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The other day our microwave quit working. It was 10 years old, I wasn’t heart broken. It is an over-the-range style microwave where there is just barely enough room above the range for tall pots. To start my search for a new appliance I started looking at the local stores: Lowe’s, Menard’s, Home Depot, etc. Our current unit is broke, it will be good to pick one up today and get it installed.
I quickly found out that microwaves seem to be bigger these days. Most of the models are taller and deeper than our current model. As I said earlier we are tight on space as it is, so a bigger appliance isn’t a great idea. It’s not surprising the broken model is no longer made, thought there are similar models and they are basically the same size! There we go I have found the model we are looking for. Online inventories says they have one at Lowe’s and Menard’s, so off to Lowe’s we go.
I packed up the family and drove down the street to Lowe’s. We get there, wait around for someone to be available to help us, and find out that they actually don’t have that model at the store. Ugh.
We go back home and I leave solo to Menard’s. The wait is longer at Menard’s. There seems to be no workers around the appliance area. The sign of no commissions I assume. As I look up and down the isles I see the exact model we are looking for. This is a great sign. I continue to wait and wait. Finally someone comes by who doesn’t work in appliances but offers to help anyway (thank you). No units on the shelf and the computer says they have one, the floor display. Damn. There are two at the Morton Grove store, too bad that is 16 miles away through city traffic. No thank you.
Sitting in the parking lot I do a quick search for the model on line. I find one at good store for the same price as the local ones. People always say to support your local communities , etc. so what the heck, lets stop at a few places on my way back. Needless to say nobody has them in stock. Many have display units and can order them, but none in stock.
This is just silly, why would I order this appliance from a local store, which comes to a higher total cost after tax and “brick and mortar” charge, when I can just order it online myself.
All in all, I probably spent two hours (on my solo trip) trying to find an appliance and found nothing. To me that seems to be a great fail and a large reason why the local stores cannot stay in business. It is just costs too much to keep a bunch of stock on hand. What would be a better business model for say Sears, is, no, sorry we don’t have any right now, let me order one from our warehouse and have it shipped to your house for the same price listed here. You should have it in three days.
Much better customer service. I don’t want to order something, wait eight to fourteen days, and then also make my way back to the store. A model like this doesn’t work any longer and the stores need to learn this. You need to embrace online sales, make them part of your overall delivery method.
People still love to walk around stores, touch and feel the products. Stores can’t remain competitive with all of the overhead required to keep these stores open. So their business models need to change. If any one of the stores I went to today would have given me the option to order and receive the unit in the mail, I would have done it and saved myself a bunch of time too.
Being an IT Slug, I find myself using a lot of different tools. Many tools are ‘first installs’ when starting to use a new box. Since I have been thinking about changing jobs, which means a full forklift of my toolbox to a new machine, I decided to start writing down what I have installed, sitting in the tools folder, etc. I was about to put the list in my regular notes system, Google Docs, but decided to put them in the blog instead. There are boat-loads of tool lists out there, so why shouldn’t I have my own? :)
The list is in no particular order, just as I found them in my head or on my system. Perhaps I will organize them some day…
- bdfilehash (My tool! (: )
- sysinternals (okay, not all of them all the time…)
- fping and/or hping
- Just Decompile (your still not paying Neil Davidson, for his, “it will always be free”, software, are you?)
- SQL Compare (If the company will flip the bill)
- SQL Delta (When SQL Compare is too expensive for the bean counters)
- Visual Studio
- Management Studio
It just didn’t look complete without the links to the products. Not that its hard to get these days with the efficiency of Google search.
Add a link to your toolbox in the comments!
Yes, once again the shit colectith and stinkith, and I must get it the heck out. While sweeping up the kitchen floor and pondering the pile seeping over from the adjoining playroom. Enough! I just can’t take this anymore. I head off to the garage to grab a large paper garbage bag. You know, one of those used to put leaves in during the Fall.
Over the next hour I start digging through the piles of toys and junk. There are two racks of bins to put stuff in which haven’t been moved in years. There is much stuff behind them as there is in them. I move them away from the wall and start tossing stuff out.
Bag three! Now I am on a roll!
I have worked my way down and have hit a toy box. Damn these kids have a lot of shit. Just too much stuff. I bet they don’t even know half of what is here. Shit half of this stuff is bits an pieced to games and other toys. There is no way these games can be played again, the needed pieces are all over the place. Knowing which pieces go to which non-played-games, they start going in the trash. This stuff causes more stress than it’s worth. If I screw up and throw out the absolutely-most-important-game-ever, well we can deal with it then. Like they say, it is much easier to ask for forgiveness than ask for permission.
Bag four! Progress has been made, two hours have gone by and I am wearing down. This is an excellent start and there is an absolute noticeable difference. Tomorrow is another day, and more shit will go. And oh yes, this is just the beginning. My goal for this year is to get the garage organized so I can work out there and get things done. There has has been a pile of “Garage Sale” stuff in my workbench area for two years. I have had it and it has to go. If my wonderful wife doesn’t do something with the pile she just has to sell, it is all going to Purple Hearts, or other charitable organization.
You may have no idea how nice it feels to reduce and purge the crap out of your life, until you just dig in and toss out. The stuff is just not needed, stop hording.
By Getting a solid start in March, this will be a great Purging Year, just like some of my previous ones. My reward the return of a garage I can work in, and organize (Need to find a refrigerator though). I have owned a vice for 6 years and haven’t mounted on the work bench. Instead I use make-shift clamps, stupid.
By the way, I have an old 1U and 2U server going to the recycler, I you need them let me know before they are gone.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
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There is noting special about this recipe, I am only recording it because it turned out awesome. It stared with a ham shank bone left over from a ham dinner the family ate. It was a Cook’s spiral cut ham, hickory smoked and not glazed. I used whole cloves when warming the ham; I love cloves in ham, the wife does not, what does she know about flavor? Can’t believe we were fighting over such a thing. She didn’t even eat any left-over sandwiches. Anyway, I only mention the cloves because I strongly feel they add another layer of goodness to this soup.
I kept the bone and part of the ham which was not sliced by Cook’s machines. I put it in a plastic bag right away after carving up the shank to ensure I had it for the soup. There was a good chunk of meat and skin, oh the flavor that brings.
On soup making day I gathered the following fresh materials:
1 Lbs split peas
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped carrot
1 cup chopped celery
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
4 cups of chicken stock (Used Swanson in a box)
4 cups of cold tap water
1 can Swanson vegetable broth (almost 2 cups)
2 tsp dry Thyme
2 tsp cumin
3 dry bay leaves (Loral leaves)
1 large white (baking potato)
2 red potatoes
fresh ground pepper
In a 8 quart stock pot I began by melting the two table spoons of butter. Once melted I threw in the onions, carrots and celery. I topped them with a heavy pinch of kosher salt and a few turns of the pepper mill. I turned down the heat to medium low, as I am just sweating the vegetables, I don’t want them to brown.
While the vegetables were doing their thing, I minced up the garlic, turned back and stirred the vegetables, and continued to mince the garlic. Nothing like multitasking. Once the vegetables started to soften and the onions were more translucent I through in the garlic and stirred it in. I let that cook for a minute or so.
The pound of split peas need to be inspected for rocks and other debris (what a strange word spelling). Once clear of crap, rinse well using a strainer.
The vegetables are looking good, so I throw in the peas and stir them in. I remove the big chunk of ham off of the bone (the part which wasn’t sliced by Cook’s). There is still ham on the bone, which is right next to the bone. This meat will appear stringier. Leave this ham on, it needs to cook in the soup. Place the bone in the pot.
I poor the four cups of chicken broth in along with the four cups of cold tap water. The bone is still sticking out of the broth a bit, so I throw in a can of vegetable broth. That looks better. A little stir and everything is covered up.
Time for spices. Damn, only pieces of bay leaf left. I find six of the larger pieces (so they are easier to pick out later) and throw them in. I am assuming it’s about three whole leafs. Thyme, need some thyme, where the heck is it. Can’t remember when I cooked something with Thyme. Oh there it is, way back in the cupboard (another strange spelling for a word). Hmmm, this stuff looks a little old. I dump about two teaspoons in my palm and rub my hands together hoping I can get a little something out of this old stuff. The smell is stronger, I think that will work. Hey look, cumin, I like cumin, lets dump some in. I dump about one-half table spoon of cumin in the pot.
Ah, now that looks like some good soup. I turn up the heat and stir it a bit more. Time to get this sucker up to a boil. Once boiling, I stir again, turn the heat all the way down and put on the cover.
The soup needs to simmer like this for one hour. There really isn’t a reason to sir it, though it can’t hurt to do it two or three time during the hour.
The hour is up, so I pull the bone out and remove all the meat from it I can. I don’t too crazy, as I have a good chuck of meat that I saved earlier. Once de-meated, I throw the bone back in, just in case there is any flavor it may have left to give up for us.
I cut up the meat I removed from the bone and then grab, the still cold, meat that was kept earlier (the part not cut by Cook’s spiraling equipment). I cut this meat up into cubes, about three-eights in size. I remove some of the larger chunks of fat, but keep some. I also keep the skin on many of the pieces. All good flavor.
Once the meat is cut-up, I peal and cut the potatoes into one-half inch pieces. I just throw all thi sin the same bowl waiting to go into the pot.
It’s been about a half hour since I took the meat off the bone. I go fishing for it again and remove any soup stuff which may be sticking to it. The bone goes in the trash and all the cut up meat and potatoes goes into the pot. While stirring this in the soup seemed to have cooked down a lot. So I throw in another two cups of water. After doing that, one probably would have been enough, but too late now. Still looks great, nonetheless.
I turn up the heat to get the soup back up to a boil. There are a lot of heavy items in the soup now, all of the cooked peas and those potatoes. If I am not careful, I could easily burn this stuff sitting on the bottom. So it is a good idea to keep an eye on things and sir that stuff up off the bottom every once in a while. Once the soup is getting back to a boil (just a few bubbles, I see the stuff moving) I turn the flame back down to low and stir that stuff up off the bottom. I cover up the pot and let the potatoes cook and the ham get hot.
After about another half hour, it was done. I took the cover off, gave it a good stir and let it sit for a while. That soup looked tired from all that cooking.
twenty minutes later I poured a bowl, fell in love and decided to write it all down. Boy I hope I can do this again as well.
Disclaimer: If you follow these measurements like the gospel your soup will probably suck. There is as much gut-feeling as there are measurements into making a good soup. Don’t keep doctoring it, and just let it do it’s thing.
By the way, I got the recipe idea for this soup from four other recipes. I just took the pieces I wanted and used them. Soup rules are so simple
That is the question isn’t it. One of the single most difficult professional decisions anyone will make is, do I stay comfortable as a master code slinger, or do I step into the world of management?
For me it always seems to be the other way around. I never got into hard-core programming until I was a one man shop or in a managerial/lead role. And I truly love to write software applications, I find it to be such a rewarding activity. Specially when others are using, and better yet, making money using the software you have developed.
Though time and time again I am pulled to lead instead of producer. Maybe I am just slow and sucky and nobody has the heart to tell me? It’s possible, sure.
Fact is, I am there again at my current job and this time I am really, really OK with it. I am managing Information Systems again, which I seem to always have a bear of a time with aystem admin’s ( I think it’s because I spent 8 years as one myself). So that isn’t the highlight here, but a necessity of the corporation. What I am heading up is Information Security, and that has me really charged up. I have always worked with security, at both a technical and managerial level. It is a really important step in my corporation’s life and I am going to bring them to that level while at the same time, bring myself up a few levels too. It is exciting, scary, overwhelming and challenging. What else can I ask for out of job?
I have made the hard and firm decision to obtain my CISSP certification. My goal is to sit for it in October; kind of a birthday gift to myself. I have looked at this certification for years and shied away from it. Not this time, I will complete it. I know at least three of our clients have asked if we have a CISSP certified member on staff in the last year. It’s a logical supported next step, and having support from senior management is always a big plus.
Now here is the other exciting side to this. I will not be coding much at all at work. Why is this exciting to me? Simple, I will not be tired of coding and I can work on my own projects! There is nothing I like better than coding stuff I want to. I would guess most core developers think this way. I have lent a hand to some open source project and developed some of my own crazy stuff. My current one, which I personally find very useful is BD File Hash. A Windows Forms base file hashing and hash compare tool. Hey someday ask me what the BD stands for.
So as you can see I am hitting the best of both worlds here. I am greatly improving my professional aptitude and still able to do the things I really enjoy doing. On top of it, I work two miles from my house, so I am not a complete stranger to my family.
Don’t worry, I”ll always remain your IT Slug!
Happy Summer! The kids are out of school and already bored. My oldest son though is really into reading this year, I mean REALLY into it. He has probably read 10 books already on summer break.
His school has a degree program for reading books during the summer. Basically the students get a star for each day they read more than twenty minutes. My son has been doing much more than that I thought it would be great to keep track of it. I am sure looking back at the list at the end of the Summer he would be pretty impressed by the list too.
My first thought is that I would set him up with a blog, and he could type in the books he read on any given day. He and I have done some basic web page building together, so I thought he may get a kick out of this.
So I added a new blog to my account here at WordPress and picked a theme I hoped he didn’t think sucked. When I went to add his as a contributor to the blog I discovered he needed an email address to that. Hmm….
Well I have thought about setting him up with an email address in the past, but never did it as there was really no reason and he is only eight. So I went to Comcast to set him up with a family account. The didn’t have the name I wanted, damn. Well I found one close enough and went with that. At least Comcast has some parental controls, I’ll have to look deeper into that.
I set him up with a WordPress account and when there to log him in. When I logged in with his account to verify everything I was greeted with a page of many, many blogs. Well this is not good, he doesn’t need to be exposed to to this, too young yet, too dangerous.
Going to the next level
As I pondered this in a background processes it hit me, what about setting up a new domain and hosting the stuff myself!? I checked at GoDaddy and shit, the domain is available, excellent.
$10.67 / year for the domain, not so bad. $9.99 for privacy, what! that’s a bit outside. Then it hit me again, Dreamhost. Dreamhost has a free domain with a paid subscription and I never used it, perfect. Off to Dreamhost…
I was able to create and host the the domain on my current account and loaded up a WordPress blog in about 10 seconds. Added an email address and we are ready to go in a more “controlled” environment.
So a simple idea has bloomed into a fully hosted domain with private emails and sites, all for an eight year-old. I am the Tim Allen of the Internet!
So my son and I went over some of the stuff I put together and he is pretty interested in it all. As expected he is a bit overwhelmed. That’s OK, we’ll take it a step at a time in what ever direction interests him most.
I back at it and nothing is safe this year. I can’t take the clutter, it’s just too much for one person to bear. If my wife gets in my way she may be surprised when ‘stuff’ just starts vanishing. Hey, you don’t want to clean, than I am making a decision on that ‘thing’ that has been on the dining room floor for two years.
In boxes, empty; receipt stacks, gone; toys, age appropriate only otherwise, GONE. We could open our own toy store, I swear. Actually we will be, in the form of a garage sale this Summer. Come one by and buy our stuff, we don’t want it anymore.
I feel better already.
For the record, I started the humongo pile in the corner of the office tonight. Already have my first bag of trash for the landfill.
If you actually read this far you are probably thinking I am crazy, and you are half right, but you really need to try this, it is such great therapy. Try this for size; you open your most used email client and there are zero emails in the inbox. Everything you need is in a folder, everything else is GONE. Honestly, how many times do you look at those 2312 emails in your inbox now, really? Probably only the first time you read it.
I will let you in on a little secret for all those emails that you can’t get rid of. You can’t leave them in your inbox, that’s just clutter and stressful. Create one folder named archive and stick all that clutter email that you just can’t do without in there. That simple move can clear up any email you ‘just not sure about deleting.’
Everything else DELETE!
If you are more anal, like I am , create a few folders and organize your emails more. Google nailed on the head when they went with the search model of Gmail. Absolute brilliance.
Another little tip. If you are replying to an email with a question and the original doesn’t really matter, then DELETE it. Why keep it, you will get it back with your next round of emails.
Can’t wait to start in the freak’n garage. I want my garage back!
Yeah the tax season is almost done for 2010. What excites me about this the most is that our house will go back to some normalcy. My wife is a tax professional (or something like that) for one of those big named tax houses (A meat market for tax personnel). Its seasonal work and she is done on April 15th.
I know I am not the first one to bring this up by any means, but it’s really bugging me. I have done OK this year with my freelancing. It hasn’t been too much work where I am enslaved completely, but enough to help with the bills around the house. Supporting a stay-at-home mom and two kids burns money faster than I could ever imagine. So most of what I have made has been burned away, and nothing has been paid toward taxes. I know it will be a lot, but how much? A headline caught my eye (Extremely Important Tax Rules for Designers in the United States, at In The Woods [an rss I watch]) and basically kicked me in the butt to look into this before I am sitting down filling out my 1040.
With the year winding down, I am thinking about my tax return for this year and how my added freelance-earned money may effect it. Well as I have read into it, it will effect it a lot! One helpful article I found on the matter is, Taxes and Freelancing at About.com. This article coverd much of the basics and has some good pointers on getting organized and what information you will want for filling out Schedule C on your tax return. The article supplied better information the the In The Woods one.
So, sure that is a bit of a pain, a lot more to organize and keep track of, but one of the biggest part of the pain is Self-Employment Tax. What is Self-Employment tax, well in a nutshell its the Social Security and Medicare taxes you pay on any net profits you have.
The Self-Employment tax is 15.3% — Social Security Tax is 6.2% and Medicare Tax is 1.45%. Wait you say, that only comes to 7.65%, and you are correct, though since you are self employed, you must pay the employee and employer portion of the tax. 7.65% times two is 15.3%. For those of you who are a bit curious yes, if you are a W2 employee you pay 7.65% in Social Security and Medicare taxes. Please note, in 2009 Social Security tax is only paid on the first $102,000 subject to Social Security tax. I am sure this will play into your Self-Employment tax number too, though I don’t know for sure. I can speak more to this once I go through it next February and if I make it over that amount
Please realize, I am not a tax accountant or CPA nor do I play one on TV. The information written here is solely based on my readings and limited experience. Consume it at your own risk.