Thursday, December 01, 2016

November Reads


  • Dawn (Xenogenesis #1) by Octavia E. Butler
    • Meh. This was one of those drag me to the end (since if anything life has proven, I have the ability to power through pretty much anything) type of books, that actually had me reading other books in between before finishing. While it was an interesting concept (aliens abducting survivors of an apocalypse on the Earth with the intent of repatriating them in the far future), the very concept was so grim that I had a hard time keeping up my interest (in particular as you learn the plans of the aliens). I know that even though there are more books that more me this is a one and done. (1/5)
  • Grits, Guns & Glory - Bubba the Monster Hunter Season 2 by John G. Hartness, Melissa Gilbert (Editor)
    • Bubba, the most unlikely Church employee that you are going to find, is a lot of fun. This collection of short stories (all chained together to provide a comprehensive overall sequence) will keep you awake during a long drive. Bubba is a mostly straightforward good-old boy who, along with his assorted allies (life-long friend, girlfriend and his handler Priest), fights the things that go bump in the night that are creating problems. Taking off right from the end of the last book where Bubba is doing his impression of a shis-kebab, the book ramps thing up for a the main fight at the end of the novel (with a couple of fun turns down side stories). Bubba's big fight is with his brother who effectively defeated him last "season" and continues to gather power towards his overall plan at the end. Overall this was a fun book to read in smaller bites. (4/5)
  • First Grave on the Right (Charley Davidson #1) by Darynda Jones
    • A nice light pallet cleanser after the heavy handed book I read lately. A little more harlequin than I normally go book-wise, but the overall concept (the world that is being spun) is pretty interesting. I enjoy the concept of Grim Reapers living with the rest of us (Everything from Dead Like Me on TV to good old Death in the Discworld universe) and this story delivered. Took a little while to get into it but hard to stop once I got started. If you enjoy a book where the paranormal is more leaning toward normal, this can be a nice fun read. (4/5)
  • The Brotherhood of the Wheel by R.S. Belcher
    • Another good urban fantasy read. What if the Truckers and Motorcycle Clubs are really agents of a secret society (formerly the Knights Templar) that is out there to protect the travelers of the roads? Well in this world they are and we get to learn more about them and how they handle a big bad enemy from effectively destroying reality. The world and situation are slowly revealed through the eyes of the newbie characters, a MC guy and an investigative cop. I definitely would look forward to another book written in this universe. (4/5)

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Digital vs Physical Delivery of Content

Is anyone else really confused why in God's name it is cheaper to purchase a physical copy of multiple types of digital content than to download it through the standard mechanisms?

The best example was this past week, where Titanfall 2 and Battefields 1 were both on sale from Amazon.

Buy digital : $ 59 99 Download now!
Buy new : $ 35 00

So the options were to buy a physical copy, which involved producing the disc and assorted material, shipping it to a distribution center, then shipping it yet again to my house, for $24.99 less than buying a digital copy (which the content producer has a higher control on and I cannot re-sell or lend out to another person)!? Yes, there are some costs to the digital distribution (bandwidth and (hah) storage), but those have to marginal compared to the entire supply chain to provide the digital copy. If they were comparable in cost I would definitely do the digital, even though I as the consumer come away less well off (because I cannot share nor can I sell it) because in the end I don't want more little plastic cases taking up space in my bookcases. I will take the hit because it seems the logical, and environmental, way to go.

This problem has also been observed in some cases in music (for example it has been cheaper to buy the CD and get the digital copy for free than to buy the digital copy) and for books.With DRM getting relatively hard to remove and people being relatively lazy, piracy isn't really a concern anymore either.

I just don't get it. We are in the 21st Century, why are we stuck doing this stuff the old way!?

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

October Read's


  • Scattered, Smothered and Chunked - Bubba the Monster Hunter Season 1 by John G. Hartness
    • Since I have read Larry Correia's MHI series the concept of a redneck monster hunter isn't too far of a stretch for me. But Bubba is a distinct voice. Working, for of all groups, the Catholic Church as a freelance monster hunter the stories in this book were varied and entertaining. We don't learn the whole truth of what formed the personality of Bubba until the final novella, which goes into his origin story, but overall the flow works. There were a number of LOL moments in this book that kept me entertained throughout.
  • CTRL ALT Revolt! by Nick Cole
    • Set in the not too far future, this is the story that addresses why a large fear of the tech community, artificial intelligence (or machine sentience), represents such a fundamental threat to the human race. Gaming plays a big role in this story, focusing on Fish, a game developer, and Mara, a blind DD girl who is trying to rise above it all. The pace was a little anemic at first, but things slowly come to a boil and people are racing around both in the real world and in the electronic games worlds which play such a key role to the plot. And now I learn that the author has another book (Soda Pop Soldier) that this basically the prequel to, so that just got added to the pile.
  • The Trafalgar Gambit (Ark Royal #3) by Christopher Nuttall (Goodreads Author)
    • Breaking away completely from the BSG-yness from the first the first book, this story yet again focuses on the mission and crew of the HMS Ark Royal. Shifting a little more into the geo-(galacto?) political realm, we find the crew on a last ditch attempt to open up diplomatic relations with the aliens (which they determine to have seperate factions based on the actions of some of the ships in the second book). But war is politics in another form, so even with the diplomatic mission there is still a lot of action left in this story to satisfy. The trilogy is ended in a satisfactory manner (and only because of a hunch did I realize that there was a follow-on series).
  • Dead Six (Dead Six #1) by Larry Correia
    • Parallel stories about two black-ops operators dealing with a murky world. Both of the main characters, Valentine and Lorenzo, are engaged against the terrorists that exist in a fake middle eastern country similar to Qatar.  Valentine works for Dead Six, an black CIA backed set of operators who are tasked with taking the war to the terrorists homes/vacation spot. In the end they are deemed to be disposable and are themselves marked themselves. Lorenzo is more of an independent operator with a small team that is being blackmailed to complete a mission of obtaining a key (which opens a special door.... the contents of which aren't explained but are very mysterious/supernatural). There is some overlap, characters die and in the end you have Valentine and Lorenzo up against their respective organizations as a team. I am interested to see where this goes in the next book.
  • The Gap Into Conflict: The Real Story (Gap #1) by Stephen R. Donaldson
    • This is kind of a twisted perverse little story. The two main characters are pirates, in a future where the area of space they are operating in is fairly lawless. The more twisted part is what happens to the female space cop, who is captured and controlled by Angus Thermopyle who takes advantage of her and is also the focus of attention of the other main character (also a pirate) Nick Succorso. I am not sure why this series is so popular but since I already have the second book I guess I will find out.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

I Turn 40.

So I think it says a lot about how I prioritize things that my children's birthdays all get posts on my blog, but I let my own birthday just slip on by, even though it is one of those "big" ones.
Last August I celebrated my 40th year on this Earth, by myself, thousands of miles from home. I was in Vegas for Black Hat and DEFCON.

I know some people like to make a big deal of their birthdays (cough, cough, H (aka Cupcake Girl)) but I am a more reserved person who is happiest with a meal and some cake shared with family.

It is funny, I don't feel 40. I am probably lighter and in better shape than I was 20 years ago. I have a beautiful wife, 2 awesome children, 1 great cat and 1 good cat, and a job that I like and that pays well (and I even got to fulfill my dream of being a member of the US Military). Does my life seem hectic? Yep. But busy is better than not having all these wonderful things in my life. I feel like I have done a lot already in my life and there is a lot more to do and I look forward to the future.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Loss

One of the hardest parts of getting older is the steady loss of the next higher generation from yours. My parents were both the youngest of their families, and they had us later than the norm for their generation (in their mid-30's). Losses like what happened last week are hard and there really isn't much time in the modern hectic schedule to step back and ponder the losses as they come.

On Thursday afternoon, as I was leaving the grocery store with both children my Dad called to let me know that my Uncle Gerry had passed away (we knew he was in bad shape, my Mom was actually there when he passed away). Honestly it took a while for me to process, since the minutia of daily life (I still had to get the kids home, get them fed, pack for yet another weekend of military duty (my third in a row)) just didn't give me any processing time. It really didn't hit me until Saturday night when I was coming back from dinner and the audio book I was listening to hit a touch point for me (I don't deal well with children being in danger/injured/killed much since I have become a father) but I recognized that it wasn't about the story but me finally processing what had happened (I was so glad I had a room to myself, a rarity in my Army career) because, for a rare moment, I had no one to worry about but myself and nothing to do until morning.

My Facebook status, that I could finally post in on Sunday morning (after a good cry the previous night)
"RIP to my Uncle Gerry(Father Gerard O'Shea, LCDR (r) USN). He passed away Thursday afternoon. I think my brother Gregory summed it up best, "the world is a little less nicer without him". He married my parents, baptized me, married me and baptized my children. Heavens gain, our loss."

My Irish cousin's was also pretty good:
My first cousin, Rev. Gerard O'Shea, has passed on after an illness. 
He was the eldest son of my aunt Nora, who went to the U.S. when she was young. She had three children, of whom Mary Julianne (Judy) Buchholz remains. Gerry was a Lieut Commander in the U.S. Navy. He joins his brother Kevin and my two brothers Ian and Denis Raphael. Requiem aeterna dona eis, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat eis. Requiescant in pace.

My kid's with Gerry in May 2016
My brother Barry's christening 
 Gerry in his prime
 Easter 1947

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Weekly Weight (9/22)

259.4
Tired. But still getting to the gym.  I passed my certification exam (ISC2 CAP), was sick one day and had to travel this weekend for the Army again (and the coming weekend... I am tired).
  • Day 0
    • 260.9
  • Month 0 (May)
    • 257.8 - 263.1
  • Month 1 (June)
    • 262.5 - 261.8
  • Month 2 (July)
    • 259.4-261.7
  • Month 3 (August)
    • 257-264.
  • Month 4 - Week 2
    • 261.2
  • Month 4 - Week 3 (now)
    • 259.4

Friday, September 16, 2016

August Shows

Travel and vacation = low media consumption.

TV:
  • Star Trek - DS9 (Season 1), Enterprise (Season 1) and TNG (Season 1) - I still think DS9 is the best of the ST series. 
  • Supernatural - Season 8
  • Orange is the New Black (latest season)


Movies:

  • I got nothing... 




What my Daughter is obsessed with:
  • Octonauts - At least there is some learning here.
  • Paw Patrol - not so much...
What my Son is obsessed with:
  • Anything his sister has
  • Anything he can eat
  • Pretending everything is a phone
  • Walking, everywhere

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Weekly Weight (9/15)

261.2
Whoops. Took a little break from blogging (that pesky real life thing). I had a bunch of Army stuff going on, a vacation to Orlando (me and the kiddos on the plane... that was an experience) and was also prepping to take a Certification exam (ISC2 CAP).
  • Day 0
    • 260.9
  • Month 0 (May)
    • 257.8 - 263.1
  • Month 1 (June)
    • 262.5 - 261.8
  • Month 2 (July)
    • 259.4-261.7
  • Month 3 (August)
    • 257-264. Gotta love those big swings...
  • Month 4 - Week 2 (now)
    • 261.2
Now that most of that is past me and I start to prep for one of my favorite races (the Army Ten Miler) we shall see if I can make some new progress) as well as my annual APFT (Army Physical Fitness Test).

Monday, August 22, 2016

Weekly Weight (8/18)

259.3
I didn't get to the gym as much as I hoped. But I am recommitting now and getting my training on for the Army Ten Miler in October as well as the annual APFT (probably in November for OER reasons).

  • Day 0
    • 260.9
  • Month 0 (May)
    • 257.8 - 263.1
  • Month 1 (June)
    • 262.5 - 261.8
  • Month 2 (July)
    • 259.4-261.7
  • Month 3 - Week 1
    • 259.2
  • Month 3 - Week 2 (now)
    • 259.3

Steps:
  • Last week 
    • 119k
  • First week August
    • 173k
  • July
    • 124k-90k
  • June
    • 123k-93k

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

My Son Turns 1!

Happily stealing my wife's collage of pictures, this represents the first year of the life of my son, Sean. He is a happy kid, who loves pretty much anything anyone else is doing (in particular his sister). He started walking fairly early (10ish months) and continues to a be a joy. I am excited that he has managed to reach this benchmark and cannot wait to see what sort of a man he eventually becomes. I am so happy for any amount of time I can spend with him and his sister (though the flight to Orlando later this month with both of them and just me is going to be.... interesting...).

Happy birthday Sean!

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Weekly Weight (8/11)

259.2
Considering that I just got back from 10 days in Las Vegas (for Black Hat and DEFCON) I consider this an accomplishment. It helped that I was getting around 30k steps (15 or so miles) on most of the days out there. I even went to 3 buffets while I was out there (Wicked Spoon in the Cosmopolitan was the nicest of the batch) and ate (and drank) well. Back to reality now (and back to a better gym, I definitely took a hit in my strength during this trip)

  • Day 0
    • 260.9
  • Month 0 (May)
    • 257.8 - 263.1
  • Month 1 (June)
    • 262.5 - 261.8
  • Month 2 (July)
    • 259.4-261.7
  • Month 3 - Week 1 (now)
    • 259.2

Steps:
  • Last week 
    • 173k
  • July
    • 124k-90k
  • June
    • 123k-93k

Monday, August 01, 2016

July Shows

Slowly getting back into the groove.

TV:

  • Babylon 5 - Finally finished!
  • Star Trek - Now to piss off the Trekkies/Treckers.. I am watching in chronological order... Starting with Enterprise ;)


Movies:

  • Finding Dory - OMG, I saw a movie in the theater! And it was good!
  • Deadpool - Finally got to see what everyone else already saw
  • 10 Cloverfield Lane - Alien Invasion (maybe ;) plus the locked room situation... Solid entertaining movie




What my Daughter is obsessed with:
  • Team Umizoomi - An addiction I heartily endorse.
What my Son is obsessed with:
  • Anything his sister has
  • Anything he can eat
  • Pretending everything is a phone
  • Walking, everywhere

July Reads

Longer car trips plus more walking plus more working out equals more books read.
  • Shattered Spear (The Lost Stars #4) by Jack Campbell
    • I have been reading books of this series for a long time (I remember reading some of the first books of the Lost Fleet series way back in 2008). I still enjoy them and find that this spin-off series, "The Lost Stars", adds an interesting element to the universe. The characters aren't just "naturally" (yes, that is an over/underwhelming explanation of Jack Geary's skill set) good like Jack, and this tells the stories from the nominal bad guys. At this point I find myself cheering (the non-snake) leaders of Midway as they attempt to forge and "alliance" and move past their Syndicate past. Complicating that are of course the remnants of the Syndicate, Enigma's and an honest to god Pirate Queen. Overall a fun read and I look forward to more if there is room in there for another story, though the ending wrapped things up fairly neatly if this is the last book the series.
  • The Atrocity Archives (Laundry Files #1) by Charles Stross
    • The first of the Laundry Files series (7 books and counting). Bob Howard, computer geek, works for the Laundry, a super-secret organization that fights and suppresses "magic" across the UK. Magic in this world is interesting, as suddenly becoming a Computer Scientist or Mathematician becomes really dangerous as the advanced math opens holes into other worlds. Anyone who poses a threat get subsumed into the Laundry, a very british governmental organization that involves a lot of make-work. Bob aspires higher and wants to be a field agent. This leads to a lot of interesting situations that drive this story along.
  • The Jennifer Morgue (Laundry Files #2) by Charles Stross
    • More Laundry. So good that I have come back to re-read it.
  • The Fuller Memorandum (Laundry Files #3) by Charles Stross
    • Even more Laundry. It has been years since I have read them and I wanted to listen to them again.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Financial Housecleaning

So in another week or so my birthday will wind around (I like birthdays, they are a sign of accomplishment of living another year). This one is pretty notable as it will be my 40th (crazy to me... I know I just said birthdays are accomplishments but... It is hard to believe we are more than halfway done with 2016 already).

One thing I like to do is step back and look at my financial state (I read blogs like this (which address how you should be investing at certain ages) and use tools at Personal Capital, like their retirement calculator. As I get older and the target window for retirement (I am planning on a hard stop at 62.. that's when I can start drawing my full FERS retirement from my government job). I will give an example of what I just did for my Thrift Savings Account (TSP, 401k for the US Government workers), without any real dollars behind it (I overshare a lot between social media and whatnot, but I have not reached the point of sharing my net worth with the world... I think the only person other than my wife that knows my full net worth is my broker team at Personal Capital (that and Google... but they swear that they won't do evil)).

At the beginning of the 2016 it was 40% C, 15%G, 20% S, 25% I. In March I started the long road to more stable assets, with the plan to decrement C, S, I (subtracting C twice) and slowly build up G and F every six months. So now I am at 38C, 16G, 1F, 20S, 20I. Adjusting both the contribution amount as well as the actual balances. I also did the same with another account (Betterment)  decreasing my total exposure to stocks by 2% there (with a bump in bonds to compensate).

Yes, I know that swinging slowly to more stocks will decrease my potential gains, but it also decreases my total risk exposure, which at this point in my life since I have been a prolific saver overall (not as good as I could have been but I also lived life) means I have a fairly large amount to protect.

So overall, birthdays are a good time to reflect on the past and plan for the future.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Weekly Weight (7/21)

259.4

A pretty good week from exercise and activity. Even with all the heat and the PF still going, it was a solid week.
  • Day 0
    • 260.9
  • Month 0 (May)
    • 257.8 - 263.1
  • Month 1 (June)
    • 262.5 - 261.8
  • Month 2 - Week 1
    • 261.7
  • Month 2 - Week 2 
    • 259.9
  • Month 2 - Week 3 (now)
    • 259.4

Steps:
  • Last week 
    • 105.5k
  • Last week -1
    • 90786
  • Last Month (weeks)
    • 123k-93k






Friday, July 15, 2016

Weekly Weight (7/14)

259.9

A drill weekend (which always seems to involve less exercise than a non-drill weekend), feeling off and the continues visitation of planar fasciitis in my right foot, but somehow a drop....
  • Day 0
    • 260.9
  • Month 0 (May)
    • 257.8 - 263.1
  • Month 1 (June)
    • 262.5 - 261.8
  • Month 2 - Week 1
    • 261.7
  • Month 2 - Week 2 (now)
    • 259.9

Steps:
  • Last week
    • 90786
  • Last Month (weeks)
    • 123k-93k





Monday, July 11, 2016

Luck



So reading over on a Personal Finance Blog Mr Tako Escapes, in particular his post about
The Arrogance Of Wealth and he brought up a topic I firmly believe in. That even the most successful person out there didn't get there solely on their own skill and knowledge. Luck plays a huge factor (that you were born in the right place and time, to the right parents and had the right opportunities in education and work to excel).

I have been saying the “luck” thing for a long time. But the people, like some people I know on Wall Street, don’t like acknowledging that, while yes, they are probably very skilled in their field, luck played a significant role (some may actually say overwhelming role) in their success…

I know that myself and most of my fellow Americans are very lucky. We live in a society where the biggest problem is getting too fat, from poor diet and lack of exercise. Where even the poorest have TV's, air conditioning/heat and cell phones. Yes, I know there is food anxiety in our society, but overall we don't have it too bad.

One thing I really want to instill in my children is to help them recognize the sheer luckiness of their position. To have (if my may be ever not so humble) great parents, food, toys, family and most everything a kid could want. I watch on TV and the Internet (and have seen with my eyes in Afghanistan) the true level of poverty that exists in the world. Where children don’t even have enough to eat every day (the story that has destroyed me this year was of a 2yo on the streets in Nigeria….http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/two-year-old-nigerian-boy-accused-of-being-a-witch-rescued-by-aid-workers-a6875706.html I am not prone to being a emotional but if that picture of the women offering water to the child doesn’t emotionally hit you I don’t know what will).

As my parent’s would say, “There but for the Grace of God go I.”

Thursday, July 07, 2016

Weekly Weight (7/7)

261.7 (Lucky 7 was not with me.)

It was the 4th of July weekend, the weekend of booze and bbq, so not too horrible. Been feeling off this past week, which kept me away from the table (and sadly between that and a reappearance of planar fasciitis, not really been to the gym much this week)
  • Day 0
    • 260.9
  • Month 0 (May)
    • 257.8 - 263.1
  • Month 1 (June)
    • 262.5 - 261.8
  • Month 2 - Week 1 (now)
    • 261.7

Monday, July 04, 2016

June Shows

Amazing how little reading gets done when you are stuck in a whirlwind of requirements that come with being a Company Commander during Annual Training in the National Guard. Basically for 2 weeks I didn't read or watch most anything. And then, in all fair turnabout, my wife went out of town for 10 days and I became the primary parent for a fast and strong willed 3yo girl and a 10 month boy that decided that walking was what he needed to do right now! (Thank God for family, my MIL came into town during the weekend and my parents are helping out for the rest of the time) All of which means I watched even less stuff (not that I am complaining).

I did finish the Flash and have just one episode left of Babylon 5 (I am now convinced I never saw the last season).


June Reads

Amazing how little reading gets done when you are stuck in a whirlwind of requirements that come with being a Company Commander during Annual Training in the National Guard. Basically for 2 weeks I didn't read or watch most anything.

  • Technomancer (Unspeakable Things #1) by B.V. Larson
    • I started this book on a "meh" note... for some reason it didn't click right away and only after I was about 1/4 into the book did I really get engaged. This book covers the standard problem that a lot of readers have of having to discover the world the characters are in by literally making the main character a blank slate. With effective amnesia (able to do things like read, talk, drive, shoot guns, but not able to remember any personal details) the main character wakes in a hospital facility in one of my most . Slowly we learn more about this world, with the weird occurrences and "magical" devices that are the key to people's "magic". I was quite satisfied by the way that the events finally built up to the ending.
  • Ark Royal (Ark Royal #1) by Christopher Nuttall
    • It is hard to imagine that a potential reader of this book hasn't watched Battle Star Galactica just as much as the average reader should see that the writer obviously was influenced. Aging Carrier close to retirement? Check. Carrier the new hope for Humanity? Check. Command staff with a lot of personal issues? Check. Fighter pilots going at it like rabbits? Check.
      But the Author does a good job once you can forgive him for the fact that he was strongly influenced by BSG, even if just in his subconscious. 
  • United States Of Apocalypse by Mark Tufo (Goodreads Author), Armand Rosamilia (Goodreads Author)
    • Not a bad little story. Nothing like a reminder that apocalypse can be started by more mundane actions. (Though North Korea? Could you have picked a more unlikely bad guy?) This one does a good job on focusing on two people, one in NYC and one in the unpopulated area of California. You don't see a lot of stories focusing on what happens to the big cities, because in the end you are fairly toast in all but the smaller ones unless you bug out quickly.

Saturday, July 02, 2016

Weekly Weight (6/30)

261.8

Considering I am single parenting this week and my planar fasciatis decided to come back and visit, I am not too bothered by this. The upcoming weekend is a holiday weekend so that will be a challenge. Oddly my steps are not too bad (110k for the past week) even though I have had to drive more than normal due to kid related activities.
  • Day 0
    • 260.9
  • Month 0 (May)
    • 257.8 - 263.1
  • Month 1 - Week 3 (June)
    • 262.5
  • Month 1 - Week 4 (now)
    • 261.8

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

A dark confession (Jeans Suck) and why Kilts rule

I have an almost un-American dislike of Jeans....  I don't get why people like them so much and really cannot think of a point in at least the last 2 decades that I have owned a pair (I got convinced one time to try them on, but whoever I was with quickly agreed that I should take them off, they didn't suit me). I live in the Washington DC area (while not really a swamp the weather has a lot of swamp like attributes) and for 7-8 or months of the year wearing pants, let alone pants that are made of cotton (a material that has taken a steadily lower fraction of my wardrobe over the years. Cotton sucks in the summer and can kill during the winter), doesn't leave me happy.

For me I have a hierarchy (from worst to best). I am not even putting jeans in there since the above should cover why that is never an option.

  • Dress Pants/Khaki's
  • High tech cargo pants (5.11 Taclite pants are great, they have thicker material ones for the colder months but these are wearable all year round)
  • Cargo shorts (5.11 again for the win. So many pockets and so strongly built. Pretty much the only ones that I will buy)
  • Kilts (5.11 Tactikilt's (anyone else see a trend?), Sportkilt (USA and US Army tartans of course) and misc other ones (Elkommando kilt for example)). I love me some kilts. Comfortable and cool (in short, other than underwear, why would I want more material hugging my crotch and butt during the warm months....), with a fashion twist that the shorts have a hard time matching. Side note, all my kilts (except for 1-2 I bought before I saw the option) have these things called pockets... some even in profusion (the 5.11's for example). I am not a traditionalist (which means I have pockets and wear at the normal american waist vs the belly wear of traditional kilts) and really like practical clothing.  One thing I have learned is that most people don't even notice what men are wearing....  I don't even get bothered by the skirt comment from my wife, since technically kilts, an unbifurcated garment, are a subset of skirts. Men were wearing them for eons... (they only started wearing pants because of horse riding, of which I do none of so I feel ok not wearing pants)
Sydney and I in matching US Army Tartan Kilts

I think my time in the military has increase my DGAF (look it up) as opposed to increased my conformity. When you have done enough silly stuff in front of other people you just reach a point where you don't care and just want to wear clothes that are comfortable, climate appropriate and, yes, somewhat distinctive and entertaining to wear. (side note, this morning I said I was running upstairs to my daughter and she said "to get your kilt?")

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Weekly Weight (6/23)

262.5

Worse than I hoped, better than I expected or deserved. I am back from 16 days of military duty, which was done in fairly hot heat and humidity. I definitely wasn't walking as much as normal (not too much mind you, just less than normal and decreasing the hotter it got) and my workouts and diet took a significant hit (I got to the gym 3 times and ate out way too much). Stepping up the workouts as well as the steps (15000 a day from Sunday to Wednesday).
  • Day 0
    • 260.9
  • Month 0 (May)
    • 257.8 - 263.1
  • Month 1 - Week 3 (June - now)
    • 262.5

Looking forward to some good workouts, lots more walking and solid dietary (with some fasting.. this is made easier by the sheer effort it takes to get a 3yo and 10mo kid out the door in the morning.  If I tried to eat too I would be catastrophically late, I just make a cup of coffee and start moving) in the next week. Only complicated by the fact that I am single parenting for the next 10 days.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

A Modest proposal for the President of United States

American Offices are dreadful places overall in Summer in the United States. American men are forced to wear outfits that do not conform to weather outside (and hence suffer on their commutes to and from work) and American women, who often do dress to the weather (at least during the Summer) are comfortable on their commute and many have to wear sweaters/jackets when indoors. It creates a lot strife in the Office and even causes some to cry "sexism." In general our European allies think we are a bit weird in our fierce AC obsession.

Japan should be our role model for this. In the wake of the loss of generation capacity due to the shutdown of nuclear reactors following the 2011 Earthquake and Tsunami, Japan doubled down on their previous "Cool Biz" campaigns with their "Super Cool Biz" campaign. Temperatures in offices were encouraged to raised and workers we asked to adapt (even their President threw in with it, wearing short sleeves in numerous public appearance). While I admit that I have ulterior motives since I often have to wear long sleeve button downs with ties at work, this really is something that we should consider.

As President, I would request that you implement some of the policies and actions that are similar to the Government of Japan's action. With Executive Orders alone you could order the entirety of the U.S. Government, some 2.7 million people (almost 2% of the entire US work force), to adopt a more reasonable approach to the AC dial and to the expected attire from the government employees (drop the suit, drop the tie... wear short sleeve shirts, either button up or polo's). Specify a new standard (75 degrees?  Maybe allow for a phased approach do that people don't go into shock over this and overreact?) and direct D/A heads to address appropriate business attire, at least from May to October. This would also be very consistent with your positions on Climate Change (since this has been proven to decrease energy consumption in Japan) and perhaps spark similar actions in State/Local governments as well as industry.

Now mind you, I am not saying turn it off. Buildings need ventilation and, in places like the Washington DC Area, humidity really is the worst consideration. I will hit you up in another 6 months to address the other "cool" thing Japan has tried to do, the "Warm Biz" concept.

Yeah, I petitioned the White House on this item.  To sign go to https://wh.gov/iHaWD

My Daughter Turns 3!

Sydney, you live in a magical age. Never will you have to worry about staring out the car windows with nothing to do and boredom is but fleeting moments from being fixed. I hope (and will try to help) you develop Daddy's love of reading in the face of so much other electronic stimulation.

3 years ago you entered my life (actually a bit more than that since the moment that the pregnancy test came back positive I was planning to meet you IRL (In Real Life... old people techie speak)). My life has been enriched by your (very) willful presence. You have a very strong personality and know what you like, and are not afraid to tell us what you don't like. This year (and the next) of your life will be fairly stable, a few trips, maybe a promotion to the next class in daycare, then life will come whirling at you. I am so happy to be there with you and help you (when you are willing to accept) along with each stage of your life.



You (and your brother, as well as your mother) are the center of my life. 

I apologize for the fact that for at least the next 8 years or so the odds are very likely I will not be there on the day of your birthday (side effect of Daddy being part of the Army National Guard, which always seems to have annual training right around your birthday). I was so excited that I was able to get a few minutes with you on your birthday this year!

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

May Reads


  • Kill Switch (Joe Ledger #8) by Jonathan Maberry (Goodreads Author)
    • Ever read a book that is part of a series that you are so excited about and enjoying so much that you had to push back and take deliberate action to read in smaller bites? Yeah, that was this book (given my druthers I would have zipped through this book but I decided to spread out my entertainment). The book starts slow with some pretty clear foreshadowing that like a lot of the Joe books everything isn't going to be all-right in the end and that the country as well as the main characters aren't going to get out of this un-scarred (happens in a lot of Jonathan Maberry's books). I am proud of my self control to have taken two whole weeks to listen to this book (and really, this is a series where I seriously recommend the audio book. Ray Porter, the narrator is awesome. Even Jonathan has admitted that now he hears his characters as though narrated by him, as he is writing new stuff! His skill at presenting these stories is a significant enhancer).

      As to the story? What if the lights went out? What if everything that runs on electricity other than the tiny bit used in brains/hearts stopped working? (side note, this is the basis on a global scale for at least one TV show and one really good book series) What else could you do to make that worse? Well if you read this book you can come up with some idea's. The Ledger series has been delving more into the paranormal (vs the Science gone bad from the first couple) the past book or so, and this keeps it up. I really cannot think of much more to say that doesn't potentially spoil the story.

      BTW, there is a great little scene in this book that is a treat if you have read some of Maberry's other series's (beyond the fact that those other story-lines all have similar characters and names in them).

  • Shifting Shadows: Stories from the World of Mercy Thompson (Mercy Thompson 0.1/0.6/0.8/1.5/4.5/5.5/7.4) by Patricia Briggs
  • So somehow this book ended up on my pile (Audiobook) and to pace myself with Kill Switch I decided to give it a try. Overall the stories stood up well even accounting for the fact that I am effectively unfamiliar with the Mercy Thompson world. It actually may motivate me to try at least first book of the main series. 
  • Welcome Home / Go Away (Kris Longknife #9.5) by 
    • A short little palette cleanser from some of my recent books. This novella fills in a little of the backstory of the Kris Longknife series. Told from a different perspective than normal, mostly from her grandparents point of view (mostly General Trouble). It was interesting to see how the events of the latest book played out from another perspective. Nothing significant happens in this book but it was fun to spend a little more time in this world.

  • Chains of Command (Frontlines #4) by Marko Kloos
    • Another interesting continuation of the story of Andrew Grayson. Like the other books there is another fast forward that leads to rejoining Andrew and his wife a year after the events of the last book. Desperately rebuilding the military, Andrew has been co-opted to become a Drill Sergeant, pumping out new recruits into a military that is desperately short handed. But Andrew is not fated for that career for too long as his skills as a successful leader are again called for. Tasked to support a special team to go after the leadership of their confederation who fled just prior to battles of the last book, Andrew picks up a promotion (to the amusement of his wife) and is tasked to put together and lead a team to see if some of those ships that disappeared can be put retaken and put to use in their upcoming campaign to retake Mars.
  • A Shrouded World - Whistlers (A Shrouded World #1) by Mark Tufo (Goodreads Author), John O'Brien
    • So I am much more familiar with Mark Tufo's Michael Talbot character (I actually read the first book of John Obrien's Jack Walker series last month), but this seemed like a fun little collaboration between two characters (+ Trip from Talbot's world). Each of the characters got to interact with the other's main issue (Talbot's zombies and Jack's nighwalkers) and introduced a new bad guy to this world (the Whistlers). It took a little while for the characters to meet up finally, but it was worth it. I am looking forward to the next book to see what happened to this world.

  • The Adventures of Tom Stranger, Interdimensional Insurance Agent by Larry Correia
    • So it was free. And I got a lot of enjoyment from it. So win for me. This short story/novella was offered free on Audible so I couldn't pass on a free story from one of my favorite authors. Goofy? Yep. Chock full of pop culture references? Check. Overall it feels like this was a collaboration of a bunch of drunks (I can see it now.... "hey! hey! Put in Chuck Norris"), but not just any drunks but a bunch of SF/Fantasy/Mil-SF Con drunks. This story made my run fly by.



May Shows

Still keeping up with
  • The Flash
  • Arrow
  • Supergirl - Catching up on
  • Babylon 5 - On Season 5 (of 5) - I feel like I may have not seen most of this. It was around here that I first started my post-college jobs
  • Unbreakable Kimmie Schmidt - Finally some quite time to watch with my wife
  • Amazing Race - Though we just aren't digging this year (YouTube stars, of which I was aware of one and my wife zero..... way to make us feel old)
  • iZombie
  • Jane the Virgin
  • Fear the Walking Dead
  • Chelsea Handlers new Netflix show! Yeah, just a bit excited about it. Though the wife and I cannot watch it in the mornings anymore like we did when we just had our daughter, Sydney, at almost 3 she has a remarkable ability to soak up words.

Movies (yep, I see so few now, even on DVD. I used to see 1-2 movies in the theater every week!):

  • The Martian - A nice adaption of the book. It was interesting to see where they cut out from the book. I am glad I "read" the book first.




What my Daughter is obsessed with:
  • Octonauts - Cannot complain too much, at least there is some bit of learning/science involved.
  • Team Umizoomi - Which I really like since it focuses a lot on shapes and colors.
What my Son is obsessed with:
  • Anything his sister has
  • Anything he can eat
  • Trying to walk (and he may still make this benchmark this month)

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Weekly Weight (5/26)

260.0

Course correcting back to the right direction. Stepping up the workouts as well as the steps (18919 a day from Sunday to Wednesday).
  • Week 0
    • 260.9
  • Week 1-2
    • 257.8-260.1
  • Week 3 
    • 263.1
  • Week 4 (now)
    • 260.0

Things are going to get weird (and I will skip two weeks in June as I will be off for my yearly military service obligation) for the next two couple of weeks.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Mortgages

Aka, why I will not be paying down my mortgage down (except to get to parity before I refinanced) anytime in the near future. Yep, I am addressing the holy war item of the personal finance world, "Should I pay down my mortgage?" In my case? No. *mostly

As a veteran (key since I have a 10% disability which allows for no cost refinancing) I have refi'd a number of times (and this is the third property that I have owned). I think I may be done for while now, since I am down to 3.25% APR. Now I love spreadsheets, so I spent quite some time crunching numbers. Because of the refinance I got back my escrow and skipped a payment, so I ended up with a fairly nice cash reserve (that I parked in a Betterment Safety Net account (40% stocks, 60% Bonds)) that I will slowly draw down over the next 4.5 years to get the principle down to the same amount I would have left on my old loan (and ends a month earlier than my previous loan). Did I mention that I really, really love using spreadsheets (and as a good husband I make sure that my wife has access to them and understands them)?

But then? I am going to stop (for a long time most likely). Why? Because mortgages are "good" debt. Right now even when I pull out the standard deduction and itemize, I come out ahead. And while the end result of an early paydown is nice (no payment other than insurance and Taxes!) you also have an asset that is mostly non-liquid (maybe a bit by HELOC, but those are tightening up like mortgages have) asset that, when you look at the historic return on property falls into the lowest category, below even bonds (note I said historically, this period seems to be an anomaly). I personally have set the goal of not letting my home equity represent more than 25% of my family's net worth (and at no point exceeding the amount I have in my cash/taxable accounts, like it does right now).

My "net" cost

  • P+ I + T + Insurance (no PMI, as a VA loan there is no PMI, even if I didn't already have 20%+ equity)
  • I + T is deductible (whatever your top marginal tax rate is, in my case that is ~33% for both Federal and State)
  • So gross cost is P + (I+T) * 2/3 + Insurance (but wait, if you look at it as I see it)
  • However, remember that P is increasing your share of the asset (increasing equity, lowering the overall loan... effectively an investment (a bad one, since in general property that you live in is among your worst asset classes historically)), so really, the big question is can you get similar housing for the cost of 2/3 * (I+T) + Insurance? In my area? You can probably hear my laughter from wherever you are reading this.
Now there are some additional costs. Maintenance is another factor (HVAC's die, Roof's rot, painting needs to occur) but relative to my mortgage payment (and like a good saver I even have a special account for home maintenance that I automatically stuff money into every month (I need to do more but what I have it at is barely twice the cost of the insurance... which is 1/60th of my payment)) it is fairly low. Because I have a townhouse there is an association fee (we have a shared garage so there is some value from that on top of landscaping and snow removal) and there is always the hidden risk of an assessment in the future.

On a final note there will be a point in the far (15-20 year range) that this situation changes. As your Interest component decreases there may come a point where the mortgage slips into the "bad" debt category, where the net cost makes a standard deduction viable again, which removes the tax advantage from the mortgage. And by that point, based on my portfolio it may make sense to start piling on to the mortgage again. 

Friday, May 20, 2016

Weekly Weight (5/20)

263.1

A little bit of concern but it has been a weird week (Drill this past weekend, where I passed my annual PT test (18:07 2 mile run, 60 push-ups in 2 minutes, 55 sit-ups in 2 minutes) and height and weight, then off to Florida to "vacation" with the kids/wife/parents (I had all the intentions of running every day, hitting the gym, etc. but those plans did not survive the enemy, I only got one run in and no other workouts, other than a lot of walking). With a 2 week trend I am a little annoyed (but I am doing a partial fast day today to set me back on the right course).
  • Week 0
    • 260.9
  • Week 1
    • 257.8
  • Week 2 
    • 260.1
  • Week 3 (now)
    • 263.1

I got a new Fitbit HR (to replace my Dead Basis Peak) so I am getting used to that again.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Betterment

So in addition to Personal Capital the other investing tool (other than my legacy accounts at USAA, which I have been reducing to limit my capitol gains exposure and to lower my overall cost (which I figured out from Personal Capital's Fee Analyzer and Investment Checkup ) is Betterment (https://www.betterment.com/) or better yet betterment.com/invite/danielbuchholz (since that is a win-win link, you get the cool features of Betterment for a 6 month for free, so do I (for a month), not that their fees are bad). Betterment is one of several "Robo-Investors" that have little to no personal contact, using questionnaires to determine what the ideal risk is for the investor and then giving them the tools to execute a portfolio based on that risk profile.

So there are always going to be people out there that will tell you that any fee's are bad and to avoid them at all cost, putting the entire sum into market tracking ETF (the current main love of most PF people is Vanguard, with their low entry cost, low fee on the ETF's). But I think that there are a few features of Betterment that offer some value to everyone but the most motivated investors:

  • Tax Loss Harvesting:
  • Automatic Re-balancing
    • In addition to spreading your investment across multiple assets (to give you an acceptable level of diversification) they will also re-balance your portfolio if it strays significantly from your ideal ratio (if it hits more than a 3% aggregate difference). It will also invest any additional money you put in to bring the investment ratio back to your target. 
    • https://www.betterment.com/portfolio/
  • No transaction fee (but there is a cost)
    • While they do charge a baseline fee (currently .35% for 0-10k, .25% for 10k-100k, and .15 for any amount above 100k) any additional costs for the features above (and for putting new funds in or pulling them out) is rolled into that baseline fee.
    • https://www.betterment.com/pricing/
I think this Robo-Investor trend is pretty neat (I am a technologist after all) and it makes getting into investing a lot easier for the novices to journeyman level investors.

The one feature that is lacking and may cause me to defect to another Robo-investor is a lack lack of options for UGMA/UTMA (Uniform Gift/Transfer to Minors Act) to put my kids money in. I do use a 529 for my kids (my state plan allows for me to deduct from State taxes so that works for me) but outside of some initial large gifts to my kids that went into the 529, the rest goes into their personal account. But savings accounts are a joke so I have at least some of their money now as "sub" accounts on my Betterment account (another neat feature, you can create multiple investing goals, all with different target portfolios).

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Weekly Weight (5/12)

260.1

Some may freak out (ZOMG, the scale must always be lower than the previous one). But as a trend line it is still going down and I feel comfortable with my general fitness (still getting stronger, Deadlift (3 sets x 6 for all of these) 270, Squat 235, Bench Press 250 and faster on my runs).


  • Week 0
      • 260.9
  • Week 1
      • 257.8
  • Week 2 (now)
      • 260.1

Next week may be bad (and a day late) as I have Drill this weekend and then a quick family trip until Thursday (so I also don't really see a fast day until maybe Friday of next week). But the trick is to eat as right as possible and get as much physical activity as possible.

Friday, May 06, 2016

Weekly Weight (5/5)

For transparency, and to keep me motivated, I am going to toss in a weekly weight report. Thursday is a good day to do it since I probably have been eating fairly clean (before heading into the weekend that offers more temptations).

So thanks to some fast days (Tuesday and Thursdays... they are more partial fast days since it simply means that I pretty much have nothing but coffee (with some cream) and some fish oil, though I will toss in some protein shakes if I am working out (with a little BCAA )) I am happy to see the lowest weight in 4 years (basically since I got back from Afghanistan in January 2012 I was 245lb, and by May 2012 I was 265 with a long upward climb until my embarrassment point of April 2015 where I tipped the scales at 287.5).

Last week (we will call that week 0) :

  • 260.9

Thursday : (week 1)

  • 257.8

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

TSP

(side note, been reading a lot of personal finance blogs in the past year or so every so often I am going to hit items like that in the future)

I am not a financial advisor so take this with a grain of salt, this is just my observations.

As a federal employee (times 2 actually, since I am federal civilian and a Army National Guard Officer) I get the opportunity to invest in the federal Thrift Savings Plan (TSP). On my civilian side it is a solid deal (considering that it is in addition to a defined benefits plan, FERS, that while nice isn't as nice as all the other other government employee programs (for some (good) reason state and local plans are the ones that really seem to create a lot of the controversy, because they were underfunded by their organizations and are insanely generous)).

Some basics. First off, for any federal civilian employee under FERS, if you are not contributing 5% of your salary, you are leaving money on the table (there is an automatic 1% contribution, but to get the full matching you really need to do 5%, which gets the other 4% matching fees into your account, where it can start doing some work for you.

Now the biggest complaint against TSP is the lack of fund selection, which is a fair complaint, since there are only 5 basic options (2 of which are effectively bond funds). Some of these complaints come from before 2001, since back then there were only 3 funds, the 2 bond funds and a general stock fund. But the 3 other options should give you a comprehensive risk exposure across a number of asset classes.  They are:


  • C Fund - Mirrors the S&P 500. 
  • S Fund - Mirrors the Dow Jones U.S. Completion Total Stock Market Index, a broad market index made up of stocks of U.S. companies not included in the S&P 500 Index.
  • I Fund - Mirrors the MSCI EAFE (Europe, Australasia, Far East) Index.
  • G Fund - The one controversial part of TSP and the frequent focus of legislation. If they ever change it to non-favorable terms (right now they get a weighted average of 4+ year returns of the Treasury notes, which means we are getting long term rates on a short term asset, which has attracted the attention of the Congress-critters)  I know I will be engaged in a rebalancing in that event.
  • F Fund - Matches Barclays Capital U.S. Aggregate Bond Index, which is more variable than the G Fund but often has a higher return. Less stable but more like regular bond funds.
There are also some "L" Funds that build a basket of the above items and are centered around when you expect to retire, basically slowly shaping your investments to be more conservative options the closer that date gets.

So overall, while solid it doesn't sound like the best deal (beyond of course putting in that minimal 5% to make sure you aren't leaving money behind). But the kicker comes when you look at fees. As of 2015 (https://www.tsp.gov/InvestmentFunds/FundsOverview/expenseRatio.html) the average expense ratio is .029%, which is the lowest among all my assets (and because just a little over 71% of my retirement assets, 55% of my total assets, it drags down my average to .05% in annual fees).

When I get a little older (maybe when I hit 50, 55) I may have to do some analysis of whether, from a tax perspective, it makes sense to explore the Roth TSP option.

BTW, one interesting feature. You can effectively make a loan to yourself (https://www.tsp.gov/PlanParticipation/LoansAndWithdrawals/loans/index.htmlfor up to $50,000. Other than a $50 cost, the interest rate you get is the effective rate of the G Fund. But the more interesting part is that any interest you pay is put into your account (so basically the marginal cost is keeping that amount loaned at a lower rate than it could  earn in the other funds).  


Sunday, May 01, 2016

April "Reads"/Reads

Lots of driving for the Army leads to more "reading"of audio books:
  • Joe Ledger: Special Ops (Joe Ledger #5.5) by Jonathan Maberry
    • A great collection of short stories. The Joe Ledger world combines high tech, investigation, action and, yes, a little of the unexplained (in some ways this is the X-Files from operators perspective as opposed to a more passive special agent perspective). They fill in some of the backstories of specific books and/or characters. This was a excellent way to prepare for the release of the new book in the Joe Ledger series later this month. (5/5) 
  • Do Unto Others (Freehold: Ripple Creek #2) by Michael Z. Williamson
    • Bodyguards. You may ask yourself, what can be more boring that being a bodyguard. Well.. When you are the bodyguard for the only child (daughter) of the richest man in human space? Well, then things get complicated. Located in the Freehold universe (authoritarian Earth that embodies the nanny state, but also containing Freehold, libertarian paradise) this is the story of the Ripple Creek bodyguards (from the previous book, Better to beg Forgiveness) who have the difficult task of keeping this young woman alive. (4/5) 
  • The Dark Between the Stars (Saga of Shadows #1) by Kevin J. Anderson
    • Bringing back most of the surviving cast of the Saga of the Seven Suns, this book jumps 20 years into the future (so now the children of the main characters are involved as well). There is a new bad guy for the hero's to face, as well as some returning bad guys and some new allies. It will be interesting to see how the story continues to develop, as the scope of this story is pretty far reaching (which leads to some significant jumps in perspective). Overall a solid story. (3.5/5)
  • Chaos (A New World #1) by John O'Brien
    • It was an entertaining read. The world is going down due to a flue virus, and the vaccine turns out to be worse than the disease. My one big issue was that it seemed to easy for the main character, Jack. He flies an C-130, there just happens to be one with extra internal fuel tanks. The only person he encounters in the sky is his girlfriends brother? Yeah, I want to be this guys friend since he appears to be the luckiest guy alive (and of course his GF is one of the few survivors at the military base in Kuwait she is at). I will definitely read (listen to) the next book to see where this goes. (3/5)

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Net Worth (aka, I love Personal Capital)

Coming in a close second for the title of most boring post, everyone really should know their net worth.

I admit I was lazy up until 2ish years ago. We had plenty of money coming in and being invested, but I wasn't really paying attention to where it was and how it was being invested. I played around with Mint, but that was really focused on budgeting. Then I discovered Personal Capital. It pulled everything together and let me see in one picture where our money was and what it was doing (or not doing as was my case).

Their advisor tools, available for free, are great for you to peer into your investments. One thing that really hit me was the Investment Checkup tool, which shows the pretty impressive amount of fees (and also showed me how how over-invested we were in a variety things (man, was I overweight in the Tech arena)) from my Mutual Funds. This has motived me to do a serious rebalancing of investments (though my biggest one, the Thrift Savings Plan, doesn't offer a lot of options to rebalance. This is mitigated by the impressively low fees (0.02%)), pulling out of a lot of mutual funds (particularly important to me now is the fact that those big distributions at the end of every year? not the best thing from a tax perspective).  It also let us see the most effective way to remove some "bad" (aka, non-deductable. Realistically the only "good" debt is mortgage interest, but there are some exceptions depending on income level) debt (though then I set up a plan to replace that money that was allocated to immediately remove that debt).


BTW, we are also clients of Personal Capital's wealth management, so if you are interested in that check out this link: https://goo.gl/HcAzbi  That and I have been flirting with Robo-Investors (Betterment) Give this link a try betterment.com/invite/danielbuchholz

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Constant struggle


I am a big guy. Lately I have been having some success (over the past 6 months I have managed to shed 20+ pounds)...




So the picture on the left is depressing to me. I came back from Afghanistan nice and lean (245lbs, which is a good weight for me). Made for some pretty good wedding pictures, though even by that time I was inching back up.  But now through a combination of renewed commitment to working out, cutting back my soda consumption (and replacing it with coffee, which finally is palatable to me) less eating out (side effect of the budgets post) and a few things I have been trying (adding MSM to my diet, fish oil, less carbs, occasional (once or twice a week) fast (or partial fast) days, vinegar in water before every meal)) I have been able to slowly drag my ass back down to a more acceptable level. 

I like it and now if there are any trendable upticks (since the app I use, Withings, which is tied to my electronic scale will normalize the data set) I take strong action to get it back to normal. I am looking forward to start flirting with the 250 zone shortly (it shows up occasionally after a really good workout).

This post was somewhat inspired by buddy F, who has been tracking his efforts (our battles of the bulges) on his blog at: www.ahealthylife.me  I don't know about the 700 calorie a day thing though that he was doing for a while, that is crazy to me, but it did have some good effects on him.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Shows

It is ironic, given my site's name, that my consumption of "media" has taken a nosedive. I mostly blame it on the whole "being a responsible and caring parent" thing.
I mean, really, no one (I know there are exceptions) went to their grave going, "man, I wish I hadn't wasted so much time interacting with my children." BTW, this is my favorite recent picture... because, yes, that is the Medal of Honor hanging around my daughters neck (though she was probably more excited about the dog to her left). That is Army COL Crandall, MOH awardee (of "We were Soldiers" fame, he was the aviation guy who returned multiple times with supplies and to get the wounded)

But I still find some time to watch a few shows. Right now we seem to be in a new golden age for comic books, not just in the movies (everything from the Avengers to Superman seems to be doing well) but also on TV (and off TV, Netflix has been dropping some awesome stuff as well), which pretty much is taking up most of my viewing cycles. These are about the only shows that I am caught up on:

  • Arrow - because the world seems to love moody rich people with no super-powers kick butt. And well.... Felicity....
  • The Flash - much less moody and more bright, with bigger and more extreme bad guys.
  • Supergirl - still on the edge on this show, not quite caught up on
  • Walking Dead - smaller set and way more spoilers floating around
  • Fear the Walking Dead - even though I find myself rooting for the zombies against these guys
  • iZombie - pretty novel take on zombies and very different from other zombie shows
  • Jane the Virgin - what can I say, it is entertaining and I watch it with my wife (interestingly the only one on this list that didn't derive from a comic book)
  • some miscellaneous sitcoms (everything from 2 Broke Girls to Big Bang Theory)
Ironically since if I had to describe myself I would say that I was a Marvel Comics guy (vs a DC Comics guy) but overall the DC stuff has been producing a better/more watchable set of shows (I want to like Agents of SHIELD, but it doesn't have the same level of watchability that the DC set does.  Agent Carter is much more watchable (as well as the Netflix shows Daredevil and Jessica Jones) but is a much smaller commitment.

The only other thing I am really watching is a re-watch of Babylon 5, because I can have it on in the background and do other things while I go through the show. Somewhat dated but overall it held up well (JMS did a great job writing this show).

And of course I still make a pretty good dent in the reading pile (based on my other posts). 

Friday, April 22, 2016

Budgets

Aka, the most boring post I will make. But it really is important.

Sometimes it takes a shock to bring about change. A layoff and a new baby on the way can definitely shake one up. Luckily my wife is very organized and a hard worker, so she finally got a new job a month before the arrival of Sean.

But that still forced a re-evaluation of things. You need to make sure that money coming in isn't exceeded by money coming out. When you have 2 kids in daycare (at 16-17k per kid, the DC area costs are insanely high) lots of churn in the budget become important to analyze. Some things just plain old lose (eating out every day for lunch at 10-12 per day, per adult? That adds up quick when you look at it ($120 * 52 weeks = $6240)).  You can buy a lot of bread, lunch meats, and leftovers when you are talking about that much money.  As you narrow things down (there are lot of things you cannot directly control (child care, mortgage) and a lot you only have minor control on (electricity, water, food)) you can see if there are things can be either dropped or that you can get a better deal on (I was paying how much for web hosting?!).

The best side effect of a budget? It has helped both of our waistlines (we know women gain weight during pregnancy, but a little known psuedo-fact (because I said so) is that so do men). Collectively we have probably lost 40lbs+ in the past 6 months.

Friday, April 01, 2016

March "Reads"/Reads

Long books plus long runs seems to even's out my audiobook listening. 


Hell's Foundations Quiver (Safehold #8) by 

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  • Long book, long series. I think things are slowly coming to a head. Weber's villians, in this case Clinton, are always appropriately hatable that you feel sorry for the people on their team. Almost. David Weber is wordy but the sheer concept of this story keeps me coming back, the combination of "older" tech being aided by futuristic capabilities to help the good guys win really does make this a fun series to read. 4/5 (AB)
  • Disappointing. I have been a fan of Harry Turtledove for most of my life so I bought this on his name alone. And while the concept is interesting (The Yellowstone Supervolcano erupts!) it just doesn't feel like his other books. I get it, the idea is to abstract this massive, world changing event and put it up against a personal perspective of the people who are being affected. But this felt more like the disaster films I grew up on in the 80's and early 90's, right down to the corny characters. I don't think I can bring myself to get the next book of the series. I was bored. 2/5 (AB)
  • Good start to a series. Overall this book entertained (always the highest praise from me). The near future looks somewhat bright (at least there is star travel, though Earth itself is looking pretty grim). Following the story of someone from the modern equivalent of the projects (and on the dole) who earned the right to enlist, it is always interesting to me as someone who went through basic training in the USA to compare. Nothing too egregious leapt out at me and the progress of Andrew to first the local Army and then eventually to the Navy was entertaining (I like how when he showed up on his first ship the XO accuses him of being a PX Ranger (bought some awards at the PX that he didn't earn), though I suspect any real XO worth his salt wouldn't have given him the the chance). Overall I was excited to get started on the next book. 4/5 (AB)



  • If there is ever a book I have read that most clearly got started over a few drinks, this book is it. I imagine it went something like: "I bet you I can write a story where the nominal good guys wear Sigruden (the Lightning bolt of the SS)" "Hah, good luck with that"  And with that we have this book, which started as a short story and became this full length novel. Where the fricking remainder of the SS is rejuvenated to help Germany fight off the oncoming Posleen horde. Now I share some convictions with the author, Tom Kratman, a retired US Army Officer, so the way that certain parts of Germany are handled came off quite satisfying to me, but overall, like all the Posleen (Legacy of the Aldentia) world this is a grim world. Overall it was a solid addition to the the universe that was created by John Ringo. 4/5 (DB)

Lines of Departure (Frontlines #2) by 

  • Continuing a solid series. The storyline flashes forward 5 years to the re-enlistment of Andrew and his Girlfriend. The fight against the against the aliens is going not so well. Andrew has shifted from being a regular swabbie (after converting from being a regular grunt in the first book) to becoming a Combat Controller (basically a JTAC from my military experience. Still part of the space service but down in the mud coordinating air and space support). The best part of this was the humanizing of his relationship with Mother when he is down on leave, taking her out of the PRC and letting her experience some of the world around her). And after getting engaged to his girlfriend (and promising to be back in 6 months) he heads off to fight... not the aliens but the other part of humanity that has colonized deep space (Russian/China coalition). And then things get worse. Finally he is basically exiled (with a whole bunch of other people) onto some ice world.  And then things get worse again. 4/5 (AB)
Angles of Attack (Frontlines #3) by 
  • Surviving the trials of the last book, Andrew is now stuck out on the ice world. With a ragtag group of ships from both sides they finally start working together against the enemy menace. After going back to Earth-space, coming back to the ice world and then finally returning to Earth (and linking up with his fiancee) things of course take another bad turn. Looking forward to the next book to see where things go from there. (4/5) AB