio State University, West Virginia University, The University of Texas, Ohio Geological Survey, CONSOL Energy, and the West Virginia Department of Commerce Division of Energy. Additionally, Schlumberger will work directly with AEP to design and deploy the carbon dioxide storage system at Mountaineer.

AEP and Alstom will begin operating a smaller-scale validation of the technology in September at the Mountaineer plant. That system will capture up to 90 percent of the carbon dioxide from a slipstream of flue gas equivalent to 20 megawatts of generating capacity. The captured carbon dioxide, more than 100,000 tons a year, will be compressed and injected into suitable geologic formations for permanent storage approximately 1.5 miles below the surface.

No federal funds are being used for the validation project.

Aug 24, 2009

Twofer :o)

After moving the weight bench up yesterday, I did not feel like getting up this morning to workout (note to self, get over it and get up in the morning and workout :o)

So I made a pact with myself today to come home and do something outside since the weather was so awesome. I put in nine hours today, came home and spent some quality chat time with my bride, and then headed out to relocate the whiskey barrel planters.

It is so refreshing to do things after work, and is was enough that a shower was required. Of course, I paid the price and had to do an hour of work-work to keep things moving. I am hoping to have one or two Twofer days a week, it is very satisfying to get into the yard and do some improvements.

Hope your Monday was tolerable, and that Tuesday is even better :o)

WSJ Wine - Are You Game?

We have mentioned in passing how we have started a wine collection in the basement, now having nine - 44 bottle racks. I try and keep a separate year in each rack, and we only store reds down there (whites we buy and keep upstairs, ready to chill and serve with fitch or chicken :o)

In the past, I belonged to the V. Sattui (Napa Valley, St. Helena, my absolute favorite winery) wine of the month club - but at $20-$30 per bottle, that is just a little to rich for our blood, especially when you can age a cheaper wine for 5-10 years and have a smooth experience.

For a while, I had joined Four Seasons Wine Club, but it did not fit our budget at the time. So I recently received an offer from WSJwine (Wall Street Journal Wine) and decided to take the plunge again. We are going to get a case of reds every three months, and based on the first case, with some Spanish, New Zealand, Australian, 2005 Bordeaux (Franch :o), and Mendocino selections, we think we have found a great new selection source. Our usual rule of thumb is to not spend more than $10 a bottle, because we age them, but we also like to experiment. The cool thing about WSJwine is that you can skip a shipment with no penalty, there is no minimum requirement, and you can cancel at any time - so we will moderate our purchases, and get some fine vino.

If you have any interest in getting some boutique wines, red or white, from around the world, have we got a deal for you. You can get an introductory Discovery Club shipment (twelve bottles and a cool Connoisseur Corkscrew) for $95, with the three month shipment option costing about $140 per shipment (we plan on skipping every other shipment).

If interested, send the following information to, and I will submit for you. It is a win/win, you get a great introductory offer, and we get a 1/2 shipment, a mini-ponzi scheme if you will :o)


Aug 23, 2009

Visualization :o)

First, let me preface this entry by saying that I am a huge fan of Mapquest.

My folks have been having a dickens of a time with downtown South Bend and locating the Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV), spending hours lost. This despite the fact that we have given them printed directions. Turns out the culprit was the one way streets, and they got turned around, resulting in a consistent right turn when is should have been a left.

So today, we headed up to their place, piled into their vehicle, and went on a visualization tour. First was going to the BMV, and when we got there, they both said "that was so easy". The power of being there LOL. Second, we took a drive around the Notre Dame campus so that when they see the game information on the tele on opening day, they will be able to visualize us at the game.

While we were out-and-about, we spotted a new local establishment, Granite City Food and Brewery and decided to stop in for a cool amber beverage. As we were perusing the menu, we happened upon the "The Mug Club" where they have daily specials and you get you cool amber beverages in a large mug versus a puny little glass - I am pleased to announce that Beth and I are now members. Alas, looking at their website, they only have 26 locations, all in the Midwest. For more details, click on the GC logo to the right. We look forward to some future visits, and will seek them out as we go on our travels.

Then it was home to cut a few stalks of grass, and the yard does look better. The tractor got stuck twice in the marsh path based on the rain we have had this week, but all in all, done in about one and a half hours.

Hope your Sunday was pleasant, and that your week goes by swiftly :o)

Sunday Silliness - Idiocy :o)

Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups.

Aug 22, 2009

Inside Out :o)

Mid-August is supposed to be outdoor time, where you neglect internal chores, and have fun and sun. Today did not cooperate with that paradigm, and instead was rainy and gloomy, and for Beth, even a bit chilly.

Fortunately, we had some shopping that needed to be done, and we only got rained on once :o) My stroll into the plant has proven to be quite demanding on the "hush-puppies", so the first stop was to get me some new shoes (my last two pairs now reside in the landfill, subject of worn out soles). Then it was on to Target to get candy for the CandyMan jar I keep at work, some new reading glasses (having them clipped to my badge at work has taken its toll on the first pair), and a new rug for the kitchen (our tile has some cracks, so it was time to cover them up). Then it was a quick stop at the grocery store to restock the beer supply, and to Aldi's to refresh some canned goods and to get some frozen fish.

Once we returned home, I was able to weatherize my two new pairs of shoes before the clouds released their moisture again. So, with the blogosphere being quiet, I tackled two indoor projects that have been haunting my weekends.

The first was to put new carpet on Sheeba's scratching post vertical riser, the original gave up the ghost and was down to the matting - so off with the old and on with the new from some scraps we have in the basement.

Then it was on to moving the weight bench from the basement to the garage, hanging some workout mirrors, and doing some minor re-arranging to facilitate clear paths to the beer fridge (see it in the picture?).

Truth-O-Meter :o)

While I certainly have no shortage of falsehoods to be truthified (new word and a tribute to President Bush), alas, this is not about that.

This is more of a public service announcement - take a look at my sidebar ----------> and you will notice a new widget. I read this morning about a site called, and you can subscribe or widget-up.

The site is run by the St. Petersburg Times, and is a place to check the political facts vs. the half-truths vs. the "pants on fire" statements floating out there.

The article in our paper this morning indicated that many reporters and editors fact check the political statements made, and this site appears to be fairly bipartisan.

Aug 21, 2009

Ketchup Day :o)

I decided to take the day off from work today to address some previous storm tree damage. On Monday, we had a front go through, and one of our front yard trees started to fall, but another tree interfered. However, the rather good sized limbs (2-3") were resting on the power line coming into the house.

Did not want to let that situation linger, so we called the power company, and based on weather forecasts, decided on this morning to have them come out and drop the line. The plan was to use the ladder and extendo-saw to trim the limbs and reduce the risk.

So this morning, to get in the spirit, I put on my SawIV T-shirt and headed out. When the power company (the same one I work for :o) guys showed up, I found out that their drop the line meant to actually disconnect the end of the power line and coil it up - not just open the disconnect. When we went out to assess the situation, they volunteered to trim the branches and fall the tree, much easier than disconnecting and reconnecting the drop to the house.

So, after less than an hour, and some good chatting up my fellow company workers, they were on their way to the next job, and we were off for several hours of work to chainsaw and stack the downed tree. A great morning, with a better than expected outcome.

So, after showers and such, we are chilling this afternoon, getting caught up on some bills and future blog entries, and sliding into the weekend, which is weather forecast to be awesome. May your weekend be awesome as well :o)

Aug 20, 2009

Bad Sheeba Poetry - Sigh :o)

I am Sheeba,
Do not let my name fool ya,
I am a he-ba!

As I lay here on my chair,
About to expel a little sigh of air,
I lay claim to my lair.

At Nutwood I am a content Kitty,
Occasionally going on a mouse hunty,
Just don't call me Pretty :o)

Aug 19, 2009

We are what we eat :o)

I found this cartoon amusing on several levels.

First, I know some people who obviously must snack on legumes, and they absolutely are what they eat :o) Beth and I were laughing tonight because we love our dry roasted peanuts, and we articulated that there are good nuts and bad nuts :o) We like to believe that we fall into the first category.

Second, in a recent edition of Time Magazine, there was an article that talked about exercise and losing weight, and one point that stuck out to me is that a pound of fat burns two (2) calories per day, and a pound of muscle burns four (4) calories per day. So that means that if you put on 10 pounds of muscle, you will burn a whopping 40 extra calories per day. I know that my workouts have lulled me into a false sense of security. The true key is to watch what you eat, and to not let any exercise program (aerobic or weights) make you believe that you do not need to watch the intake (a single muffin after a 30-45 minute run will wipe out the exercise gain). I know this was a real eye opening read for me.

PSA - For you animal lovers :o)

You absolutely must go over to Wildcats Lair and read his latest entry and become a follower and regular commenter. He is way to talented to only have 33 followers and three comments. Go Now!

Aug 18, 2009

New National Parks ???

There are many wonderful places in our country, and after President Obama going to two national parks as part of the West Coast Swing, this link really provides a great dialogue about potential new parks :o)

Aug 17, 2009

I feel dirty :o)

I found this article, reproduced from, interesting, makes me want to wash my hands anytime I touch money in the future.

Although the National Survey on Drug Use and Health reports that only about 12% of U.S. citizens have ever tried the drug, virtually 100% of those of us old enough to handle paper money have touched the stuff. A new study found that up to 90% of the paper money in the U.S. contains minute amounts of cocaine.

The study, funded in part by the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth, found that bills circulating in the nation's capital, Washington D.C., contained the dope 95% of the time. Apparently, there a cocaine-free twenty is even rarer than a pork-free spending bill. The lowest levels were found in Salt Lake City, Utah. Overall, the percent of U.S. paper money showing traces of cocaine has risen by almost 20% in just the last two years.

The scientists tested currency from four other countries as well. Our Canadian neighbors are about as likely to contaminate their currency, while in China and Japan less than one in five bills are toot-infused. The authors of the study conjecture (and we hope this is true) that much of the blame can be put on currency-counting machines, which can spread coke as fast as grade-schoolers pass along the flu. One of the study's authors was quoted by Science Daily as saying "You can't get high by sniffing a regular banknote.." so you users can put your wallet away. Me, I'd rather avoid coke and the swine flu, so I might just start carrying more Sacagaweas and fewer Washingtons.

Aug 16, 2009

Summer Sunday :o)

Warning, grossness ahead :o)

How do you know you had a productive day? - You know it is a productive day when you can smell your own sweat. That was my early afternoon adventure today :o)

We got a decent start on the day, getting up around 9 AM. After reading the paper and getting caught up in the blogosphere, it was out to take care of the yard work.

It has been so hot here this week, with no rain, that things are drying up nicely. We have eleven acres, about six of which are marsh, and when things have been wet like this year, I can not cut the wildlife path we have established. Today, I was finally able to get the circle completed (after last weeks cuts on the legs, I headed out with jeans on today). To get the path re-established, I had to make six passes with the cutting deck at its highest position.

We also have two half-whiskey barrels near the house that we have tried to grow Morning Glories, but that has been hit and miss, especially since we had the new garage built. So we decided that we would move them. The first step in that movement is to find a new place for the recycling bin, so I made a little patio and driveway for the bin. As I was building the patio, the heat and humidity started to take their toll, the lack of movement caused the sweat to pour. It took me long enough to get the little patio and driveway built that I did not relocate the half-whiskey barrels relocated. That will be an activity for another day :o)

We really enjoy watching Tiger play in a major tournament, so I headed to the showers at about 2:30 PM. Another measure of a productive day in the yard is when I hit the shower and there is a dirty river going down the shower drain. As the dirt and sweat roll off me, I feel invigorated.

I love doing yard work in the heat of the summer, it is satisfying on several levels :o)

Hope you had a great Sunday and are in a positive frame of mind for the coming week.

Sunday Silliness - Humiliation :o)

The harder you try, the dumber you look.

Aug 15, 2009

Not Now, Later :o)

Today was advertised as an ozone action day, so I knew it was not going to be a yard-work day. The Sheebster came in and made sure that we had an early rise and shine, so it was paper read, blogs read, Facebook reviewed, and e-mails deleted by 9 AM.

Then it was on to bill payments, including our license plates, so that is always a sobering moment. We also e-mailed our realtor friend in New Smyrna to find out when we can book the time share for next summer with Kim and Steve, and she replied September - so it was off to pay the maintenance fees for 2010 (that was not expected this month).

Knowing I wanted to watch Tiger in the PGA championship, I headed out to the bank, the post office, the liquor store, and the gas station (truck and mower gas, $85 :o(

When I got back and got the mail, our Notre Dame football tickets were in the box, we are ready for the opener on September 5th, and Washington on October 3rd. We also have reserved tickets for the Navy game on November 7th, but those are coming via a co-worker, so do not yet have tickets in hand. Also, yesterday I sent the check for our January 3, 2010 Bears against the Lions game in Detroit (it has been many years since either of us have been to a pro-football game, so we are excited, $40 each for bus and tickets, thanks employee's club :o)

After getting home, it was time to book our next vegecation, which we have determined will be a timeshare exchange in Cabo San Lucas, MX. It is a beautiful resort, and we get to stay for the week for $154 (thanks Interval International :o) It was then on to book airline tickets, not too bad, and the flights are not too early, although both ways are two stops.

So today was more about the future than today, it is nice to have things solidified and some things to look forward to.

Hope you are having a great day, and an even better tomorrow.

Bucko's Bucks: $25,000 Where should you put it ???

If you have been sitting things out, but are considering getting back in to investing due to the really low interest rates, here was an interesting introductory plan from

Money market accounts and certificates of deposit are safe, but they provide very little return on your investment. This fact, and the invigorated stock market, provoked one of my bankers, Dobrinka, at the local Santa Monica Wells Fargo branch, to ask for advice on how I would invest $25,000 if I was just starting out.

This is a common question although the starting point in terms of cash varies. It certainly makes a difference how old the person is, their general knowledge about investing and finance, and the particulars of their financial statement.Here is what I suggested sticking to regular themes I have written about before and broadly speaking would be a conservative approach emphasizing safety, diversity, liquidity, dividends and the potential for growth far exceeding cash in the mattress or in a money market account. I also think that it is important for beginners to educate themselves so my suggestions include an educational aspect.

It is critical to protect yourself against market volatility as best you can and this goes double for when your just starting out. For this reason Step No. 1 is to put about a third of the funds in bonds. This is very conservative, provides a high yield and dampens market volatility. It is a baby step in the right direction.

For this portion of the funds I recommended the Vanguard Total Bond Market ETF (NYSE: BND). You can buy 100 shares for about $7,800 as of yesterday's close. It pays about 4% and can be cashed out if need be almost immediately.

Historically, equity will appreciate faster than debt, and index funds have beaten stock picking 80% of the time while costing less to own. For the next third of the money, Step No.2, I recommended the Vanguard Total Stock Market ETF (NYSE: VTI). This will pay about a 3% yield and owns thousands of stocks. It closed yesterday around $51. If you buy 150 shares it will cost about $7,700.

These two funds would actually be a good start for most people and if that was all they owned and they want to sleep easy it would be enough without any other moves. However, if that was the case I would invest one third in bonds and two thirds in stocks. These two investments give you a higher yield than cash and you will own a very large segment of the bond and stock market. Together it will consume $15,500 of your $25,000 leaving $9,500.The next step is not essential, but I recommended it because I think it is important to ones education to feel ownership in something specific: read the annual reports and become familiar with the workings of the market and business in general.

Step No.3 adds four stocks in different industries, that have long histories of superior management, branding power, dividends, admirable balance sheets and they are in businesses that have been around and will be around a long time. I have written about all of them and the most recent post is linked.

Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ) closed at $60.59 so say 50 shares costs about $3,100.

Olin Company (NYSE: OLN) closed at $14.18 so say 150 shares costs about $2,100.

United Parcel (NYSE: UPS) closed at $54.53 so say 50 shares costs about $2,800.

Wells Fargo (NYSE: WFC) closed at 27.17 so 100 shares costs about $2,700.

These four buys total $9,700, but I am confident my inquisitive banker friend can come up with the extra $200. Some people might recommend getting equal dollar values of each stock and let the number of shares be odd numbers. This might be alright for large numbers of shares but not for so few. It is better not to have odd lots. These figures are close enough to balanced.There are many more solid companies that one might include, but I think the point has been made about the approach to take. When it comes time to invest the next $25,000 I would alter the mix some. I would split the money equally between the stock index fund and the individual stocks and exclude the bond fund reducing it as a percentage of the total, favoring equity over debt.

Sheldon Liber is the CEO of a small private investment company and the principal for design and research at an architecture & planning firm. He writes the columns Chasing Value and Serious Money. Disclosure [by Sheldon]: I own shares of everything discussed BND, VTI, JNJ, OLN, UPS, and WFC.

Aug 13, 2009

Got Your Back :o)

When I first saw this cartoon, I thought of Detroit Mark, and how he did not want us travelling to his neighborhood; then thought about his bike accident(s), and it all became clear - you need to look forward [Just Teasing Mark].

Then, as I further contemplated this cartoon, it made me think deeper. It makes me thankful that I am one who continuously looks to the future, and to re-emphasize how important it is to not dwell or obsess about the past.

Hope this finds you looking forward and outward :o)

Aug 12, 2009

Bucko's Bucks - Where to Stash the Cash :o)

While it is tempting in the current environment to stash the cash in your mattress, and it will gain almost as much interest there as in your checking account, it is not going to help you get to that retirement milestone.

With my last bank statement, I saw that I was getting a whopping 0.1% rate on my checking account and an astronomical 0.6% rate on my savings account.

I had planning on doing some banking on Monday, and thought to investigate Certificate of Deposit (CD) rates and open one for our Rte66/cruise/car/legal funds we have established. The National Average for Money Market funds is 0.12%, for Deposit Accounts is 0.37%, for CD's is 1.14% for 12 months, and 2.38% for 60 months. I believe that interest rates will rise over the next year or two, so certainly do not want to lock in a 60 month rate.

I have an ING - Orange savings account associated with my stock investment account, and they are giving a 1.4% rate, so I did my transfers on-line today. If you do not already have an account that you can secure a greater than 1% rate on, below are a couple of places you can increase your savings return rate:

Money Market, USAA, 1.06%,
Deposit Account, Bank of Internet, 2.5%,
1-Year CD, NewDominion Bank, 2.26%,

Aug 11, 2009

Would you poke a bear, or....

THREE RIVERS — Authorities say a man has been arrested in Three Rivers for barking at a police dog. The Three Rivers Police Department says officers responded Monday evening to an apartment complex to investigate a suspicious situation. Police said Wednesday in a statement a 26-year-old man in the area “began to torment” a police dog inside the patrol car by barking and shouting at it, causing the animal to become excited and “very aggressive.” The man was arrested and later released on bond. He faces a charge of disorderly conduct.

So, which dog do you think he faced? :o)

Aug 10, 2009

Weekend Wind Down :o(

It was great to have a three day weekend, and with Labor Day approaching, I know there is another one in our not too distant future. A strategic use of a vacation day may squeeze another one in there somewhere :o)

After performing our duties as citizens on Saturday (attended a Congress Corner with our congressman), meeting a fellow blogger on Saturday evening (Hi Jamie, Shawn, Jazz, and Evan :o), watching golf on the telly Sunday (go Tiger!), and a great concert last night - Alice Cooper RAWKS!!!, today was a ketchup day :o)

Today, I went and did some banking, trimmed some bushes, mowed the lawn, made a garbage can patio [What is that Ken you may ask yourself, and that is why there is a picture to the left :o)], and did some letter writing and home finance/budget chores. Beth has a roast going, and we will most likely scrounge up a bottle of red wine, pop in a movie, and have a relaxing evening.

Hope your Monday was tolerable, and that your week is a good one. Is it Friday yet?

First Fire Ants, Killer Bees, Rasberry Ants, What Next

While I am not a fan of bees (I think I am allergic, last time I got stung I had a welt the size of a travel Kleenex package on my thigh), I know how vital they are to pollination, not only for flowers and fruit in our yards, but for worldwide agricultural production. Today, care of The Nature Conservancy and Scientific American - 60 Second Science, I came across this article regarding the latest threat to the honey bee. I clicked through to the links, I find the information fascinating :o)

Viruses, grueling journeys, monoculture diets. U.S. honeybees have had it rough lately, and millions have perished from the mysterious colony collapse disorder (CCD). But now some of the nation's bees have a new threat to contend with: ants. And not just any ants. These ants are crazy—Rasberry crazy ants (Paratrenicha species near pubens), to be precise.

Named for their helter-skelter scamper, which contrasts with most ants' standard rank-and-file march, the tiny invasive ants were first noticed in near Houston, Texas, in 2002 and have been destroying electronics, pestering picnickers and gunking up sewage pumps ever since. And now they have started to go after local honeybee hives, according to a recent Associated Press report.

Beekeepers say the omnivorous ants swarming the hives appear to be less interested in the sweet honey inside than they are in the bee larvae there. And once a hive is decimated, the ants will take over and use it to raise their own young. One beekeeper reported that the ants had destroyed about 100 of his hives in the past year. Aside from the crops they help to pollinate, the bees also produce about 4.9 million pounds of honey a year, the AP said.

But these insidious ants have yet to gain state recognition as agricultural pests, which would free up more money for research into their lifecycles and biology. But in order to gain that title, the Texas and U.S. departments of agriculture require more study. And many feel that time is of the essence.

"This is absolutely idiotic," Tom Rasberry, an exterminator and the ants' namesake, told the wire service. "If killing honeybees does not put it in the ag pest category, I don’t know what does."

These ants are on the march—or scatter, as it were. Local researchers note that they are spreading north at a good clip and are now found in more than 10 Texas counties. They're easily transported accidentally through trash and plant material, according to the information on the University of Texas A&M Center for Urban & Structural Entomology Web site. Bees and electronics don't seem to be the only targets of these crazy ants. They also appear to have a taste for everything from ladybugs to fire ants. But even the experts are frustrated by the lack of knowledge about these new nuisances.

"There are literally thousands of things we need to find out," Rasberry said, "otherwise we're going to do just like we did with the fire ant and wait until it was too late."

Aug 9, 2009

Rock 'n Roll :o)

Tonight was our Rock Night. It was really hot here today and we did not do much, let alone cook. So after watching Tiger take his 70th PGA victory, we hit the road at about 6:00 PM. Our first stop was Buffalo Wild Wings, where we had a cool amber beverage, a salad and a burger for Beth and Wings for me :o). It was bit too much food, but tasty. To the left is a self-picture with my lame little camera (been at my job for 10+ years and all I have to show is this digital camera that I cannot operate very well :o(

Then it was on to the Morris Center for Performing Arts, in South Bend, for some Blue Oyster Cult as an opener, not bad, but nothing compared to the main act :o) The main act was Alice Cooper, and while not a great vocalist, he is a consummate performer and his Rock Opera was exquisite. We had a great time, and just now, two hours after the show, the ringing in the ears is starting to subside.

I was one smart cookie by taking tomorrow off, because I knew there would be a wind down after such a great show. I will leave Beth to give you musical details, just know that we had a great time and it was a great show. Below are a few pictures to whet your appetite :o)

Bucko's Bucks - Ten reasons to beware the Bear

I have been methodically taking my Stock Market Profits in my "play" account, increasing cash to $2,000 and stock down to $7,000. I have a few investments that are in the 10-15% gain range, but my rule of thumb has been to capture gains at the 20% plus range. The below referenced article gives a good summary of why I am being careful.

Ten reasons to beware the Bear

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Sunday Silliness - Hope :o)

May not be warranted at this point.

Aug 8, 2009

Blogger Meeting #3

As Beth has said over at Nutwood Junction, we were anticipating meeting our third blogger friend tonight. I am pleased to announce that we are batting 1000 for these meetings.

First was Marty, a really nice guy with a great sense of humor.

Second was Mark, what a peach :o)

Tonight was Jamie, and she and her family are adorable, and as an added bonus, they are local. We look forward to getting together again [do not believe what you read at her site, I am as serious as I come across in my blog, and there is not a single funny bone in my body :o)]

If you want details, go to Beth's or Jamie's blogs.

Constituent Corner

Today, we had the opportunity to take an active role in the governance our our great country.

As a life long Republican, it was not an automatic, nor at the beginning, an easy choice to vote for Obama for President and Donnelly for Congress, but based on their demeanor, their philosophies, and their genuine care for their constituents, I am proud to say that I voted for them both. This decision was validated today when we went to a Constituent Corner meeting featuring Congressman Joe Donnelly.

His focus was going to be to sit down with individual constituents to assist with their needs, a worthwhile endeavor in its own right. But based on the size of the crowd (150-200) crammed into a local Martin's supermarket Cafe, he decided to do a town hall type format first, then do the one-on-one thing. I was so impressed with his patience, his willingness to answer questions, and the way he kept the meeting from getting out of control. He emphasized that he was in town for the whole month, and that he would take the time, each and every day, to hear all opinions. As people raised their voices, he told them he would not call on them, and he asked several times for folks to respect each other. He used the Chocolate and Vanilla analogy to acknowledge that we have differences of opinion and likes and dislikes, but that does not make one or the other either right or wrong.

There certainly is a lot of emotion and controversy regarding the health care proposals. I was struck with the amount of general anger that was in the crowd. I was also dismayed with the amount of misinformation that the crowd had absorbed. There were questions about rationing of health care, about the counseling for euthanasia, about how people are comparing Obama's administration to the Nazi regime, and how the health care bill will over time supplant private insurance.

I did get to ask Congressman Donnelly a question regarding something our CEO talked about yesterday at our all hands meeting. Our CEO has been prominent in the cap and trade legislation talks, and also about energy policy. His concern about health care is that individual state utility commissions could challenge our health care costs and challenge us to match what ever public option or cooperative arrangement ends up in the final bill. So my question to Congressman Donnelly (we do not know yet whether it was caught on TV or by the paper :o) was along the lines of "Are there provisions in the bill to prevent public commissions or shareholders from challenging companies to abandon their private plans for the less expensive public option?" His response is that that option is disallowed by the bill, and that he would get back to me with more detail. One of his staffers came up after the question and asked me to write down my question and contact information. I am confident I will get a phone call or e-mail from him with a more detailed answer.

When it was all said and done, I made a point of shaking his hand, and he looked me in the eye and said thank you. I think having legitimate questions versus the usual rhetoric meant something to him :o)

All in all, very interesting to be there, we are glad we went. Guess that is enough for this entry, and there is always Beth's take on this, which I have not yet read :o) So I am posting mine and heading over to Nutwood.

American Abundance :o)

I certainly know that I do my share to spread the wealth :o)

My question to you is whether you are one of the rats feasting on the abundance, are you filling the can with waste, and most importantly - are you thankful for what you have?

You know how we feel about recycling and going green, so when I saw this cartoon on my calendar (Thanks Kim & Steve), and with the way our whole economy and behaviors are changing, I felt it said a lot.

Over the last few years, we have certainly been striving to simplify our lives, and we certainly feel very at peace with that.

Aug 7, 2009

Beware the Reverse Mortgage Scams

A reverse mortgage allows you to tap the equity in your home without having to sell or take out another type of loan. It allows many seniors to pay their bills and stay in there homes, especially in the current economic downturn.

However, the FBI is warning senior citizens to protect themselves with reverse mortgage deals on the sharp increase and the number of scams increasing along with them. Since 1999, reverse mortgages have increased by 1,300%, the FBI said. Reverse mortgages, also called Home Equity Conversion Mortgages, are intended to allow homeowners over the age of 62 to get equity from their homes without having to make monthly payments.

But scam artists have come up with a series of ploys to drain the equity and take the money. Scammers use churches, seminars and a variety of forms of advertising to target seniors. AARP offers a lot of helpful information about reverse mortgages.

So, keep your eyes open and your ears down on the tracks and protect those seniors that you love and help protect.

Aug 6, 2009

Taps for Bucko's Other Blogs :o(

I have decided to delete "Bucko's Bucks" and "Bucko's Thoughts on Project Management."

I downloaded the few entries that were made there, and may re-post them as I move forward. I find that with my schedule and such, a single blog does the trick.

So from time-to-time you may find a Financial Forum entry here, or a Project Management Thought.

For those of you who were followers, thank you so much for signing on as followers to my now "dead" blogs, but you all were followers here, so never fear, nothing has been lost :o)

Cash For Clunkers sales report details - trucks take a big hit

Interesting statistics. To me the most surprising is that we allowed the Cash For Clunkers to include the purchase of foreign vehicle makes. I think it would have been better if it was limited to Made in America. Of course, many foreign corporations now manufacture on U.S. soil, so mixed bag I guess. Interesting that Michigan is the largest dollar amount, especially with the highest unemployment as well.

Cash For Clunkers sales report details - trucks take a big hit

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Science Scene - Battery Quest :o)

In a gleaming white factory here, sheets of chemical-coated foil are gently fed into a whirring machine that cuts them into precise rectangles. It is an early step in building a new kind of battery, one smaller than a cereal box but with almost as much energy as the kind in a conventional automobile.

The goal International Battery, a high-tech start-up, is industrial revolution. Racing against other companies around the globe, they are on the front lines of an effort to build smaller, lighter, more powerful batteries that could help transform the American energy economy by replacing gasoline in cars and making windmills and solar cells easier to integrate into the power grid.

The batteries would not only replace the fuel tanks in millions of cars and trucks, but would also make windmills and solar cells more practical, by absorbing excess energy when their production jumps and giving it back when the wind suddenly dies or the sun goes behind a cloud.

But first, companies like International Battery will have to tweak the chemistry of their devices and improve the manufacturing process, bolstering the batteries’ capabilities. And prices will have to come down — a problem that is far more daunting when it comes to batteries for vehicles and the grid, because the packs are hundreds or thousands of times the size of those for handheld electronics.

Nearly all battery research now focuses on lithium ion batteries, which made their consumer debut in 1991 and have since replaced nickel-cadmium and nickel-metal-hydride technologies in many portable electronics. Lithium is the third-lightest element on the periodic table, which allows for far greater energy density. A lithium ion battery that will move a car one mile weighs less than half as much as a nickel metal hydride and one-sixth as much as lead acid.

The engineers face a difficult challenge. The batteries have to store a lot of energy in a small, light package, scoring high in a quality known as energy density. They also have to absorb energy and give it back quickly, a factor called power density. Think of a battery as a bottle for energy, and the power density as the size of the bottle’s neck. Good power density means a shape like a peanut butter jar, easy to fill or empty; low power density is more like a wine jug with a narrow neck.

The batteries have to charge quickly and withstand thousands of cycles of charge and discharge. They have to dissipate heat without catching fire. The batteries must function in Maine winters and Texas summers. Engineers have met almost all of these goals, but not simultaneously in one product. And they are still way off on price: the components remain far too costly. But they are trying, devoting more and more resources to meeting that goal.

In 1991 the Advanced Battery Consortium was founded and set a near-term target for developing a battery that would cost $150 per kilowatt-hour of storage. (A kilowatt-hour sells for about a dime and will move a car three or four miles.) Eighteen years later, prices are in the range of $750 to $1,000. By comparison, a lead-acid battery in a conventional car costs less than $100 for that much capacity, although it is much too heavy to build an electric car around and not durable enough.

Now the Energy Department has a new goal: $500 by 2012. One reason for the optimism is the infusion of money that Washington is preparing to get the job done. The $2 billion in new grants planned this summer includes $1.2 billion for companies manufacturing battery cells and complete battery packs, $350 million for electric drive component manufacturing and $25 million for battery recycling.

The Obama administration is also hoping to drum up market demand. In March, President Obama, visiting a testing center for electric vehicles run by Southern California Edison in Pomona, announced tax credits of up to $7,500 for consumers who buy plug-in hybrid vehicles. Such models get some of their energy from the power grid and some from gasoline. But when it comes to a genuine mass market for an affordable plug-in hybrid or all-battery car, “we don’t quite know how to get there,” said Mr. Miller, of Ford.

The mastery of battery technology is key and we still have a lot of work to do.

Source: The New York Times/ Matthew Wald