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I live in Michigan, been there all my life, generally in the Detroit or East Lansing areas.

Written By: Gary on July 18, 2013 3 Comments

So we got up this morning and boarded a chartered bus from Chicago and back to the Detroit area. It was a long bus ride and we arrived tired and I recall it being really really hot when we arrived (a bank parking lot in Pleasant Ridge, the same spot we left from). I’m thinking it was kind of hot on the bus, so maybe something was broken(?).

Nothing else exciting, we stopped somewhere for lunch but no photos from today (sorry). I’ll scan those other pictures eventually (the two nice group shots and some black and white photos), hopefully more sooner than later (I did start making room for the scanner). I never found the photos that I took with the 110 camera, I looked all over for them but sadly never found them. I even looked for the pewter bear that I bought as a souvenir in Alaska, but no luck there either…

Since I don’t have any photos from today, here’s a few panoramic photos that I don’t think I posted here (a few might have been posted to Facebook already). I just tried to pick random ones but they’re mostly from Banff National Park and some glaciers in Alaska.

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Mendenhall Glacier.

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Near (in?) Banff National Park.

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In Banff National Park near the Chateau Lake Louise.

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Near Banff National Park.

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Glacier Bay.

It was a great trip and I really enjoyed reliving it while sharing it with you all here.

If you’re reading this post out of context, this is me re-journaling a trip to Alaska from when I was a kid. You might want to click the “trip to Alaska” link and go to the bottom and read them in order. I’m posting each entry on the same day that it happened years ago.

Written By: Gary on August 28, 2011 One Comment

I was out biking this weekend (again) and was playing with a new camera (not mine) and as I was biking along I saw a dear up ahead.

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I got some stills and some video. But I was still standing there on the bike so I’m not the steadiest I could be. At the end I was at 14x which also contributes to the extra shakiness and I didn’t have glasses on so I couldn’t really see how focused it was.


Direct HD link on YouTube

This is not a soundtrack I added later, it just happened to be what was playing on my bike stereo when I saw the deer, I thought it worked out well…

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The last one turned around and went back (after already crossing the road), I’m not sure why he got spooked when the others didn’t. I went over to the side of the road and sat down for a bit, but never saw any appear on either side of the road again.

(This was on Hines Drive between Inkster Rd. and Middlebelt Rd.)

Written By: Gary on August 9, 2011 No Comment

I was out roller blading again down by the Detroit River and I got this shot totally by accident at least the reflection part was by accident, I was aiming at the rest. Next time I’ll do some more like it on purpose, but this one was a happy accident.

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I was standing on my tippy-toes to get this photo of the fountain over the stairs (by the Underground Railroad memorial) and I got the reflection off of the marble and I really like the way it came out. This is for my 31 photos in 31 days project today.

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This is the Detroit Princess Riverboat they run all sorts of trips on the river (starting at $20) and private party rentals. This was taken outside Cobo Hall.

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THe is the old Parke Davis & Co. building. It’s now a hotel and this is an area they have with benches outside. It’s about to start raining (yes, I got a little wet) so no one is out there right now…

Written By: Gary on August 5, 2011 One Comment

I went down to Rivard Plaza after work and went rollerblading. Actually, first I sat down and changed my wheels, they were really worn down, it felt like new blades afterwards. It was a little quiet down there, there were people but not too busy. They were setting up for a festival but I don’t know which one.

The Detroit Riverwalk is a nicely developed area from Belle Isle to Cobo Hall; north of Milken State Park (free admission) which is right next to Rivard Plaza it’s not all along the water, it gets a little jaggy where there are some marinas and the coast guard and things, but from the state park to Cobo it’s a straight line along the water. If you’re semi-familar with the area Rivard Plaza is where the Diamond Jack boat docks, the carousel and the bike rental is all right there a few blocks north of the Renaissance Center.

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Click the panorama, it gets pretty big (1200×250 pixels); I took this down by Cobo Hall (I think?). This is my 31 photos in 31 days photo for today. It’s a little bit of a cheat since it’s a stitched together panorama so it’s really more than one photo (but it’s at least one!). It’s from my iPhone but it’s made by Microsoft. Yes, I said Microsoft! It’s called PhotoSynth and it’s very cool, it works with some kind of plug-in so you can navigate around but I haven’t played with that yet.


Watch the Detroit River Walk on YouTube.

Just goofing around with my iPhone and the video editing. I shot all these clips on the iPhone and edited them with iMovie on the iPhone (clips, Ken Burns effect, titles and credits) and it’s pretty easy to do.

Written By: Gary on July 3, 2011 5 Comments

I was cooking dinner and I knew the storm was coming but I thought I’d have time to finish grilling. I didn’t, it started raining and it was like buckets being dumped down. I got SO drenched in the few seconds that I opened the sliding door. The kitchen floor and nearby counter was a mess with all the water that came in the little bit of time I that it was open. There was hail all over the deck, a lot of it larger than the diameter of a quarter(?) I should have gotten some photos of it, but I was drenched and was trying to take care of dinner and the grill and the mess…

Afterwards the clouds just kept billowing around like something out of a sci-fi movie. I shot video but it just didn’t come out well, so I animated these stills; sorry they’re so jumpy but I didn’t know I’d be animating them.

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Then the lightning and thunder came over and over. I shot about 200 pictures (just holding the camera on repeat and changing some settings here and there) and only a few came out.

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I should have gone and got my other camera (and a tripod), I’ve got more settings on that one. But the rain kept coming and going so I wasn’t sure it I could really use it properly. Maybe next time.

And the local fireworks got canceled…

Written By: Gary on May 29, 2011 No Comment

What do you think?

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Talk about the oncoming storm…

Written By: Gary on March 18, 2011 No Comment

I thought the ice looked amazing flowing down the Detroit River in the sunshine yesterday. So I snapped a few photos and videos with my iMazing iPhone and here you go..

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Just a couple of clips showing the ice floating down the river. If you don’t find it interesting, I promise it gets more boring the longer it plays…


Watch it on YouTube in HD.

 

I actually edited and did the voice over (second part) on the video with iMovie on the iPhone 4 (and uploaded it too!).

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That’s all, sadly, I don’t count on it being this sunny today…

Written By: Gary on January 3, 2011 No Comment

It seems about every two months that Wendy’s resets their on-line coupons (this batch is good until Feb. 20, 2011). It’s a $1 off combos, $1.99 kid meals and a few 2-for-1 deals (singles, chicken and twisted Frostys). There appears to be no printing limit, I just printed a stack and stuck them in the car. wendys-logo.pngI go 2+ times a week so this is a no brainer for me. I’ll have $14-$20 extra in my pocket by the time March rolls around.

And the address hould be easy to remember it’s http://MichiganWendys.com/

Yes, the coupons specifically say they’re only good for Michigan.

Written By: Gary on September 26, 2010 No Comment

When I purchased my home I thought I’d stay in it around four or five years, give or take a year, next month will make eleven years! I’d never owned a home before, but interest rates were good, I had a condo that I liked and when the rent on my Southgate apartment jumped way up, it sealed this was the deal for me.

Mortgages For Dummies, 3rd Edition Eric Tyson, Ray Brown The rates on the 5-year Adjustable Rate Mortgages (ARM) seemed pretty decent; I knew rates were down but I like to cover my bets, and any year after five years the mortgage could go up 2% a year. Silly me, I was worried that if the economy got better I’d have a higher mortgage rate; but I never thought I’d live here more than seven years (when it would have the opportunity to have jumped up 2% two times).

Well it’s that time of year again and my mortgage adjusted, it went down 1/8th of a percent. I’m now paying 3.125%, this is much less than my original 6.875%. While I understand the value of my home has probably dropped, at least I’m not paying a higher mortgage at the same time, the lower value means less property taxes.

Year Rate
1998 6.875%
1999 6.875%
2000 6.875%
2001 5.25% (paid $750 to lower rate*)
2002 4.25% (paid $750 to lower rate*)
2003 4.25%
2004 4.25%
2005 4.25%
2006 4.25%
2007 4.25%
2008 4.875% (first yearly adjust)
2009 3.25% (yearly adjust)
2010 3.125% (yearly adjust)

I was paying the higher rate in the beginning when I owed a lot more money, so the higher interest rate did affect me more, but at the time it was a low interest rate. I think the rates were around 7% at the time and I paid a few hundred dollars ($300-ish) to lower it 3/8ths of a percent, which was supposed to take three-and-a-half years to make that few hundred dollar fee back, but since I paid the $750 to lower the rate I lost out on that (I think it was three years to the day) but only the $30-$50 I hadn’t recovered; I still think that was a good decision, who could have predicted a crisis of 9/11 proportions would occur?

I’m living on the East side of Dearborn (Michigan, United States) and they’ve finally removed the old deserted Montgomery Wards building and finishing a new office building which might help (a tiny bit) in revitalizing this side of town…

I made pretty good money decisions on this for my first time. The one big mistake I made was at the time of purchase I did have the ability to put 20% down (I had put down 15%) and I wish I had done the 20%; yes I know that’s a lot to put down these days, but my mother always taught me to be a good saver and I knew I’d want to buy someday. Here’s why: The PMI insurance, this is the insurance that you pay for to guarantee that you won’t default (but only for the first 20%), was harder to drop than they made me believe: you had to pay for an inspection and if the value of the house had dropped it wouldn’t be 20% and it wouldn’t get waived so I was a little nervous and a little annoyed. But it was $35 a month that I was putting towards nothing (for me, at least) that could have been towards my house and I didn’t like seeing it on my statement. It was about $35 for every 5%, so if I’d put down 0%, it’d have been $140 a month (that’s $1440 each year!). But if something had happened at the time and I needed the money, that would have been gone from my reserves (but I’m still kicking myself for it).

So other than my PMI rant, the whole home owning process has gone really really well. I’m still happy with the home. It’s been very centrally located to the three different jobs (Allen Park, Redford, Hamtramck) I’ve had since I lived here.

*Surprisingly, when I paid the $750 for the ARM to adjust adjust the rate, it actually restarted the 5-years over! So when I ended up changing to the 4.25% rate, it held for the next 5 years.

Written By: Gary on August 12, 2010 No Comment

A turtle swimming around in a aquarium at the Belle Isle Nature Center. I’m not even sure what kind of turtle it is, it was just a “regular turtle” until I really liked the photo. I’ve really been liking green in my nature photos lately.

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And of course you can click for a larger version.

I really do like the way this photo came out, he(?) was kind of fussy and wouldn’t hold still for very long, but I did get a few shots of him, this is just the best one. I’ll have to put together a few of them to share with you…/garysaid

Written By: Gary on August 11, 2010 No Comment

I was at the Belle Isle Nature Center the other day and got a picture of this interesting looking fish called a Longnose Gar (sometimes called Garpike, Needlenose Gar or just Gar Fish (or Lepisosteus osseus). See the wikipedia or the Animal Diversity Web entries for more information.

I got pretty lucky with this video, it was my first try and it’s as if we rehearsed the scene. I tried more than a few more times and I just couldn’t get the camera lined up (or the fish to perform properly)

If you’ve got a fast computer be sure to watch the Gar Fish in HD and be sure to click the full screen option at 720p.

See, doesn’t it looks like we planned it that way?

FYI, I shot this on my iPhone 4!

Written By: Gary on November 17, 2009 No Comment

So I was in southwest Michigan the other day and managed to catch the sunset. I snapped a few photos with my Digital Rebel XT. Actually I snapped a bunch of photos, but I picked these three to share…

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These were all taken in a little roadside park in St. Joseph, Michigan.


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I really like this one, but I wish the bushes had a bit more detail.


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I’ll have to play around with these and see if I can get a little more detail out of the trees and bushes.

Written By: Gary on October 25, 2009 No Comment

Great day outside on Hines Drive today. Lots of great colors as fall approaches. Here’s a panorama I took with my iPhone (and stitched it on my iPhone with the AutoStitch Panorama app on the phone too!).


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I think it took eight or nine images to build the whole thing and it came out to 4000×506 pixels. This program works quick: I took the photos with the camera app, ran the AutoStich program, clicked the photos, it built a tiny thumbnail, I clicked the stitch button and few minutes later I’ve got the panorama on the screen!

Click to enlarge panoramic image, if it doesn’t load correctly, here’s a 1024 wide image.

Written By: Gary on August 1, 2009 3 Comments

I’ve never even heard of the Michigan Central Station before today. I happened to see a photo of it in the (overly-dramatic titled) The Remains of Detroit photo essay on Time.com (which got mention on one of The Economist blogs) yesterday.

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Opened in 1913, the terminal was designed by the architects Warren & Wetmore and Reed & Stern, the same firm that designed New York City’s Grand Central Terminal. “It’s staggering,” says Hemmerle, “that such a phenomenal piece of architecture could stand empty for twenty years.”

– From Time.com

I did a little more looking and found this six minute video.


Direct link to Michigan Central Station video.

I don’t think I’ve ever heard mention of such a huge train station in Detroit; at the time it was built it was the tallest train station in the world. I can’t even picture it, so I might have to take a ride this week to see where it is.

I guess the city was looking to demolish earlier this year and I never heard a peep (someone is suing Detroit since it’s a historical landmark). And they filmed some scenes for the Transformers movie here a few years ago, never heard anything about that either.

The video mentioned 75 trains in and out a day. I felt like those were mostly passenger trains, but maybe I was wrong. I’ve mentioned many times before that I love the train but now the Detroit station has six passenger trains a day (see page 2), three going west and the same going east from a small building near the Fisher building. These are the same trains that hit the Dearborn station a mile from my house which makes it very convenient when I want to head towards Chicago.

Photo courtesy of WikiPedia.

Written By: Gary on June 26, 2009 One Comment

Last Saturday night I went downtown to see the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and Project Bandaloop. Here’s the description (from the web site):

A late-night outdoor concert held on the lawn adjacent to The Ellington parking structure, across from Orchestra Hall. San Francisco’s extraordinary aerial dance troupe, Project Bandaloop, will add their beautiful, gravity-defying vertical choreography, performing to the dulcet sounds of the celebrated hometown orchestra.

Here’s a photo of them with the garage (the lighting wasn’t the best for photos).

Project Bandaloop

So here’s several clips I shot with my pocket digital camera, my Canon 1100, it worked way better than I thought it would have.

A really short clip of showing the grace of Project Bandaloop as they “dance” on the side of a building accompanied by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.

Direct link to the HQ version of the clip.

Forgive the quality of the middle of this clip, I zoom in on one of the Project Bandaloop performers as she dances on the side of a building accompanied by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.

It’s noisy as the baby plays with it’s rattle (not my baby, but he was adorable).

Direct link to the HQ version of the clip.

A 23 second clip of showing six of the Project Bandaloop crew “dance” on the side of a building accompanied by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. There were probably 12 people going at the same time.

Direct link to the HQ version of the clip.

This is a long clip, almost 2 minutes, but I wanted you to see a chunk of the act instead of the little snippits I posted separately. You can really hear the baby play along with the music, I’d pretty much tuned it out by then.

Direct link to the HQ version of the clip.

After a while you sort of turn everything 90-degrees in your head and can see what they’re doing as if on a dance floor (in low gravity).

Here’s a blurry zoomed in shot of a group of four Project Bandaloop members.

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This was great, I wish I could have been on top of the parking garage to have shot straight down at them so it would have looked like they were on a flat surface.

Written By: Gary on June 22, 2009 No Comment

Went to the Red Bull Air Races this year, it was fun. A bit of waiting here and there but it was great. Don’t really know anything about airplanes or races, but it was cool to see on the river.

Direct link to the high quality version.

We were down by Hart Plaza on the Detroit side. Lots of people, we had tickets, I I’d thought you could have just wandered down there to watch, but it was all cordoned off.

Direct link to the high quality video.

The sky could have been sunnier, but then I’d have complained it was too hot, but my video would have been nicer in that case. This video was just shot on my Canon 1100 digital still camera.

I’ve got some other photos (and zoomed in video) but I can’t find what I need to get them on my Sony camcorder….

Written By: Gary on May 21, 2009 2 Comments

Argh! Haven’t been this frustrated in a very long time…

The last 24 hours:
– I can’t sync my calendar items and address/phone numbers between my computers, MobileMe and iPod Touch.
– My main Windows machine won’t reboot, keeps resetting. Think the hard drive went.
– Accessing/syncing to my AppleTV is goofed up (that’s minor, unrelated and hacked so not an Apple issue)
– My cell phone keeps saying international roaming when I’m at home (it’s Sprint). I’m not that close to the border of Canada/Michigan.

I’ve spend more time with tech support the last 24 hours than the last 24 months. I’ve been escalated multiple times at Apple and not getting any closer. And after all the changes at my end I’m leaning towards it’s going to be a problem at their end so then I’ll have to get everything set back the way I want (a few hours ago, I’d have said 100% sure at their end, but not so sure now). They say this is a new problem and since we’re pushing 4 hours today I’m hoping it’s a unique problem (for their sake).

And I’ve wasted another sunny day :(

Written By: Gary on January 26, 2009 One Comment

mcrib-locator.pngSo I’m heading up north and thought I’d check the McRib Locater Map to make sure I didn’t miss an opportunity. I haven’t had one in years.

But as you can see by the map (click it a live map) that Michigan is completely bare. Please note that these points are put in by people, not McDonald’s so don’t be disappointed if there isn’t actually a McRib there…

Written By: Gary on January 16, 2009 No Comment

It’s been a week since the 6.2 earthquake in Costa Rica (Jan. 8, 2009) and while I’ve been updating my original post with info I thought I’d post another entry.

The death toll is at 23 people with 11 missing. Over 2000 people living in shelters and abut $100 million in estimated damages. This really sums up the whole tragic disaster.

There is a nice graphic of the area up at The Tico Times to give you some idea of location and details.

Speaking of The Tico Times, the latest issue came out today (it’s a weekly paper) and has a lot of information in it (they do sell a pdf of the paper on-line), they generally don’t publish very many full stories on-line other than by subscription but they’ve had a lot up there this week. The first 11 pages of the January 16, 2009 issue of the Tico Times is full of info on this earthquake, including a history of earthquakes in Costa Rica, info/diagrams of seismic plates in Central America a safety quiz and more. I’m not trying to sell you the TIco Times but it’s really got a lot on the earthquake this week and I do like The Tico Times.

I didn’t realize that this was the biggest quake in 18 years. Lately, I’ve heard mention of earthquakes, but I didn’t think I’ve heard much about them before a year or so ago. But I’ve spent more time there lately (4 trips in 12 months) and I’ve been getting The Tico Times delivered to Michigan so I’m catching more news that I would have missed before. I’m assuming it was my lack of information that led me to that misconception and not that they’ve had more in the past year.

There are volcanos in the area of the quake, the closest is the Poás Volcano which is about 10km from the center of the earthquake (about 90 km is the Arenal Volcano, the worlds most active volcano. Volcanos tend to follow fault lines and Costa Rica is right off of the one that becomes the San Andreas fault (if you follow it up a map you’ll see it). . Volcanos and earthquakes in the same place make me extra nervous but that doesn’t seem to have caused any issues. On a side note, the Poas Volcano National Park is closed through Monday due to some unrelated volcanic activity; it seems coincidental but maybe it closes all the time, but I haven’t noticed it in the paper before…

If you haven’t read it since I first put it up, I have added more links and news to my post from last week.

Written By: Gary on December 24, 2008 No Comment

tree2008.JPGEveryone, please travel safe during the holiday festivities! In Michigan the roads are awful but be careful no matter how the roads are (especially if you’re drinking while celebrating).

Be thankful that you get to spend time with your family and friends. It’s a time to be nice (so don’t fight with your family about stupid things)!

And if you’re in a place that has snow, don’t forget to go for a ride and look at the Christmas lights!

 

 

 

Written By: Gary on December 23, 2008 No Comment

weatherdec232008.2008The roads are awful right now. I’m working my way down to my neck/back doctor’s office and finishing up Christmas shopping as I pass by places. The speed of the traffic determines how many of those errands that I’ll get done. Unfortunately, it probably won’t be anywhere near enough time…

And the weather doesn’t make it look like it’s going to get any better any time soon. That’s Michigan in the center if you can’t tell…

Written By: Gary on December 13, 2008 One Comment

I cannot believe how much gas has dropped in the last few months. It’s really insane, but in a good way.

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I got this graph from DetroitGasPrices.com. Looks like they shot back up 10 cents in the last few days, but still. Compared to gas prices from 5 years ago, we’re right around the same area but pretty much since then it’s a much better deal.

I was talking two years ago about “how low” prices had dropped but it almost peaked at a dollar less these past few weeks.

FYI, when I buy my gas I try to check DetroitGasPrices.com (I think it’s an offshoot of GasBuddy.com). I’m not going to drive way out of my way for a few cents, but if I’m driving through an area that’s cheap, I’ll wait until I get to the cheaper place…

Written By: Gary on November 11, 2008 5 Comments

So went to get my driver’s license today. What a bureaucracy! The only plus was that it wasn’t very busy.

I knew this was going to be a hassle so I hired ARCR (the folks that did the relocation seminar) to take me there and work me through the process, it was $35 well spent. I would have spent that on cab rides alone.

Here’s the process we took: Crlicence

  • Copied my passport, entrance stamp and US license.
  • Drove to the MOPT (their Department of Motor Vehicles).
  • Walked out of the huge complex and down the street to the Doctor’s office and got a blood type test $10 and then went to a different room for a “medical” for $20 (which consisted of an eye test, blood pressure and some questions).
  • Walked back into the far side of the complex and queued up.
  • Every time someone went in, we all moved down a seat closer to the door.
  • Got approved for a driver’s license for an automobile.
  • Did not get approved for a motorcycle. She didn’t accept the “CY” in my endorsement section was for a motorcycle. Says I’ll have to go to the U.S. Embassy to get a note from them. This was even after I showed her my “International Driver’s Permit” which very clearly identifies me as having a motorcycle endorsement and it’s in Spanish (FYI, Costa Rica does not honor this permit for driving so I can’t bitch too much); if Michigan defined “CY” on the back of the license I’d have been fine.
  • Went downstairs and waited but this time we had a number.
  • This was to get everything keyed in for the license.
  • Walked back to the front of the complex to pay for the license.
  • Walked back to the back of the complex to show the receipt that we paid.
  • Got my picture taken (was allowed to smile), signed the computer tablet and had my fingerprint taken.
  • Waited for a few minutes more and got my license! Good for two years!

    Throughout this process I showed my US license, passport and the copies a million times. At some point in the process they did let us leave to make a copy of the doctor’s medical test (all the way back to the front and down the street to the doctor’s) and then they stamped it certified so I don’t have to get another test ($10).

    The $35 for the escort well spent, especially since I speak barely speak Spanish. But if they had known a little more I could have gotten the paperwork I needed to get the motorcycle endorsement and gotten both. I’ve heard they are making license’s harder for non-residents so maybe I should get it now (I’m assuming they’ll let me renew it even if they change the rules) that was part of my motivation in the first place. I can go back myself but like I said before, if I don’t have a car it’s going to cost that much for cab fare. If I have a car at the end of my trip when I come back to San Jose to leave I’ll do it…

  • Written By: Gary on November 5, 2008 One Comment

    Random results thoughts – (these are based on my observations not statistical calculations)

  • Across the nation, most proposal results seemed lean towards pro-choice.
  • Also across the nation, most proposal results seemed to be against any gay/lesbian/non-traditional family units. Even at the cost of allowing children to not be adopted.
  • The medical marijuana use proposals seems to have passed in most places (all?).
  • We still don’t have results for North Carolina (only 14,000 difference in the votes). Although this still won’t make a difference in the end.

    I still don’t think you should be able to vote straight ticket on your ballot. If you really want that, then fill in all those circles by hand. You only vote a few times per year people!

    I also still think the electoral college is weird and electoral votes should be based on the what the people of the state voted not what the winners party. Or just ditch it and have the whole thing based on popular vote. I understand there are reasons not to base it on popular vote, but…

    Final part – The president I voted for won and so did the proposals I picked, I don’t know if that’s happened to me before (but Michigan didn’t have many proposals this year).

  • Written By: Gary on November 5, 2008 No Comment

    I was suprised to get this e-mail a few moments ago…

    Subject: Sold out but more to come
    Date: November 5, 2008 4:46:47 PM GMT-05:00

    2B537D9A-5
    With the announcement of a new president and high voter turnout, this election has proven to be historic on many levels. Due to numerous requests to purchase additional newspapers, more copies of today’s Free Press are being printed and delivered to local retail outlets and select locations in outstate Michigan.
    They will be available Thursday morning.

    It’s just not a typical e-mail that I get from my paper…

    Smart marketing though!

    15 minutes later – I seem to have gotten a second copy of the same message.

    Written By: Gary on November 4, 2008 2 Comments

    Results for the election are interesting. They’ve got Michigan listed as won by Obama, but only 20% of the precincts have reported. Now most of those being waited for are smaller precincts but there is less than a 50,000 vote difference. Does that even count all the mailed in absentee votes?

    A few years ago (in the early days of the Internet) the first time the Michigan government put detailed election results on-line I was the person who put them on-line so I needed to know what time I needed to be available for the uploads. I’m not going to get into particulars (and I’m sure many have changed now) but if I recall correctly, it was way way after the news shows posted their results and after the newspapers printed the results before real tallies were even started. And (if I recall correctly) two of the bigger counties didn’t even get in their totals until the next afternoon.

    And pay attention on sites where you see election results they say things like “Results are based on projections and unofficial returns. Candidates listed in bold indicate projected winner”.

    But these early “results” are generally correct so I guess I can’t complain. But you generally don’t call a sports game until it’s over unless it’s a landslide. From what I’ve been watching (and it’s not much) just in the last 90 minutes McCain has gained about 38 electoral votes (with 7 states still voting and 9 states that haven’t been called yet) so it’s still got a ways to go.

    But if it goes the way Dori predicted we don’t even need the other states votes we just need all the tallies from the precincts that closed by 9PM EST. Just so you know Dori is a computer person, not a political blogger and generally just blogs life and tech (who does occasionally blog political things). FYI – As of 10:30 PM her chart matches all the states we have tallies for so far.

    Written By: Gary on October 29, 2008 No Comment

    One of the oldest blogs and most political blogs I read is Dean’s World. Their tag line is “Defending the liberal tradition in history, science, and philosophy.” Lots of authors for posts so lots of different viewpoints are shown. They cover topics ranging from politics (mostly) to humor to Battlestar Galactica (and have an open comment post once a weekend where you can talk about anything).

    I’m not very political so many times I don’t know what they’re talking about but that doesn’t stop me from coming back. But if you haven’t seen it, it’s worth checking out.

    When I say “oldest blog” I mean they are one of the blogs I’ve been reading for the longest time. I’m not sure how I first found them – from a national story or something more local (Dean is in South-East Michigan). Check out some of the many times I’ve mentioned Dean’s World in my blog.

    Unfortunately, you do have to register to comment, but they do make it pretty painless and it does count out a lot of the junk.

    Written By: Gary on October 18, 2008 One Comment

    So it’s nice and sunny today so I decided to go for a bike ride and go get lunch at Einstein Bagels. It’s sunny but it’s chilly so I bundled up; but the cold still made my eyes start to water a bit. I used to ride my bike in the winter when I was younger and I mean cold winter days with snow + ice. In particular I remember a few situations when I was riding in the winter:

  • Middle School – I used to ride it to school in the winter since it got me out of the cold faster (at least that was the logic). I think after having snow in the middle of the day and having to ride home in it I realized that didn’t work to bad either. The bonus of riding on the snow and ice is that if it’s icy enough for you to fall you’ll generally slide on the ice which hurts a lot less than falling off your bike on the cement.
  • Classes in the middle of the day – My senior year in college at Michigan State University I had a lot of classes in Holmes Hall (Lyman Briggs) and in the middle of winter I had a class down the road between a few other Holmes Hall classes. So I just kept my bicycle at Holmes Hall and drove it from there to my class and back again, it worked out pretty well except when the bike was buried deep in snow at the bike rack.
  • On the far side of campus – My first year at MSU I had a class on the far side of campus so I’d ride my bike out to class and as the fall went on it got colder and colder (and even colder) but I kept on riding my bike. Eventually it got so cold the wind made my eyes water to much (way more than today) so I had the bright idea of wearing my ski goggles. This worked great! An added bonus was since people couldn’t actually see my face they didn’t know who the dork on the bicycle was.

    In hindsight, the best investment I could have made in college was some kind of moped/scooter to get around. I’d recommend this to anyone with a kid going to college. The most useful thing my car was good for was getting me home when I needed to visit the folks (you had to park at a parking lot that was pretty far away). I probably couldn’t have seen this at the time since I’d had a car for ages it was just something I “needed”; I didn’t go away to college until I was 22(?) so this was pretty ingrained in my head as a necessity by this time.

    The car was great for getting groceries (I lived in a cook your own food dorm) but the expense of the car (insurance/etc.) far exceeded a few cab rides a month to get groceries. My car didn’t really become ultra useful until graduate school when I had a permit to park on campus (actually I could only park on the south side of campus but that was almost perfect for where I needed to be) which then allowed me to live a little farther off campus.

    So I’ve gone from bike riding on a nice day to riding in the winter to not needing a car in college. I guess I’m done with this posting for now. I’m heading back out in the 50° sun to ride back home….

  • Written By: Gary on September 15, 2008 5 Comments

    So I’m getting desperate in my quest. As a last resort I e-mailed Ronald and Co. today, I said:

    Dear McDonalds,

    I see that McRibs are back at “participating” McDonalds.

    How do the fans find a McRib?

    Where in Michigan (Detroit or otherwise) or even Toledo, OH or Chicago can I find one of these? I’m traveling next month? I’ll schedule a layover for my flight so that I can stop in a McRib city, seriously!

    Is there a list somewhere or at least someway I can check out some specific markets?

    Thank you,
    Gary

    Do you think I might get a response?

    Written By: Gary on September 4, 2008 No Comment

    Picture 20Something just happened. I’d say a huge semi-truck or two just drove by too fast and went through the crazy potholes (or something) but that’s not really possible where I am let alone it would have had to had been a 180 wheeled truck since it lasted a bit. It really shook the place for at least 4-5 seconds (it seemed much longer but I’m guessing it wasn’t) with a short ones a few seconds later about 22 or 23 minutes after midnight. Afterwards, it sounded like a few doors opened up at the hotel but no chatter of what might have happened. I don’t know how common earthquakes are here. I know I’ve never felt anything like it!

    I’ve been looking on-line and finally found some data! It was a 4.3 Magnitude earthquake!!!! Not sure how big that is, but I’m from Michigan so…

    The event id for this is “us2008wnan” as it’s official designation (I guess). This is the closest seismogram I could find from a drum recorder (are they still actually drums?) which happens to be the Volcano at Rincon de la Vieja, you can clearly see in the second block of 15 minutes after midnight the needle went a little crazy. Here’s some info on reading the seismograms.

    275 10Looking at the attached right-hand image (the “A” is the estimated center), I’m guessing it centered about 25-30 miles from here (Tamarindo). The smaller left-hand image has some time/date info with location info (and no other earthquake boxes for the last week in Costa Rica).

    This was at 10.490°N, 85.851°W, a 4.3 magnitude and 39.7 miles (63.9 km) deep. Could this have been picked up as far os New Mexico or Oregon? Or were those coincidental marks on their graphs? Finding this I’m going to say “yes” (I found this in the morning).

    I’ll keep adding data as I find it! It’s been two hours I’ve been collecting info, I’m off to bed, gotta get up in the morning to catch a flight.

    Written By: Gary on August 25, 2008 4 Comments

    So I tried to open a bank account today. Why? Because bank access in the southern Nicoya peninsula is very limited and the one bank they do have never lets me use my ATM so I thought an account might be useful. I was just thinking a few hundred dollars for emergencies and then it would be established already or if I needed money wired here a bank account would be handy (I could wire it to myself from the US while I was here, I checked with my Michigan bank on this already). I had e-mailed the Costa Rican bank (Banco Nacional) a week or two ago about this, but never got a response.

    So I waited and waited and then finally I got to to wait some more. Then I asked at a different desk, because if I don’t have what I need, I don’t need to be waiting and got a very helpful guy whose english was good enough for us to figure it out. Turns out I need

  • a passport,
  • a local address / phone,
  • a few letters of refererence from other banking institutions (these made me feel like I was living in older times); they said a hotel would do for the address/phone but some coordination would have to be done since they wanted proof (like a utility bill) but what I was asking for was not unheard of,
  • a minimum deposit was $10 (obviously for emergencies that was much less than I planned).

    So I’ll get some letters from the bank and be ready to take care of these when I need to.

  • Written By: Gary on August 24, 2008 No Comment

    For some reason I was really thinking Costa Rica was only an hour off from Michigan right now. It’s actually two hours off so that might my flight feel much much longer since I had it in my head wrong.

    Not the most exciting thing to tell you, but I keep noticing my clock on the computer is off by 2 hours so maybe this will stop me from thinking about it…

    Written By: Gary on August 19, 2008 No Comment

    So the school system in the State of Michigan has an option as part of it’s retirement plan. You can actually “purchase” up to five years of work (called Universal Buy-In) and then then when you have twenty-five years of work into the system it actually counts as thirty so you can retire five years early. Now it’s a convoluted formula based on your age, your maximum salary and how many years you have in the system; so the younger you are and the least you make they cheaper it is. Plus, they’ll take the money out of your check pre-tax dollars so you can get into this deal for as about $35 less every two-weeks (that’s $50 pre-tax). When I got in on the deal the plan was better, now they charge you interest on what you owe, so now you’re better off paying it off fast, before you had to spread it out. (Warning: if you’re bored now, the post really doesn’t get much more interesting. The part in bold near the bottom is the slightly/semi-interesting part that caused me to write this post.)

    Ors logoI recommend this plan* to people who are in the Michigan retirement system and I always mention it to the new teachers at school. The younger you are when you start the cheaper this will be; I don’t want to hear you say you can’t afford it, you can start this at about $17 a week, that’s not that much and it should really pay off in the long run.

    In my case, I didn’t hear about it until I had been in the system for a few years so it wasn’t cheap but since I knew I’d get five extra years of retirement payments so it seemed like a deal to me. I had it spread out evenly over the years I had left so it’s been getting paid down slowly.More details: If you leave the system (aren’t employed for a while by this system) they credit the years you’ve paid for and if you come back they’ll redo the above calculation with you being older, making more, having more years in system and factor in interest. This didn’t sound like such a good deal to me. Also, If you don’t actually work the 25 years, you have to wait until you’re sixty years old and it just increases your payment (or I think you can roll it in to some other kind of retirement).

    So late last year I decided I wanted this paid off work was way too stressful late last year and I felt as if I could quit at any time, so I increased my contribution quit a bit. It wasn’t going very fast so I stopped contributing to my other IRA/403b retirement-type things and put almost all of my check into paying this off (I lived off of savings in the meantime) and eight paychecks later I was done. Hopefully, putting that much in pre-tax doesn’t goof up my exemptions come tax time.

    This allowed me a few different things:

  • I don’t have to make those payments anymore.
  • I could move or take another job and not be concerned about this (if I left and wanted to pay it off it’d be one huge non pre-tax payment).
  • I could leave this retirement system for a few years and come back and this part is already taken care of.

    It was something I didn’t have to worry about anymore. I don’t like payments and since I paid it off it was something I didn’t even need to think about. I don’t even like thinking about payments, my house is really my only thing that I owe money on. Now I need to replenish the savings that I lived off of but that’s different feeling altogether…

    * I’m not a financial consultant nor do I portray one on TV (does anyone?), this is just my own thoughts on this.

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