Saturday, January 31, 2015

More Snoopy and Skating.

More of the series where Snoopy is skating. And finds love at the rink.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Credit Card Offers from All Over the Place

I remember one week a few years back where I got in the mail five offers for new credit cards. In one week. I’d been pre-approved and all I had to do was fill out the form. I could even do a balance transfer from cards I had with a higher interest rate. For a small percentage of the transfer (usually around 3-4%) I could get no interest on the transfer for like a year.

The idea being I would use the new card. Not pay off the balance on the transfer and in a year’s time you’d be paying the full interest on the transfer as well on the new purchases that you made.

I don’t receive as many of those offer through the mail these days. I do receive many balance transfer offers from the banks I have credit cards with now. I also get them in my e-mail. The best offer I got was from my credit union. It was a low interest rate until the transfer was paid off. I think it was about 3%. So I went ahead and moved some money.

When I do do a balance transfer, I look for the offer that has the longest time frame to pay it off and lowest fee on the transfer. There are cards that have 4% or 5% transfer fee on the balance which is way too much money. I’m looking for no higher than 3%.

Another consideration is the interest rate on the card once the no interest period has passed. I’m certainly not going to take an offer from a card where the interest rate is 24%. Now you may ask why would you possible have a card with that high of an interest. The card is from Sears. I used it to buy a new refrigerator when my old one broke. It was no interest if you paid off the refrigerator in a year. The important caveat was you had to pay off the whole balance or you’d be charged the full interest on the full price of the refrigerator not on the balance that was left. I made sure I paid if off well ahead of time.

That’s the important thing to remember. You have to make sure you pay off the balance transfer before the no interest period is over. Furthermore you should stop using that card to make additional purchases unless you pay them off in full each month. That way you beat the card companies at their own game.

Speaking of offers in general. Sears sends me emails in which they urge me to do a balance transfer from those higher interest rate cards. The transfer fee is at least 4% if not 5%. Why would I possible want to do that. I got an e-mail offer for a new credit card from Ebates the other. I looked at the offer and thought it sounded pretty good. You get the savings when going through Ebates to buy things from a particular merchant. Then you would also get a couple percent back for each purchase. I also think you’d get one percent back if you bought things in general. I clicked on the link for further information. I saw the interest rate and just as quickly closed the window. It was a whopping 24.99%. Unless you pay the whole thing off each month, this card is not even worth considering.

I guess the moral of the story is carefully read the fine print on all these offers. Once you do you realize very few are offers you need to accept.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Filling Out all those Doctors' Forms

Unfortunately I’ve been going to different doctors a great deal lately. There is always this huge amount of paper work that you have to fill out as a new patient. Usually several pages where you have to repeat the same information. I don’t understand why I have to fill out my name and address two or three times. Then of course your insurance information. Although lately they just take your insurance card and make a copy of it.

One of the things that comes to mind is why doesn’t the office e-mail the forms to you so you can fill them out before you come to the office. Just about everyone has access to a printer. They email you the forms. You print them out. Fill them out. Bring them to the office. You hand them to the receptionist when you sign in for the appointment. Certainly that would make things go much faster with a first appointment.

Or better yet fill out the forms. Scan the forms. Then e-mail them back to the office. Or the office could have an interactive PDF form that you fill out on-line. That way the form is typed and easier to read. I know my handwriting is not the best and filling out the form on-line would make the information a whole lot easier to read.  Also fields would expand so you wouldn’t have to cram information in a small space. Once you got to the office you could review the information and make any changes that might be necessary.

The other thing I find puzzling about having to fill out the forms is why do I have to do it if the doctors I go to are in the same network. With the insurance I have you have to pick a preferred provider. This is the doctor you go to for general problems. My doctor is part of MedStar. Most of the specialist he refers me to are part of MedStar as well. For example the physical therapist that I went to for my back. So why each time that I visit a doctor’s office associated with MedStar do I need to fill out all my information all over again.

I thought in the great information age that this information would be shared. I thought one of the things that was going to bring down the cost of health care was making it easy to share patient information between doctors. It certainly seems to me that if a doctor’s office is associated with MedStar it should be able to bring up my basic information by typing in my name and date of birth. That’s the way CVS brings up my information. It doesn’t matter what location I go to they put in my name and date of birth and up pops up my information. I don’t understand why MedStar is not the same way.

I guess we aren’t quite at that point yet. But it would be so nice if we were because it would make going to the doctor so much easier.

Snoopy Goes Skating

The first part of a very funny series from Peanuts where Snoopy goes skating at night. Enjoy.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

GW Colonials Basketball

Getting back into GW basketball. Saturday went to a game. They played Duquesne.

Here’s how the game went:
Their first six baskets were three-pointers. Before the first half ended, they had matched their season high from beyond the arc. And by intermission, the Colonials (16-4, 6-1 Atlantic 10) were ahead by 22 points and well on their way to a fourth straight victory and 10th win in 11 games ahead of Tuesday’s showdown against conference leader Virginia Commonwealth (16-3, 6-0) in Richmond.

The final score was 74-59. The score doesn’t really show how one sided the game really was. At one point the margin GW was ahead by was larger than the points Duquesne had scored.
Here are a few pictures from the game.

Here are a few pictures from the game.

They have a new high tech scoreboard which is pretty cool. But Stu and I don't see this as being very helpful when it is displayed. All it gives is percentages so there's no way to tell what that means. As you can see.

So you get the percentage of free throws. But how many were taken. Duquesne has a 75% free throw percentage. That sounds really good. But if it has only taken four free throws it means only three shots. There needs to be some sort of context for these statistics to be helpful.

Besides that a very enjoyable game.

Monday, January 26, 2015

The Snow Storm that Wasn’t — the Hysteria that Was

I have been a full time resident of DC since the mid 1980s. I’ve seen my share of major storms here. DC does get snow, not like where I grew up north of Chicago, but enough that it shouldn’t cause the panic that it does. This “storm” is a perfect example of it.

It started this past mid-week with predictions of a storm to hit Monday morning right in time for rush-hour (a point in time to cause the maximum amount of panic). As the days went by meteorologist couldn’t pin point the exact timing of all of this. In fact, they still couldn’t do that as late as Saturday night. In fact last night there was still some question what the time line would be for the snow.

This morning I woke to rain. By the time I got to work there was a little snow coming down but the ground was too warm for it to stick. The places it was sticking were the far northwestern suburbs which I really wouldn’t call suburb. Places like Frederick and Hagerstown. Cities that are 48 and 72 miles from DC respectively. So there in the area where the cable signal of these stations go but not of much consequence say if you live like maybe in the Brookland neighborhood of Washington, DC. Say someone like me.

I can understand the over reaction by the local stations because two weeks ago they completely blew the call on the clipper. It was supposed to leave just a dusting of snow and left about 4 inches in some areas. And I’m not talking Hagerstown I’m talking inside the Beltway. It lead to a real mess because everyone assumed it would be fine and took to the roads to get to work. It turned out not to be the case. Since everyone was on the roads, it made it hard for crews to get out and clear the roads.

Not much of an event but plenty of hysteria by the media. I understand that it is important to let people know the potential for a major storm. But the coverage was just a little much. In fact the coverage on many of these “storms” is a little much. The night before the storm like clock work there is a report about how the salt trucks and plows are going to be out. There’s a report from some place in Maryland. One from some place in DC. And one from some place in Virginia. And these are actually reports with correspondents at the site. Why not here’s what each of the jurisdictions are planning to do from the anchor. But going to a live report adds so much more drama.

I remember one time when the stations had their reporters stationed around the area. They were to report what the salt trucks and plows were up to. Also the condition of the roads. There was only one small problem. There was no snow to be seen. So they went from reporter to reporter to reporter all who said well nothing coming down yet. But when it does the plows will be ready. If I remember correctly little if any snow fell.

Perhaps a little less hype on the part of the local DC TV stations and a little more reporting on what actually is going to happen is what should be stressed.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Remembering Ernie Banks — Mr. Cub

I was really saddened at hearing about Ernie Banks death. There was an update from ESPN on my phone late Friday that announced he had died.

His catch phrase: "It's a beautiful day for a ballgame... Let's play two!"

Such an incredible and wonderful person. The out pouring of love about this man has been just wonderful. Many of my friends on Facebook who grew up in Chicago posted about him.

Here's a little of the coverage from the press:
“Ernie was exactly what you saw,” said Don Kessinger, a shortstop who played with Banks in the 1960s. “He was a great ballplayer, a great teammate and a great friend.”

What everyone saw included 512 home runs during a 19-year career that put him in the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility. But perhaps more importantly, what everyone appreciated was “Mr. Cub,” an always positive attitude that sparked a steady stream of tributes after Banks’ death Friday night at age 83.

“I know he was Mr. Cub, but he was really Mr. Baseball,” White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf said.

“He was really a great, great ambassador for the game.”

A makeshift memorial outside Wrigley Field on Saturday included flowers, an Ernie Banks bobblehead and pictures of the slugger with fans. A No. 14 jersey was draped over one part of a small fence with the inscription “’Let’s play two’” — the iconic saying he was known for — and then “Not without you” written under his trademark line.

From USA Today:
He played 2,528 games – a Cubs record -- but none in the postseason. That's a major league record for games without a playoff appearance.

His 19-year career – all with the Cubs – had just one winning season among the first 14, but he was the National League MVP in 1958 and '59, two of those losing seasons.

He was a first ballot Hall of Famer in 1977 but the impact of his contributions beyond his playing days was underscored when he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013.

When Banks received the medal from President Barack Obama, who grew up as a White Sox fan on the south side of Chicago, he explained the origin of the "Let's Play Two" slogan.

"It was a very bad day in Chicago," Banks said. "I came into the locker room, and I was feeling great. And I said to all my teammates, 'It's a beautiful day -- let's play two!' That was a time in my life that I was really excited about going to Wrigley Field."

Here's Banks' reaction to receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom:

Last year I saw Banks on the Tim McCarver show. It was very interesting to hear what he had to say. He said he didn't know a great deal about handling money but he wanted to learn. So he went and asked Mr. Wrigley (which is how Banks referred to Wrigley during the entire interview: Mr. Wringley). Wrigley gave him some advice and Banks took it.

He put a little money away from each pay check. Then looked for palces to invest it. One of those investments was in a Ford dealership. He was the first African-American Ford dealer not in Chicago or in Illinois but in the entire country. I was so glad I got to see the interview.

I've been thinking, since his passing, if it was possible that I actually saw him play. He stopped playing in 1971 so I would have been 12 at the time. I remember the first game I went to and I have a feeling I was younger than 12. It was very exciting. I went with my dad and brother. I believe the Cubs played the Giants. I do remember a Giants player hitting a home run and the Cubs loosing. I'm also pretty sure I saw Ernie Banks play. I certainly remember watching him on television.

I watched a YouTube video of his 500th home run. It was great to see. It was also great to hear Jack Brickhouse make the call.

Banks had an amazing career and life. Such a class athlete. Actually just a class act period.

He will be missed.

I want to add one more article about Banks by Tom Boswell of the Post. He says in part:
In a baseball sense, Banks is an immortal because he averaged 41 homers and 115 RBI a year as a shortstop from 1955 to 1960, making himself the equal of Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle or anybody else in the game for those half-dozen years.

There had never before been a middle infielder with such power. And to this day, there still hasn’t. Banks won a gold glove, too. Switching to first base and remaining a solid hitter until he had amassed 512 homers assured him a place in the Hall.

But it is the Other Banks, the man who exemplified an entire stance toward how we approach life, who will be remembered long after most of baseball’s 500-home run men are forgotten.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Grasshopper Cupcake from Crumbs

I am posting this just to post it. Because this Grasshopper cupcake from Crumbs, which I got last Sunday,  was just so incredible.

I was really sad when Crumbs folded a couple of months ago. I think they have the best cupcakes around. They are just as good as any Georgetown Cupcake. They cost about the same and are much larger. And as far as I'm concerned much better.

Crumbs reopened some locations about a month ago. The closest one to me is at Union Station. Only two subway stops away which could be very dangerous especially since I want to drop a few pounds.

Oh will power. Oh Grasshopper. Who will win?

iPhone not Charging But It Is

Whenever I plug my iPhone into my computer I get the message below.

Now the phone is plugged into a hug which goes to my computer. Sometimes when you plug something into a hub say a printer it won't work correctly.

I actually had that happen to me once and I had to do some major reworking of what cord was going into what outlet. Took me a good fifteen minutes until everything was up and working.

The first time I saw this I thought can't charge the phone when connected to the computer. No problem there just plug it into an outlet. Here's the thing. I walked away leaving the phone plugged in. I had something else to do.  When I'd plugged it in to download pictures the battery was at about 50%. A couple hours later I was heading out and got my phone. Turns out it was completely charged by that time.

So I'm not entirely sure why this dialog box appears on my computer screen when in fact the phone is being charged. Not that I mind it but seems a bit odd to me. Then again lots of things Apple has done lately has seemed a bit odd.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

A Beautiful Dusting of Snow

The snow certainly was pretty as these two sets of pictures show. It started late enough and ended early enough that it wasn't that huge of an impact on people. The flakes were huge for awhile and came down pretty hard. But it wasn't really cold enough to stick and stay. It did for a little while on the sidewalks. And of course it stuck to the trees. I went out to lunch and took these pictures. It really was incredible.

A Little Snow in the DMV

More of the snow we had this morning/afternoon. For once it didn't have much of an impact on the commute. It started late enough in the morning not to impact the morning rush and it had stopped snowing by the afternoon. All the roads were clear. So it could just be enjoyed

Birthday Wishes to Art

I’ve noticed when people leave birthday greetings on Facebook they just give the basic happy birthday wish. I always try and do a little bit more. Making it a celebratory wish.

My friend Art has a birthday today. Well technically, since he lives in the other land down under, his birthday was yesterday. So it’s actually tomorrow there now in comparison to the time it is here in DC now. Or to him in New Zealand it’s yesterday here. It can all be a little confusing. But he takes advantage of the fact he was born in this hemisphere and celebrates both days.

Back to the greetings. As I said I try to make my felicitations of the the day a little more elaborate. So I came up with this birthday greeting for him. I’m posting it on his birthday in this hemisphere (although I did wish him happy birthday on his actual birthday where he is at this moment where it is tomorrow).

Amazingly awesome, breathtakingly beautiful, creatively crafty, deliciously delightful, exotically exciting, fabulously fun, graciously great, humogously happy, incredibly inventive, jovially jocular, kinetically kingly, languidly luxurious, mightily magnificent, nicely naughty, overtly ostentatious, prodigiously promising, quantitatively quaint, ridiculously riotous, splendiferously stupendous, terrifically triumphant, uproariously unique, vociferously vivacious, whimsically wry, xeriscapely Xanadu, youthfully yarn, zig-zagily zany.

Oh and a very happy happy birthday too!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Visiting the Dermatologist

I went to the dermatologist on Thursday to have them look at a mole on my neck. This happened because of the parade of Peanuts ties, I was putting on a tie each day. So I was looking at my neck closely to tie the tie. It seemed to me that the mole on my neck looked a  little different. It was of course in a position where I really couldn’t get a good look at in the mirror. I decided I needed to have it checked out.

The first step was a visit to my regular doctor so he could take a look at it. He didn’t seem to think much of it until I mentioned I thought it looked different. He said I should have it checked out. It was really easy to make the appointment because the dermatologist’s office is on the same floor as my doctor’s office.

Thursday was my appointment. I had all my paper work filled out because I had picked it up when I made the appointment. I’d hope to able to get the mole looked at and have a general exam. But that was not the case. When I made the appointment, I said I had a mole to be looked at and I wanted a general exam but I think all the receptionist heard was the part about a specific mole needing to be looked at.

I waited about 30 minutes and then was shown in. I talked to one of the doctor's assistance. I went over what I thought was going on. I also asked if it would be possible to as I always say look at all my spots. She said the appointment was specifically for just looking at the mole. But she would check with the doctor. She came back a few minutes later and said it wouldn't possible to do that today.

The doctor comes in and I go over what I think has happened with the mole. I said I thought the mole looked a little bigger. And if not bigger part of it had changed color. He takes a look said that moles can change over time. The best thing to do was to take it out and send it away for testing. And that is exactly what he did.

It took all of a few minutes for that to happen. I asked how it looked underneath. He really didn't answer one way or another. He said it would be sent off and tested and that would determine what the next step would be. And that was that.

His assistance then went over what to do to the area where the mole was removed. I got a sheet of paper called Wound Care Instructions. I laughed about that. The assistant did to. Wound makes it sound like I got knifed or something.

There was a list of instructions on what to put on the wound. What type of pain medication to use if it hurt. The assistant then said that the results of the biopsy would be available in 10-14 days. So sometime around the end of the month. It might be a little early too. But she reinforced that it would be 10-14 days. I think she said that three times. She said they used to say 7-10 days and people would start calling on day 7 to get the results. But the results wouldn't necessarily be in by then.

That was the end of the appointment. I paid my co-pay and made an appointment for the general exam.

On the way down in the elevator to the lobby of the building, I looked at the form again. I stared laughing out loud. At the bottom of the sheet centered in all bold and highlighted in yellow was this: You will receive a call with your results within 7-10 days.

Now wasn't I just told several times that it would be 10-14 days to get the results. I thought if I was in doubt as to when my results would be available, I would be much more likely to look at the sheet I was given and follow that than remember what I had been told. A rather odd ending to my visit.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Three Years with Charlie Brown and Linus

The end of December marked three years that Charlie Brown and Linus have been with me. That went by fast. It is great that they are here. They certainly add a great deal to my life.

Here are a few pictures of them through those three years.

This is one of the first pictures of them in their new home.

Waiting for me to make dinner

Ready for an afternoon nap.


Cat in a bag

Getting cleaned up

Celebrating Linus and Charlie Brown

Here are few more of my favorite pictures of my two guys.

Saturday with Snoopy

It's a bright sunny day. A little on the cold side. Still trying to get my back into proper shape.

Decided a good way to help it was to post some cartoons with Snoopy in with


Wednesday, January 14, 2015

My Back Strikes Back

I had hoped that this problem was a distant memory but life seems to have other plans. I was fine while I was away. I was actually worried that I would have problems with my back from all the flying that I did. But that wasn’t the case.

I stayed in the first weekend of the new year to try and get over my cold. Over that weekend, my back started hurting again. The weird thing was I didn’t do anything. I was staying in to get over my cold which as it turned out decided it didn’t want to go anywhere.

I’m trying to do my exercise at least once a day if not twice. I can’t always fit them in in the morning but they are the first thing I do when I get home. I’ve been to the gym a couple of times. I’ve done spinning. Usually that helps with my back. That hasn’t been the case this time around.

I decided I’d try again this morning. There was light snow in the air this morning. On the platform at the Metro, only the center area of the platform had been cleared of snow. The area where people get on and off the trains was left alone. That seems a little backwards to me. But then again it is Metro. I slipped on the way to boarding the train. My back did not appreciate that at all. I figured I would still go and take the spinning class. It might help with my back.

Got to the gym and it turns out the instructor had to cancel the class. One of the regulars got management to help hook up her iPod to the sound system. We listened to her music. I thought not a total loss. But the spinning really didn’t help much. I decided to stop after 40 minutes. I thought at least I could take a nice long hot shower. The water pressure is really high and that always make my back feel better. Only problem was the water only got lukewarm. It helped some but not as much as usual.

Things are a little hard to do with the back pain. It’s even hard to sit at my chair at my desk and do the blog. I think I’ll be emailing my physical therapist to ask what should be done.

But other things come first. I went to my doctor last week. I had him look at a mole on my neck. He’s sending me off to the dermatologist who I see tomorrow. Then there were a couple other things that needed to be addressed as well. The back went to the back of the line so to speak.

Hopefully this can finally get squared away. I have to say I’m very discouraged over this. It seems it clears up for a couple of weeks and then comes back. Not the best way to start a new year.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

The Holidays End as Christmas Trees are Tossed

Nothing points out the fact that the holidays are over than when trees are tossed.

I was out for a walk this afternoon and noticed that tree tossing has begun in earnest.

It always makes me sad to see the trees on the side walk waiting to be picked up by garbage trucks.

So it is truly official now. The 2014 holiday season is officially over.