Sunday, August 26, 2007

Financial Planning, the Fair, Lost in Hate and Rolling Into 50

Tammy and I met with a financial planner last week to get an idea for where we are in positioning for our pending retirement in six years. It's not cheap to have them do an assessment for us but failing to make the proper decisions now can be much more expensive in the long run. We met with Bridget for over two hours while she gathered all sorts of information about us. Not just the basic things you'd expect but a lot more including our philosophy about investing, saving, spending and how we prioritize our financial commitments. We'll meet again in a couple weeks and go over her recommendations for us.

We made it out to the State Fair on Friday. The traffic was gridlocked three miles from the fairgrounds but that's just all a part of the experience so you take it in stride. It was Rachel's 16th birthday and rather than have a bunch of friends over she told us early on that she'd be happy with a couple tickets to see the Goo Goo Dolls and Lifehouse at the fair with Grant. It was Grant's first concert and even though they had seats toward the back with a pole obstructing their view they still had a great time. Young love.

Tammy and I spent our time crisscrossing the fairgrounds checking out the stuff we normally check out. Of course we had to disagree with the ribbons given out for the different categories of art work submitted in the Fine Arts building. I don't think we're enlightened enough to understand why a clay tea strainer which looks like something a ten year old created should win a blue ribbon while next to it sits a beautiful etched piece of blown glass with not even an honorable mention. Repeat that a half dozen or more times and you get the idea.

We stopped by the WCCO studios where there were eight stationary bicycles set up to act as generators to help power the news program. When I started pedaling around 8:30pm they were only 4% on their way to having enough energy stored to power the 10:00pm news. My guess is they didn't make it. There were power meters on the bikes recording your output and the amount of watts stored. I had fun trying to make it look like I wasn't working very hard when actually I went anaerobic after 60 seconds. I had accumulated the necessary 500 watts in four minutes to earn a T-shirt but my quads felt like bricks. It's those random things you do at the fair which make it interesting and fun.

Our next stop took us in the direction of the Leinie Lodge. We had no idea who was playing but as we got closer I could hear the distinct voice of Dennis DeYoung, former lead singer for Styx. We'd seen his show a couple summers ago at the Taste of Minnesota and really enjoyed it. It didn't look like there were any seats left but Tammy found us a couple. It was so nice to get off our feet. I didn't think the show was as good as the last time we'd seen him. He's got a theatrical side and a rock side. I was hoping to see more of the rock side but what do you want for free? Here's a small bit of video I shot. Please excuse the audio as my digital camera sucks for sound. Not nearly as nice as my Sony Handycam.

It was a long day and we were spent by the time we got home but I can't remember when I've had more fun at the fair.

We're looking at adding a deck off the back of our home. We had a guy from Home Depot come by our house Saturday morning to give us an estimate. I always figured that a deck would be something I'd do myself but so far it hasn't happened. He had a couple of promotional offers which took $1000 off the price in addition to 12 months of no payments or interest. We signed an agreement but as soon as he left I got hold of Dan (who finished our basement) and asked him if he'd come out and give us a bid. He'll be by tomorrow. We have until Wednesday to cancel out of the contract with HD. I think we'll probably save some dollars aside and have Dan do the work for us next spring.

While waiting outside for the guy from Home Depot to arrive there was a plane circling overhead at what looked like the minimum altitude of 1000 ft. I waved to him and he rocked his wings to acknowledge me. I got my camera figuring it was a neighbor and that I could email him the photo. I've yet to learn who was buzzing the neighborhood but the tail number did give me a thought. The Powerball was up to 200+ million and I figured I should play some variation on the plane's number. One dollar is a pretty cheap price to pay for a dream. Okay, three dollars. So much for my thought.

I heard from a friend (possibly former) this past week via email. Mark (not his real name) used to own a shop in Minneapolis where for years I bought supplies. We disagreed about nearly everything political but that was never an issue until he made it one three years ago. He's your typical Bush hater. He'd email me the usual stuff the left puts out about what it means to be a Republican. Some nasty stuff painted with a very broad brush. I always wondered how it was that a homophobic Republican such as myself could have several gay friends including Mark. It was disappointing to watch him morph into this person who could talk of nothing other than his hatred for Bush or anything conservative. He used to be a happy person but by the time we stopped communicating there wasn't much happy about him.

Anyway, Mark sent me an email last week about the 35W bridge collapse and how I need to email my senator and tell him blah blah blah blah. I wrote Mark back and told him it was nice to hear from him again even if it was just to rail on about city hall and I asked him how he was doing. You would think he would avoid the negative stuff which caused the rift between us but he picked up right where we'd left it. Some snippets from his email...

So now every day is my own to do whatever I like. Our house was paid off last year and we are debt free. I have not done any stained glass work since closing the shop over a year and a half ago. Don't really miss it either. The gardens here are great. We water quite a bit and with global warming so out of control I suppose things will only get worse. Have you noticed that the trees have started to die here in MN? Look for big old Cottonwoods that have died this year. I have noticed that several Birch trees and Pines have also not survived the summer. Perhaps we are entering the beginning of the Apocalypse? The death of the trees is one of the signs of the end of times in the Bible.

So that is what I have been busy with. Perhaps I will look for a job when the economy turns around? With the stock market crashing every few days and the housing market in the toilet, who knows when things will turn. You know things are bad when mortgage companies are filing for bankruptcy. Oh well, with the start of the Apocalypse, I may not have to worry about every going back to work. I kind of like this having every day off thing.

It's difficult to say. Maybe he was saying all this in jest but I don't think so. I think he's still stuck in the hate Bush mode from hanging around too many like minded people and visiting too many of the hate Bush websites. Not that I'm a Bush lover...I'm not. If you could only see what his administration is doing to the FAA I work for. But such is politics.

I was hoping to get out and do a long ride on my birthday yesterday but that didn't happen...not with the guy from Home Depot coming out in the morning and a lawn to be mowed. But I was able to get away for a couple hours late in the afternoon. It was a nice ride and I took some time to contemplate 50 years on this earth and how thankful I am for my my health, family and my life. I pulled over to the side of the road at 7:05 (50 years to the minute from when I was born or so I thought) to call my mom and leave a message for her to thank her for giving me life.

When I got home from my ride Tammy had a message for me from my mom. I was 31 minutes early in my phone call to her. I was actually born at 7:36pm at Mt. Carmel Mercy Hospital in Farmington Hills, MI. The doctor who delivered me was Joseph Watts. I weighed 7lbs 14oz and was 19.5".

I don't know how 50 years is supposed to feel but I would never have guessed it would go by this quickly.

An update on the We Power stationary cycling event at the fair...

(WCCO) With the effort of many fairgoers, WCCO-TV was able to use pedal power to broadcast our 'We Power' newscasts.

The numbers we're added up Tuesday -- 3,710 people biked -- many more than were expected. WCCO-TV had planned on powering three newscasts, but fairgoers made enough energy for a little more than four.

I was very surprised at the number of people who wanted to come out and do it," said WCCO General Manager Susan Adams Loyd.

Most people earned a t-shirt and one woman biked enough to earn 13!

The speed record was 4 minutes, but the award for heart may have gone somewhere else.

One woman was bound and determined to get her t-shirt and she was on the bike for 90 minutes," said WCCO engineer Mike Dorschner.

Dozens of WCCO employees worked for five weeks to plan 'We Power.' There were a few times Dorschner was afraid it might not work, but it went off without a hitch.

"We powered essentially everything out there that was involved with the newscast. We powered everything in the truck, the video switcher, the audio board, all of the lights on the stage, the monitors, the sound systems, the cameras," Dorschner said.

In the moments leading up to the first ever human powered newscast, WCCO anchor Don Shelby said he's never been more excited.

"This is the perfect, perfect example of how you can use alternative energy to do something you never thought you could do before," he said.

In total, almost 27 kilowatt-hours of energy was made -- enough to power an average home for one day.

"I'd like to think that we were creating history here in the sense that, yes, we tried something that's innovative and also challenges people about how they consume energy and how to provide alternative means of energy in the future," said Loyd.

The record time was 4 minutes...hmmm...I wonder if that could've been me?

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