Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Windows Media Center Where Have You Been All My Life?

As I sit here typing, we are watching "The Office" from two weeks ago. Not such a big deal, really. We've had a DVR for the last five years, and also it's not last week's episode.

However, it is pretty great considering that in the same menu we can listen to Pandora, browse through Netflix, play everything we've recorded from over-the-air HD, and browse through whatever movies are on our external hardrive. That's right-we are networked!

Thus we are eliminating DirecTV from our lives. Yes this means no T.V. in our bedroom, but we've got a fix in mind for that. We'll network our xBox 360 and be able to access everything that way! I LOVE TECHNOLOGY! I LOVE BEING MARRIED TO A TECHNOLOGICAL GENIUS!

It cost us about $230 to get this up and running. We had an extra computer, but it needed a better video card, so we upgraded that. We had to buy an HD antenna. And we needed to get a T.V. tuner. But considering that we've eliminated $80 from our monthly budget, I think the initial cost is worth it.

However, the only downside, and it's a minor one, is that we don't have the Disney Channel or Nick Jr. anymore. But we get PBS in HD and I am recording a few of their better shows (Word World, Sid the Science Kid, & Super Why) for the kids. And they love them. They have only asked for Disney once. We will miss Phineas and Ferb, but we can buy the episodes from iTunes, and then play them on our T.V.! Seriously, I am loving this.

Now to be fair we have two systems running: Boxee, which has a Hulu plug-in and Pandora. It's a great interface for those. Windows Media Center doesn't have a Hulu plug-in, and the Pandora is just average. So with Boxee we get a great interface and while the music is playing it's got a great graphic. Netflix has a plug-in for both WMC and Boxee.

We also subscribed to Netflix for $8 a month. Well worth it in my opinion. We get unlimited streaming and one video a week. The unlimited streaming is invaluable. I watched "Julie and Julia" today and the girls watched a Veggie Tales movie and also "Bolt". Yeah, I know, we watch a lot. But it's new so it's fun. Don't judge me! :)

And if you or someone you know is interested, yes, Tech Monkeys will build and install a Windows Media Center. Let me know if you're interested and we'll talk turkey! :)

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Shopping With My Children

Today I went to Fry's with my kids. Yes, all of them. Which I didn't think that three was that many, but apparently three warrants a "My! You have your hands full!" from just about every senior citizen there.

And today was not the first time. I have experienced the "My!" a bunch of times. I have finally developed my response. I smile and say, "Yes. I wouldn't have it any other way!" And move on.

What I want to say is, "Come on. When you were raising children, three was on the small end of progeny. How many kids did you have at 30? I bet there were times that you had to shop with all them, huh? Have you really forgotten what it's like to lug your children around during the heat of the day to get something for dinner? Do you really need to comment on mine?"

And my kids are at least kind-of behaved. So, there.

Monday, March 29, 2010

My Problems With The Healthcare Takeover

I have some major issues and concerns with this so-called Healthcare Legislation. There are too many to articulate in one post, however. So, I'm going to spend the next several posts detailing my thoughts.

My first issue with this legislative act is that it was done behind closed doors with almost no knowledge of exactly what is in the final bill. I have never seen (nor have any knowledge of) such blatant disregard for the people's will. The people overwhelmingly didn't want this. And then to make deals for votes, it's called earmark spending and bribes, which if you'll remember Obama campaigned on stopping.

We don't know everything in this bill. And they rushed it through on a Sunday night so we wouldn't find out! We're still finding crap, and it passed a week ago. (I told you I was having a hard time articulating...). Truly, the American people were swindled last week when our representatives voted on this bill.

Honestly, if the debate process had been allowed to go on, and still the representatives voted on it, I would respect it. Elections have consequences. But Pelosi railroaded this through. And we'll be paying for it from here to eternity.

A tie for my biggest issue with this bill is the lies the Democrat party told to attempt to convince us Americans to get behind this bill. This bill is not revenue neutral. It will put us in irreversible debt. This bill will restrict people's access to medical care. It has to! There is not an unlimited supply of doctors, medicines, hospitals, etc. And once the government forces the doctors to accept even less money (Medicare currently pays 33% of all charges-it's going down to 21%!), doctors won't even want to practice! Who would? They'll have even less say about treatments for far less money.

Furthermore, it is despicable how the Liberals have demonized the insurance companies and doctors. They are no more the enemy than your grocery store. They sell a product, and people pay for it. If government would get out of the way, the market forces would drive down costs naturally, not an imposed ceiling (i.e. rent-control in New York City).

Why should doctors stay in business? Why should they accept Medicare? I predict there will be a mass exodus from the medical field in about 5 years, when most insurance companies will be out of business because of the excessive coverages mandated.

There are just a few things that would drastically remake the health insurance business and protect everyone.
1. Eliminate state mandates for coverage. If you don't want to pay for prostate coverage, you don't have to. Like on car insurance whether you have rental car coverage.
2. Allow companies to compete across state lines.
3. Impose a "Loser Pays" system in all tort cases. (This will drive costs down.)
4. The only mandate the federal government should impose is a protection for pre-existing conditions.

That's how I would have done it. And the only people who are pro-market in this fight are the Republicans.


I just wanted you to know that I have a lot to say, but can't find the words to articulate my thoughts. I can barely create a coherent thought let alone talk about it...

Just wanted to let you know.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Fun(?) With Mayo

This totally happened this weekend to someone I know. Let's call her "Susie". (Not Suze; Susie!)

This weekend "Susie's" husband had a weekend free and they weren't traveling anywhere, so they had a cleaning day. After a good house cleaning, "Susie" thought it would be nice to give herself a little homemade spa treatment. This included a nice bubble bath, a pedicure, and at the last minute, a deep conditioning hair treatment. She called out to wonderful hubby, "Could you bring me a half-cup of mayo?" as she was already in the tub. (Because she's always reading in magazines that you can do all these sort of homemade hair treatments, and also she was inspired by this post...)

Wonderful hubby said, "Okay, but are you sure?"

He was right to be hesitant.

"Susie" washed her hair, then gooped on the mayo. She let it sit in her hair until she was done with her bath, like 20 minutes, and then she rinsed it.

Unfortunately, her hair was kind of tangly, so she of course put in leave-in conditioner to help comb it out. And since she was going on a date night with her wonderful hubby, she put in some of that shine stuff that helps with frizz. And then furthermore, she put in mousse, because "Susie" has very fine hair and needs all the body she can get.

Let's just say that what resulted was better suited for a grease monkey. Or someone who may or may not wash her hair regularly.

And since there was so much product in "Susie's" hair all that was left to do was put it into a pony tail, which she thought would look better on the side of her head. So, yeah, "Susie" went to church with a side pony of greasy hair. For the date she just put it back to a regular pony.

It was like the bad hair day to beat all bad hair days.

I am happy to report, however that "Susie's" hair has recovered and now it looks very nice and not dry.

If you were to try this I would advise putting the mayo in and then washing it with shampoo. Or, just stick with baking soda. That seems to work a lot better.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Obedience vs. Being Good

This week we read through 1 John. I would summarize it as the Assurance of Salvation book. How can we know we're saved? How can we be sure our salvation is certain? I have just finished listening to Chuck Swindoll's sermon series on the same book, so I was excited to study it through BSF as well.

To begin, the early Christian church was becoming inundated with false teachings which taught that because there is no sin in God, eventually true Christ followers become immune to sin and do not sin any longer. John wrote this book to refute that teaching.

Although we are Christ followers, we are still sinners and desperate for Christ's atonement. And we must never forget it. There is nothing we can do to earn the grace which God has given so freely through His son Jesus. Furthermore, to claim to be without sin is to deny Christ. Without sin, we don't need Jesus. Do you see?

This is so incredibly true today. There is no amount of good works that get us into Heaven. There is no secret way to obtaining salvation. There is no transcendental pathway to God. The only way is through Jesus Christ.

And we can know we are followers of Christ by our obedience to Him. We must love others in word and deed, and we must obey Jesus' teachings. Good works look like obedience, but they are not obedience necessarily. Obedience is soul-deep; good works are shallow.

This is definitely one area where I seem to struggle. I want to obey, and good works come through that. But I get sucked in by pride in what I've accomplished. I think that's where I fall.

How does one do good by obeying God and not stumble with pride in one's actions? It seems to me that I must acknowledge that no good comes from me, it is Christ's work through me. Just as God is the source of all love, he is also the source of all goodness. Nothing in me is good. Only what Christ does through me is good. So, how can I take credit for any of it?

The assurance of my salvation is in the total acknowledgment that without Christ I am dead. It is a paradox. It is only when I admit I am nothing and have nothing good in me is when I am sure that God loves me and has given me his Son for my sin.

Monday, March 1, 2010

What Happened in Vegas...

Will be posted on my blog!

So, Erik and I went to Las Vegas with his sister and her husband for the weekend. It was awesome. We had such a great time and I'm a little blue today that it's over. But anyways, here's a recap for my own memory and reading enjoyment for you.

We left Friday at 8:30 am. Our first stop (after Starbucks, of course!) was the Hacienda Casino on the other side of the Hoover Dam. (On a side note, that dam is AMAZING! I'm always so amazed at what those people did, how dangerous it must have been. It's an architectural and engineering marvel if you ask me. No, I've never taken the tour. But I have seen Vegas Vacation so I feel like I've been inside...) So, anyways, we stopped at the Hacienda Casino where Erik and Craig (my Brother-in-law) love to play $1 craps. You see, it's like the only place in all of NV that has $1 craps, and they like to play craps. So, we stopped. And they played.

We got back on the road and checked into our hotel. We stayed at the Planet Hollywood Towers. It used to be the Aladdin. I have stayed at the Aladdin, but it was sold to P.H. back in 2006. The hotel is super chic. We had a suite with a huge 100 inch projection screen, a jacuzzi tub, sleeping for 4, full kitchen. Just super swanky and cool.

After checking in we got ready and hit the casino. For the first time I decided I would play black jack. I've always shyed away from it because I don't like to lose money. But this time I thought I would relax about the money and look at it as purely entertainment. And you know what, it was a ton of fun. Of course I'm terrible at adding numbers up, so I was constantly asking the dealer "what is that?". Which is awesome. I felt so smart... And you know, that first night I came out ahead. In fact for the whole weekend my playing came out ahead.

Well, we had a ton of fun that first night. Ate a fantastic sandwich at The Earl of Sandwich. Discovered a new drink, a Tokyo Tea, which is a Long Island Iced Tea, only instead of a shot of Coke it has Midori. (I mean why not add more alcohol to that drink?) I probably had a couple too many of those, but they're free while your gambling so it's really really hard to turn down...

The next morning we hit the buffet for breakfast. But after the Tokyo Teas I was really only interested in coffee...

The biggest thing we did was on Saturday night. We ate at Craftsteak at the MGM Grand. It was by far the best meal I've ever had. I am going to go into great detail because I want to remember it. I wish, oh I wish, I could eat there all the time. The price was hefty, but seriously worth it in my opinion. How often do you get to go to Vegas? And eat at a serious restaurant?

We decided to go with the Chef's Dinner, which was a three course sampling of most things on the menu. (The menu changes daily, FYI, according to what they have and what's in season.) We had a frisee salad with a warm blue-cheese and bacon dressing. It was divine. Little melty bits of blue cheese with thick-chunks of bacon over frisee. And we had a watercress salad with little cucumbers and a lemon vinagrette and we had a Cesar salad with fresh anchovies. It was probably the first time I've had a fresh anchovy, and it was awesome. I loved it.

For the second course, we had four (FOUR) different steaks. A huge T-bone, a huge rib-eye, a dry aged steak, and the tenderest flank steak I've ever dreamed of. We had so much left over it was just a shame. I hated to see it leave our table. I kind of wanted to take it all with me to eat between black jack hands...

For the third course we were served five or six (I can't even remember!) desserts. My favorite was a monkey bread pastry with pecans and caramel drizzled served with a banana ice cream. YUMMMMM! And then there was the four different sorbets; Apple Cider, Orange Basil, Blueberry, and Grapefruit. My mouth is watering just remembering it. We also had a bittersweet chocolate lava cake, a lemon verbena cheesecake, and an apple thing, with shaved apple slices over a flaky pastry. Who even knows what it was called? It was flippin awesome.

I had a glass of a Parallel Cabernet Sauvignon which paired with the steak beautifully. I did not get to meet Tom Colicchio, but we did have three waiters and we felt incredibly blessed to be there and enjoy such an experience. Even the bathroom was amazing! :)

From there we went over to New York New York and happened to get in at a black jack table right when it opened. We had the BEST dealer ever. His name was Robert and he helped us have an amazing time. I'm telling you, with a great dealer you hardly even notice how much you win or lose. You feel good the whole time. He was a treat and I'm so glad we had the good fortune to play with him. I'm not kidding, we sat there for 6 and a half hours laughing and playing and I didn't even notice that we ended up with five more dollars than we went in with. Craig and Ash made out significantly better. But most importantly we had a grand time.

So, we came home yesterday and I went to bed at 7:30 and slept until 5:30. It was great!

Now it's off to my Bible study homework. God's timing is so great; we're reading 1 John. The first chapters about sinning and being in the light... Sheesh, Lord Jesus. We're good, right?