Friday, December 31, 2010

End of the Year 2010

It's the final day of 2010. Since I still find it amusing, I'm piosting the Auto-Tune the News: Backin' up song!!

Here's the original news interview. I think it always make the song more enjoyable. There is part of the song, but not the full i-tunes version like the link above.

See you in 2011!!

Monday, December 6, 2010

D&D Children's' Books

D&D Children's' Books

Although I really liked the Choose Your Own Adventures books, it would be nice if there were some D&D books for kids again.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Hospital Compare

The U.S. government has put up a website that lets you check up on surveys from various hospitals close to you and compare their quality of care.

I checked up on Methodist, University, and Santa Rosa. And the results were a little surprising.

Also, all three seemed to do only about as well as the state and national average. I guess I expected more.

Medicare Hospital Compare Quality of Care

Tombstone Generator

How many times have you thought to yourself, "That needs to go on my tombstone. Or better yet, their tombstone."
Now your wish can come true.

Tombstone Generator

Friday, September 24, 2010

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Magic the Gathering In San Antonio, TX

I've started getting into playing Magic:The Gathering again. It's been a while (10+ years), but the kdis are getting of an age where they might like it. We've played, and they enjoyed it well enough, but I figured I'd try the tournaments, which is entirely new to me.

To that end, I had to find out where to play. The Wizards of the Coast website has a locater where you can find places to play and buy cards and participate in organized and/or DCI sanctioned events. Also, some places have casual or EDH (Elder Dragon Highlander) play on different nights. So, this post is an effort to make sense of it all, or at least make sense of what I learned.

7:00 pm - Dragon's Lair
Casual & EDH

Nothing I can find so far. But, I'm going to keep looking

6:00 pm - Gamelot
Casual & EDH

6:00 pm - Cards & Crafts
7:00 pm - Heroes & Fantasies (Pat Booker)
Booster Draft

7:00 pm - Dragon's Lair
7:00 pm - Cards & Crafts
7:00 pm - Heroes & Fantasies (Pat Booker, Summit Pkwy, Bitters)
7:00 pm - Gamelot
Friday Night Magic
This is usually Standard constructed (bring your own), but some places do booster drafts.
Also, most places charge up to $5, but Gamelot has a free tournament that starts around 8pm.

5:00 pm - Heroes & Fantasies (Summit Pkwy)

12:00 noon - Cards & Crafts
Booster draft

There is also qualifying events for the big magic tournaments that happen occasionally, as well as product release and pre-release events.

Generally, some places have pre-release events at midnight of the day of release. Others have events at noon of the release day (Saturday). Others have events Sunday. Some have both Saturday and Sunday, some have both midnight and noon events. In all cases, call first, that way you can get the information updated and straight from the source.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Washing Machine Failure

New Washing Machine

My old machine is now leaking slightly from the bottom, and the bearing is going out so every load is accompanied by a THUMP THUMP THUMP during spin. And it is only getting worse.
I called an appliance repair place and described the problem, and they said yes, it would be more expensive to repair it than to replace it.

So, while looking around, I came across a "Buying Guide" for washing machines. I don't really need it, but a response (included below) made me realize that that is probably what happened to our machine.

Thanks, David, for your research and testing, and clear reporting of the results.

(From the website:
David Field on Oct 11th, 2009 at 2:04 pm
Some of the front load machines have aluminium (Al) spiders connecting the spin drum to the drive pulley.
Aluminium is corroded by, amongst other things, sodium hypochlorite (NaOCl) otherwise known as ‘bleach’, Sodium carbonate, Sodium percarbonate, (these later two I found listed on the contents of a popular laundry aid), sodium Hydroxide (NaOH) (this one is sometimes used as a stabiliser in ‘bleach’ but I did not find it listed on the two containers of ‘bleach’ I found in our house).

To demonstrate what ‘bleach’ can do to aluminium just find a piece of scrap aluminium, without any coating, or remove the coating and let it sit in air for a couple of days to develop the naturally occurring oxide coating, then put one drop of ‘bleach’, straight from the bottle, onto the aluminium and leave it overnight. The following morning you should have a nice little pile of corrosion products on your aluminium. This is what can happen to aluminium components in your washer, albeit at a much slower rate because the ‘bleach’ is diluted.

To check if any of your laundry products are harmful to aluminium perform an Internet search for the material safety data sheet for the chemical concerned (e.g. Sodium Hydroxide Material Safety data Sheet).

I know these spiders are fitted to some ‘Kenmore’ (manufactured by Frigidaire) machines, some Frigidaire machines sold under their own name, and some GE machines. Very likely there are many others. Additionally any aluminium component in the water area is susceptible to corrosion.

This information has been passed to Sears and Frigidaire.
Sears advise that the information ‘will be passed to the appropriate departments’ but have refused to pass any further information on to us.
Frigidaire have assured us that they use only the best quality materials and that they will pass on the information to their design engineers, the very people who would have specified aluminium in the first place. Hardly re-assuring.

My wife and I have two Sears ‘Kenmore’ washing machines built by Frigidaire.
I recently had to tear down the old one (8 years old) because of bearing failure. Nothing to fantastic there, those bearings take one heck of a pounding. In addition to the failed bearings and failed ‘spider shaft’ seal, likely caused by the bearing failure, the brass sleeve on which the lips of the seal run was scored, by the spring in the seal, rendering it unserviceable.
What I also found on dismantling the machine was a build up of a deposit, resembling powdered detergent that had got damp and ‘clumped’ adhering, quite strongly, to the spider (a shaft [of steel], and aluminium hub with three spokes) which attaches to the stainless steel inner drum and the driving pulley. This ‘deposit’ would not flush away, as powdered detergent, being soluble in water, would have. I took my pressure washer to ours but still did not get it completely clean. Whereupon I discovered that the aluminium portion of the spider was quite heavily corroded towards the centre with almost no corrosion towards the outer third of the spokes.

At first I thought this was galvanic corrosion caused by the steel of the shaft and the aluminium of the hub. There is quite an informative paper on Galvanic Corrosion, use ‘Yahoo’ and search for ‘UN1001 Reactor Chemistry and Corrosion’ and open the link that gives ‘un1001_Galvanic Corrosion’, the authors are Lister and Cook. The ‘deposit’ though had me puzzled until I researched corrosion of aluminium and discovered that it is normally corroded when immersed in an aqueous solution with a pH value below about 4.0 or above about 8.0 (nitric acid is apparently an exception). Common household bleach (sodium hypochlorite NaOCl) is a strong alkali. I placed a drop of bleach, straight from the bottle, on an undamaged section of a spoke from my spider and a drop of vinegar (acid), which my wife favours, on another arm and left them overnight. The following morning there was nothing left of the vinegar and no signs of damage to the spider. Where the bleach had been was a small pile of a whitish powder, which resembled the ‘deposit’ and was also, for the portion immediately adjacent to the spider, quite difficult to remove.

Numerous detergents are alkaline, they have to be or they would not work, also alkaline are numerous other laundry aids. Reference to the ‘contents’ labels on the containers and the Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) on the Internet will give more insight. In addition to ‘bleach’ I have found sodium carbonate and sodium percarbonate in laundry products in our house. Sodium hydroxide, which is sometimes used to stabilize ‘bleach’, is also strongly alkaline, and corrosive to aluminium, it was not listed however on the two ‘brands’ of bleach I found in our house.

For some time prior to the bearing failure my wife had been complaining of a ‘moldy mildewey smell’ coming from the washer and leaving an odour on our laundry, particularly the towels. After I rebuilt the washer, new drum and spider, they are not available separately, together with new bearings and seal, it ran a lot quieter, no surprise, but here is the kicker, according to my wife ‘no smell’. Conclusion, the only thing different is no ‘deposit’. Now does the ‘deposit’ itself cause the ‘smell’ or does it collect undesirable compounds that cause the offensive aromas? I don’t know but it is certainly ‘food for thought’ particularly when I found two references on the Internet to people stripping their washers down and getting ride of ‘deposits’ which cured their ‘smell’. The odours, I fear, will return unless the owners alter their laundry habits.

To see what corrosion of aluminium can do perform an Internet search “Why Kenmore Front Loading Washers Fail” and watch the short video. I do not agree with the comment that it is galvanic corrosion between the spider and the stainless steel drum, should this have been the case one would have expected the spider to be corroded adjacent to its connection to the drum. Neither do I believe the deposit the gentleman showed to be caked detergent for the reason stated above (mine would not flush away).

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Monday, June 21, 2010

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Right Brain/ Left Brain Quiz

Of course....

Right Brain/ Left Brain Quiz
The higher of these two numbers below indicates which side of your brain has dominance in your life. Realising your right brain/left brain tendancy will help you interact with and to understand others.
Left Brain Dominance: 16(16)
Right Brain Dominance: 16(16)
Right Brain/ Left Brain Quiz

Friday, May 21, 2010

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Monstrous Collection of Cool Rules |

Monstrous Collection of Cool Rules |

We played four square a few months ago at the school, and the kids didn't seem to know the special rules that could be called. I found a list, and most of them seem to be on there, even if the name appears to be different.

So, even though it's been a while, I am posting my variations of the special rules.

Black Magic- Allows you to "spin" or "twist" the ball into a square. This will usually cause it to hit at an angle that is hard to return.

Bubbles- Allows you to "juggle" the ball without holding it. It must be constantly in motion. There is no time limit, unless Bubbles is declared with a number. That number is the maximum time your Bubbles can continue.

Bus Stop- Allows you to stop the ball mid-air to cause it to drop into your square. Still cannot catch it, but can act as a basketball backboard to cause it to fall into your square.

Catches- Allows you to catch and hold the ball. However the ball is still in play. Catches with a number limits the catch time to the number to seconds. Catches 10 means each catch can has to last less than 10 seconds.

Corners- A warning that corners of a square may be targeted. When not called, if it goes into a corner but touches a line, the benefit of the doubt is given to the defender. With Corners called, the benefit of the doubt goes to the attacker.

Doubles- The ball MUST bounce in a square twice before leaving the square.

Triples- The ball MUST bounce in a square 3 times before leaving a square.

Grand Slam- Allows the ball to be thrown HARD into another persons square. This will usually send the ball bouncing above the other persons head. Without Grand Slam being called, throwing the ball is not legal.

Leg- The ball must touch the leg of the player before leaving their square. Can also be used with other body parts.

Line In- Hits to any line are considered "in bounds" and playable. Line hits are in favor of the server.

Line Out- Hits to any line are considered "out of bounds". On inner lines, this indicates that line hits count against the server.

Same- The rules are the same as they were called last time.

Time Outs- Allows anyone with possession of the ball to call a time out, for no reason other that they want to.

1. Rules can be called by the A square when they have the ball and it is not in play.
2. All rules apply to all squares.

Let me know if I'm missing any. :-)

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Website Gives Away Free Books

My company has started a website which gives away a book every time you read one. It's children's books, and the books go to support literacy and reading campaigns worldwide.

You can register or just help out anonymously at We Give

You can let kids read straight from the website, or you can read out loud to them. It's easy to do, and it's for a great cause- free books!!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Making the Case for iPad E-Book Prices -

Making the Case for iPad E-Book Prices -

Article talking about how the costs relate to the prices for ebooks.

Not sure if I am ready to jump into the "paperless book" just yet. I read online, and can read from a screen, and have read ebooks before also. But, there is no $300 unit you have to buy, no additional costs for the material inside the covers, no batteries to worry about, no damage to worry about.

We'll see. Maybe I'll get a Kindle or iPad for Christmas and change my tune.

(hint, hint)

Monday, March 22, 2010

Twitter & Blackberry Bibles

Good to have.


Economic Reports

On my Investor Word of the Day, found this: 10 Major Economic Reports (

Jobless rates are weekly.
Consumer Price Index (CPI) is monthly.
Payroll data (for 80% of US employees) is monthly.
Producer Price Index (PPI) is monthly.
Beige book is published 8 times a year. It is a report on conditions within each region of the Federal Reserve Board.
Consumer Confidence Index is monthly.
Durable goods orders is monthly.
Gross Domestic Product is quarterly.
Retail Sales Index is monthly.
Housing starts are generally monthly.

Cell Phones

Got a TechTarget email about the 12 types of annoying cell phone users. While I don't find them annoying in general, every once in a while I get a "Grrrrrr" moment.

That led to me the slide show of the Mobile Phone in pictures at Since it's a flash to the past to see all the old cell phones and try to remember "Did I ever have that one?", I'm putting up the link to it too.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Debt Collector Harassment

Googled a random phone number and found a site where a poster had posted some good advice. The bulk of it appears to have been taken from the Federal Trade Commission website, but as long as it's correct, then a big thank you to the poster.

None of the links have been verified or scanned at all. Please, as always, investigate at your own risk.

File complaints with

Federal Trade Commission

Your State Attorney General is in every state they have offices
Link to all State Attorney General Websites

If you or they are located in NY – use this SPECIAL Link

Also report your calls and contacts with debt collectors at
If the company is listed under agencies – report there. If not on the list YET, click on Watchlist! and add to the list.
You can also post here

Dealing with Debt Collectors

Statute of Limitations by State – always double check YOUR OWN STATE Government Website

Recording calls from Debt Collectors - always double check YOUR OWN STATE Government Website

From Federal Trade Commission Website –
FAIR DEBT COLLECTION PRACTICES ACT Debt Collection FAQs: A Guide for Consumers
If you’re behind in paying your bills, or a creditor’s records mistakenly make it appear that you are, a debt collector may be contacting you.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation’s consumer protection agency, enforces the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), which prohibits debt collectors from using abusive, unfair, or deceptive practices to collect from you.
Under the FDCPA, a debt collector is someone who regularly collects debts owed to others. This includes collection agencies, lawyers who collect debts on a regular basis, and companies that buy delinquent debts and then try to collect them.
Here are some questions and answers about your rights under the Act.

What types of debts are covered?T
he Act covers personal, family, and household debts, including money you owe on a personal credit card account, an auto loan, a medical bill, and your mortgage. The FDCPA doesn’t cover debts you incurred to run a business.

Can a debt collector contact me any time or any place?
No. A debt collector may not contact you at inconvenient times or places, such as before 8 in the morning or after 9 at night, unless you agree to it. And collectors may not contact you at work if they’re told (orally or in writing) that you’re not allowed to get calls there.

How can I stop a debt collector from contacting me?
If a collector contacts you about a debt, you may want to talk to them at least once to see if you can resolve the matter – even if you don’t think you owe the debt, can’t repay it immediately, or think that the collector is contacting you by mistake. If you decide after contacting the debt collector that you don’t want the collector to contact you again, tell the collector – in writing – to stop contacting you. Here’s how to do that:Make a copy of your letter. Send the original by certified mail, and pay for a “return receipt” so you’ll be able to document what the collector received. Once the collector receives your letter, they may not contact you again, with two exceptions: a collector can contact you to tell you there will be no further contact or to let you know that they or the creditor intend to take a specific action, like filing a lawsuit. Sending such a letter to a debt collector you owe money to does not get rid of the debt, but it should stop the contact. The creditor or the debt collector still can sue you to collect the debt.

Can a debt collector contact anyone else about my debt?
If an attorney is representing you about the debt, the debt collector must contact the attorney, rather than you. If you don’t have an attorney, a collector may contact other people – but only to find out your address, your home phone number, and where you work. Collectors usually are prohibited from contacting third parties more than once. Other than to obtain this location information about you, a debt collector generally is not permitted to discuss your debt with anyone other than you, your spouse, or your attorney.

What does the debt collector have to tell me about the debt?
Every collector must send you a written “validation notice” telling you how much money you owe within five days after they first contact you. This notice also must include the name of the creditor to whom you owe the money, and how to proceed if you don’t think you owe the money.

Can a debt collector keep contacting me if I don’t think I owe any money?
If you send the debt collector a letter stating that you don’t owe any or all of the money, or asking for verification of the debt, that collector must stop contacting you. You have to send that letter within 30 days after you receive the validation notice. But a collector can begin contacting you again if it sends you written verification of the debt, like a copy of a bill for the amount you owe.

What practices are off limits for debt collectors?
Harassment. Debt collectors may not harass, oppress, or abuse you or any third parties they contact.
For example, they may not:
  • use threats of violence or harm;
  • publish a list of names of people who refuse to pay their debts (but they can give this information to the credit reporting companies);
  • use obscene or profane language; or
  • repeatedly use the phone to annoy someone.

False statements. Debt collectors may not lie when they are trying to collect a debt.

For example, they may not:

  • falsely claim that they are attorneys or government representatives;
  • falsely claim that you have committed a crime;
  • falsely represent that they operate or work for a credit reporting company;
  • misrepresent the amount you owe;
  • indicate that papers they send you are legal forms if they aren’t; or
  • indicate that papers they send to you aren’t legal forms if they are.

Debt collectors also are prohibited from saying that:

  • you will be arrested if you don’t pay your debt;
  • they’ll seize, garnish, attach, or sell your property or wages unless they are permitted by law to take the action and intend to do so; or
  • legal action will be taken against you, if doing so would be illegal or if they don’t intend to take the action.

Debt collectors may not:

  • give false credit information about you to anyone, including a credit reporting company;
  • send you anything that looks like an official document from a court or government agency if it isn’t; or
  • use a false company name.

Unfair practices. Debt collectors may not engage in unfair practices when they try to collect a debt.

For example, they may not:

  • try to collect any interest, fee, or other charge on top of the amount you owe unless the contract that created your debt – or your state law – allows the charge;
  • deposit a post-dated check early;
  • take or threaten to take your property unless it can be done legally; or
  • contact you by postcard.

Can I control which debts my payments apply to?

Yes. If a debt collector is trying to collect more than one debt from you, the collector must apply any payment you make to the debt you select. Equally important, a debt collector may not apply a payment to a debt you don’t think you owe.

Can a debt collector garnish my bank account or my wages?

If you don’t pay a debt, a creditor or its debt collector generally can sue you to collect. If they win, the court will enter a judgment against you. The judgment states the amount of money you owe, and allows the creditor or collector to get a garnishment order against you, directing a third party, like your bank, to turn over funds from your account to pay the debt.

Wage garnishment happens when your employer withholds part of your compensation to pay your debts. Your wages usually can be garnished only as the result of a court order. Don’t ignore a lawsuit summons. If you do, you lose the opportunity to fight a wage garnishment.

Can federal benefits be garnished?

Many federal benefits are exempt from garnishment, including:

  • Social Security Benefits
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Benefits
  • Veterans’ Benefits
  • Civil Service and Federal Retirement and Disability Benefits
  • Service Members’ Pay
  • Military Annuities and Survivors’ Benefits
  • Student Assistance
  • Railroad Retirement Benefits
  • Merchant Seamen Wages
  • Longshoremen’s and Harbor Workers’ Death and Disability Benefits
  • Foreign Service Retirement and Disability Benefits
  • Compensation for Injury, Death, or Detention of Employees of U.S. Contractors Outside the U.S.
  • Federal Emergency Management Agency Federal Disaster Assistance

But federal benefits may be garnished under certain circumstances, including to pay delinquent taxes, alimony, child support, or student loans.

Do I have any recourse if I think a debt collector has violated the law?

You have the right to sue a collector in a state or federal court within one year from the date the law was violated. If you win, the judge can require the collector to pay you for any damages you can prove you suffered because of the illegal collection practices, like lost wages and medical bills. The judge can require the debt collector to pay you up to $1,000, even if you can’t prove that you suffered actual damages. You also can be reimbursed for your attorney’s fees and court costs. A group of people also may sue a debt collector as part of a class action lawsuit and recover money for damages up to $500,000, or one percent of the collector’s net worth, whichever amount is lower. Even if a debt collector violates the FDCPA in trying to collect a debt, the debt does not go away if you owe it.

What should I do if a debt collector sues me?

If a debt collector files a lawsuit against you to collect a debt, respond to the lawsuit, either personally or through your lawyer, by the date specified in the court papers to preserve your rights.

Where do I report a debt collector for an alleged violation?

Report any problems you have with a debt collector to your state Attorney General’s office ( and the Federal Trade Commission ( Many states have their own debt collection laws that are different from the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Your Attorney General’s office can help you determine your rights under your state’s law.

For More InformationTo learn more about debt collection and other credit-related issues, visit and, the U.S. government’s portal to financial education.

The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint or to get free information on consumer issues, visit or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261. The FTC enters consumer complaints into the Consumer Sentinel Network, a secure online database and investigative tool used by hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Happy Parent? Count Me In!

Two Simple Ways to Be a Happier Parent

Good starter article by Nancy Shute on how to be a happier parent.

Reducing the stress caused by the stressful things you go through with your kids is one of them. Mornings being the toughest, it makes sense to get as much done the night before as possible.
-Have the kids lay out the clothes they want to wear. It reduces scrambling for them in the morning.
-Plan breakfast, whether at home or at school. Eggs take longer to make than cereal, so the parent has to plan for that, and give the kids time to eat.
-Have shoes, backpacks, homework, and signed goods in one spot ready to go. The kids can pick the spot. It just helps to have it all done the night before.

Of course, if the alarm doesn't go off, or people oversleep, then it will still be a stressful morning. But, having everything ready will make it less so.

And of course eating dinner together is better. If possible, let the kids help with the whole setup, preparation, and cleanup afterwards. They need to learn to cook, and to clean up after themselves. The hardest part about this is the short attention span kids have, the danger of hot cookware, and the frustration as kids get on your nerves while you’re trying to cook.
-Let them help where they can. Some things are not age appropriate. But, if it is, then let them do it. In this case what parents need is patience. Patience will lead to happiness.
-Let them do dishes while you cook. You share the kitchen and the experience, and have less to do later.
-Let them set the table. You can show the right way, then your way. :-)
-Some families do buffet style. Others have a central server who gets all of the plates ready. I prefer more of the “food-on-the-table” approach. This lets kids provide their own portions while being monitored, but still lets them do it themselves.
-Dinner together is a good way to teach manners. Not everyone will eat at the same speed. Kids can learn to be considerate of each other just by eating dinner and making it pleasant for everyone, just like they want their own experience to be pleasant.

If all else fails and they are running around underfoot while you're trying to make dinner, then have them play in their room, read a book, or watch TV.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Happy Anniversary

Just finished 9 years at the same company. Besides being a personal record (previouly was 7 1/2), it marks the 9th anniversay.

Feel free to send all pottery, leather, and tickets to Cancun over to me to commemorate my nine years.


Traditional Anniversary Gift: Pottery
Modern Anniversary Gift: Leather
Travel Anniversary Gift Ideas: Mexico