Bill's Blog

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Annual Credit Report

September 1st marks the start of the open credit reporting effort nationwide (other regions were opened up throughout the past nine months and the Northeast was opened today). Everyone is entitled to one free credit report a year from each of the three national reporting agencies (Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian). As long as you don't sign up for any of the extras (monthly reports, credit score, etc) the reports are completely free and provide consumers with the chance to review the information these companies have on record and dispute any discrepancies.

Visit Annual Credit Report to get started.

You can also order the reports by phone at 1-–877-322-8228.

For more information visit the FTC page relating to Free Credit Reports.

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Vista, Freeze Dried

A new feature in the upcoming version of the Windows Operating System will be Freeze Dry and will "maintain application states and unsaved documents even when patches are automatically applied and PCs are rebooted" (ZDNet Australia via Ed Bott). This will allow automatic patch roll-out to go much more smoothly and be more widely accepted.

It is good that MS is including this functionality in Vista - I wonder if they'll roll out an update for XP that would include this feature. That will probably depend on how exactly they implemented Freeze Dry and how much coding it would take to get it to work under XP's framework.

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Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Bush's New Reason For War??

I love all the blog's quoting Bush's new reason for going to war - you guessed it - for the Oil (Ex. 1, Ex. 2, Ex. 3, Ex. 4). Most of those examples and the others I've read, point to different articles all referencing the same AP wire story (via written regarding a speech Bush gave on August 30th at the Naval Air Station North Island in Coronado, California. The quote everyone is running with is:

If Zarqawi and bin Laden gain control of Iraq, they would create a new training ground for future terrorist attacks; they'd seize oil fields to fund their ambitions; they could recruit more terrorists by claiming an historic victory over the United States and our coalition.

Now, I'll admit that the President did mention protecting Iraqi oil fields from terrorists, but he's not saying that is the reason we went to war in Iraq.

Read a larger quote from the speech:

After September the 11th, 2001, we've taught the terrorists a very different lesson. America will not run in defeat, and we will not forget our responsibilities. We have brought down two murderous regimes. We're driving terrorists from their sanctuaries. We're putting the terrorists on the run all across the world.

The terrorists and insurgents are now waging a brutal campaign of terror in Iraq. They kill innocent men and women and children in the hopes of intimidating Iraqis. They're trying to scare them away from democracy. They're trying to break the will of the American people. Their goal is to turn Iraq into a failed state like Afghanistan was under the Taliban. If Zarqawi and bin Laden gain control of Iraq, they would create a new training ground for future terrorist attacks; they'd seize oil fields to fund their ambitions; they could recruit more terrorists by claiming an historic victory over the United States and our coalition.

Our goal is clear, as well. We will defeat the terrorists. We'll build a free Iraq that will fight terrorists instead of giving them aid and sanctuary. A free Iraq will offer people throughout the Middle East a hopeful alternative to the hateful ideology being peddled by the terrorists. A free Iraq will show that when America gives its word, America keeps its word.

That choice -- this is the choice we face: Do we return to the pre-September the 11th mind-set of isolation and retreat, or do we continue to take the fight to the enemy and support our allies in the broader Middle East? I've made my decision: We will stay on the offensive. We will stand with the people of Iraq, and we will prevail.
(Emphasis mine)

Bush is not outlining reasons for going to war. He's outlining the current situation and the reasons for staying the course and completing the mission. Why American's must resolve to continue this fight. Why we must not back down in the face of these terrorists. Why we must unite together take the fight to the terrorists.

He does not say we are there for the oil or even that we went for the oil. He says that if we fail, and if the terrorists take over Iraq, they will use it as a breeding ground for more terrorists. It will become a safe haven much like Afghanistan used to be. Terror Training camps will be established there and the leaders of the terrorist organizations will fund their terror campaigns using the oil fields of Iraq.

Click here to see the entire text of the speech.

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62nd Annual Ludwig's Corner Horse Show

Looking for something to do this Labor Day weekend? Why not check out the 62nd Annual Ludwig's Corner Horse Show and Country Fair? Besides the Horse Show, which runs non-stop from 8am to 6pm Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, there are many other activities going on. Saturday is family fun day, with entertainment, rides, and games for the kids. Monday features the Ludwig's Corner Car Show.

It will be a fun time for everyone.

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Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Civil War Ghosts

One of the vendors at the Shippensburg Corn Festival was Tim Johnson of Living Images. He specializes in Civil War battlefield photographs that have been double-exposed to show 'ghost' images. There really isn't a good way to describe what they look like, you have to just see it.

The above print is the one I liked the best. It is called "Time to Heal" and depicts a Union and a Confederate soldier coming together on the battlefield of Gettysburg where Pickett's Charge came to an end. These photos are amazing. Pretty soon this beauty will be hanging in my office.

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Weird Bugs

Another neat thing about visiting my parents out in the country is the myriad of wild life we get to see. We don't live in the big city here, but compared to them, we might as well. Their home is surrounded by corn fields and there are cows within earshot. Every trip out, includes seeing something neat, whether it's dear eating the corn, freshly hatched birds, or cool insects.

A few weeks ago, we were out visiting and my brother was outside with the dogs. He came in and said you guys have to come see this. We all followed him outside and he showed us this little guy:

With the help of the good people at What's That Bug? we were able to determine that this little guy (not really all that little) was a newly metamorphosed Manduca sexta (Tobacco Sphinx or Tomato Hornworm) and its wings were not fully developed yet. Had it lived, the wings would have grown larger (as big as 5" span). We probably won't be seeing many more of them on future visits as my parents have begun spraying their tomato garden to ward against the hornworm.

This past weekend while we were out visiting, we came across a couple of interesting spiders. I didn't have the camera, but I was able to find a picture online of the same species. They are very interesting colored, black with very bright yellow striping.

Golden Orb Weaver

What was more interesting than the looks was the behavior. I wanted to see how they moved around and observe them on motion, so I grabbed a twig and gently nudged the larger of the two. It moved a little, mainly just to center itself on the web and then began to shake the web back and form. It seemed to do this any time it was agitated and only the larger of the two spiders did it. We figured it was some sort of posturing to ward off any attackers or something. I found out the spiders were Golden Orb Weavers (Argiope aurantia). The behavior of shaking the web is a mechanism for warding of predators. The shaking makes the silk of the web appear white instead of transparent and this moving object servers to scare away predators. Very fascinating.

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Corn Festival

This past weekend, the family loaded up and traveled out to visit my parents in central PA. It was a good trip and we had a lot of fun. On Saturday, Kris' parents came out and we all headed to Shippensburg for the annual Corn Festival there. The festival, in its 25th year, transforms Main Street "into a huge street fair for the day". We had a great time checking out the vendor booths, snacking on great food (especially the corn!), and enjoying some live entertainment.

The kids liked the entertainment. There was a walking scarecrow roaming the fair who had plenty of 'corn'y sayings he repeated as he mingled with onlookers. There was also a banjo player roaming. He noticed the kids and got down on one knee and strummed out a little tune. David was mesmerized by how fast his fingers were moving. There was other entertainment, including a band, a country line dance area, and a few singers.

Kris' parents met at Shippensburg University, so going back to 'Ship' was an eye-opener. They kept pointing at buildings and saying, "that didn't used to be there" or "didn't that bank used to be a theatre". It was fun just listening to them reminisce about their college town.

The weather held up just long enough and it only drizzled for the last half-hour we were there. This is remarkable improvement over the weather the last time we were there. There was heavy downpour that year and we spent a good twenty minutes huddled in one of the vendor booths while standing in 5 inches of rushing water. The rain also helped to keep the temperature down. So, I guess we couldn't have asked for more.

I forgot my camera, so I didn't get any good pictures. I was thinking all day on Friday that I needed to remember to grab the camera, but no such luck. It wasn't till we were already at my parents that I remembered the camera left on my computer desk.

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I Have the Back of a Sixty Year Old

The only problem with that is I am in my mid-twenties. Not good - I know.

A year and a half ago, I was up visiting my brother at college (PSU) for the weekend. We had a great time that weekend, but we also did a fair amount of walking - much more than I would normally. My lower back was hurting me more and more as the weekend progressed, but I chalked it up to the eventful weekend (I've had on and off back pain for years). On the way to fetch my car we trekked from his off-campus apartment to the public (on weekends) lots near the dorms. This included a large hill. About 1/2 up the hill, I noticed the pain in my back getting worse, then the numbness started in my toes. I made it to the top, but told my brother I needed to sit down for a few minutes. After about 10 minutes sitting, I felt fine again. We continued to my car and when no more symptoms occurred for a couple weeks, I didn't think anything of it.

Last summer, it happened to me again. And then it happened a few times over the winter. By this past spring, it was happening anytime I stood or walked for more than 20 minutes. I decided to go check with the doctor. The doctor indicated it could be a number of things, so she ordered blood work, x-rays, and physical therapy, along with samples of muscle relaxers. I tried the muscle relaxers and they didn't help - unless putting me to sleep counts. The blood work came back clean. The x-rays showed a "lessening of the vertebral spacing", which didn't clue me in much. I did the physical therapy, but that just seemed to make it worse. When I went for my follow-up with the doctor, she decided to order an MRI and send me to a specialist.

I went to the imaging clinic early one morning before work and had the MRI done. On my way back to work, it occurred to me that I had not searched about my back problems online. I spent some time that evening looking through WebMD and other medical sites. My symptoms seemed to match up with Spinal Stenosis (which is where the spinal canal narrows and pinches the spinal cord/nerves). After a few days I get the call from the doctor that the report is back on the MRI and guess what...the diagnosis is Spinal Stenosis. She said to keep the appointment with the specialist (three weeks later) and go from there.

I went to see the specialist and one of the first things he said while looking at the MRI images was "Your back is fascinating". That isn't exactly what you want to hear coming from anyone in the healthcare system describing your condition (I'd much rather be boring and easily corrected). He told me that Spinal Stenosis most often occurs in people 65 or older. We scheduled an appointment for a cortisone injection. The injection went well and it helped for a few days. Since the cortisone is a steroid, one dose is broken out into three separate injections. Yesterday, I received the second injection and hopefully within a few days, the resulting stiffness will subside (again the doctor told me I have the back of a man 50 years my senior). By next week we should know whether this injection will have any lasting effects. If the symptoms return as bad as they were, then a third shot is pointless (the three injections are supposed to last for a year) and we'll have to talk about other options.

Now it's a waiting game.

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I am a big fan of J.J. Abrams' Lost (ABC Wed. 9pm). The first season was amazing and ABC has started running trailers during primetime for the second season. I think I've seen three or four different promos and they are all good. One I haven't seen on TV can be found at Oceanic-Air.

Getting to the trailer is a bit tricky. In keeping with the theme of Lost, Oceanic-Air is a website for the airline they were traveling on. If you visit the site, note the passenger numbers on the main page (ie. number of infants, adults, etc). Click on 'Find'. After the seat chart loads, look below each row and click (in order) the row numbers corresponding to the passenger numbers. When you click on the last number, the seating chart will disappear and the trailer will begin playing. It's worth the effort to get to. Leaves many possibilities for the upcoming season.

Season 2 begins September 21st and the Season 1 DVD set will be out September 6th.

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First Day of Kindergarten

Abby's First day of Kindergarten went off with out a hitch. Here's my girl: