Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Taxes

According to this article, America has one of the lowest overall tax burdens in the world. I'm not sure about how these numbers are figured out though, as I really don't see how they calculate that being married and having two kids drops you from 29% to 11% overall tax burden.

Now, check how your state ranks in per-capita taxation. We apparently made a killing here by moving from California, ranked #9 with $2,724.31 paid by the average person each year, to Texas, ranked 49th with $1,434.16 in average taxation.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Brownouts are stalking us!

I thought moving out of California would mean no more brownouts. Wrong! Apparently hitting 101 degrees in the middle of April can wreak havoc with a state's power grid. April is normally a month where they schedule to have some generators offline for maintenance, since the weather should be quite temperate, so this hellish heat just overwhelmed capacity. The previous all-time high for April in Texas was in the mid-nineties and was set in 1925. I'm really glad I could be here to see that record obliterated.

The Good News: 1) It didn't really seem THAT hot to me - maybe I'm getting used to Texas? Maybe being thinner helps? 2) The high temp is supposed to be in the seventies starting tomorrow. Strange weather. The Bad News: If it's getting this hot in April, what will August be like?

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The Rabbit is back!

As someone who learned to drive on a 1981 diesel VW Rabbit, similar to the one at left with the exception that ours was white, I am proud to announce that VW is bringing back the Rabbit! For those who thought my old Corolla didn't have much power, that was nothing compared to the lack of prowess the Rabbit, named Wally by my sister, displayed at going up hills, etc. But for its time, it got incredible gas mileage, 40-something mpg, and it kept going forever. I think ours finally hit the graveyard at 240,000 miles. VWs today are a shadow of their former greatness.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Little Rock trip

We spent Friday through Monday in Little Rock, Arkansas. I had planned on the trip being a surprise to my wife, which it was until just as we were starting out when a friend called to see if I wanted to go to lunch and I said, "I can't, we're on our way to Little Rock", not thinking about my wife being right next to me. Either way, it would only have been another hour or so before it would have been obvious where we were headed. Since she already knew we weren't going to go more than a few hours drive, going northeast from our house doesn't lead to that many places in that time. Anyway, Arkansas was actually pretty, certainly much moreso than Dallas. We even got to see some green, and a lot of trees. Overall I would say the Little Rock area has a lot of potential for growth, though currently it is a little bit redneck for me. We both liked the smaller town size. You could travel anywhere around the area in 20 minutes max, quite a contrast from the two hour journeys across the metroplex we are now more accustomed to. Which reminds me, there was NO traffic in Little Rock, ever. It was glorious. We actually rolled into Little Rock, after stopping for dinner at Cracker Barrel (my wife's favorite restaurant), around 5 PM on Friday, when you would expect the highway to be packed. Not only did we never slow down, the highway wasn't even crowded! Amazing. We then rolled into our hotel, which was actually a bed and breakfast place near downtown Little Rock. This did not thrill my wife, who apparently had been expecting a fancy hotel. It turned out well though, with the big drawback being just the lack of a real shower. I guess you are supposed to take relaxing baths in the jacuzzi tub while you're there, but that really isn't our thing so we ended up taking half showers from the flexible shower head. Naturally my favorite part was the homecooked breakfast served every morning. As you eat this meal with the other guests, it also afforded us the opportunity to meet several different interesting people, including a family from California and two women traveling from Lafayette, Indiana on their way to meet up with their husbands somewhere. This also demonstrated that my wife will as of yet not identify herself as being "from Texas". She now states it as, "I live in Dallas, but I'm from California." I find this humorous, as I did the same thing for a long time in California - "I live in Sacramento, but I'm NOT from California".
On to what we did while we were there. We just took it easy at the B&B Friday night, then did some serious hiking at Pinnacle Mountain on Saturday. That's the pic above; we have several of our own that we took, but I haven't downloaded them off the camera yet, so that I just grabbed off some website. It wasn't a very tall mountain at all, but the last part of it was a steep climb over a bunch of rocks, so we got a good workout in. After we climbed back down, we walked around part of the base and back, giving us about a five mile hike in total. Thankfully we managed to sneak the hike in between bouts of rain. We headed home and got cleaned up and met up with my cousin, who got stationed in Little Rock two weeks earlier. On our way to dinner, we saw signs for the Old Mill, which I had seen in my web searches for stuff to do, so we took a quick detour to check it out. It turned out to be a very nice area, with tons of plants and flowers. In fact, there was a wedding party there taking pictures when we arrived. I'll post some pics from there as well, upon downloading. We then proceeded on to Bosco's, where we celebrated my wife's birthday and then over to a sports bar across the street to hang out a little more and watch the Final Four. We came home reeking of smoke from that, but a good time was had by all.
Sunday we slept in a little and then went to check out some museums. We ruled out seeing the Clinton Presidential Library, because we didn't want pay $7 each to see stuff about Clinton. We started to check out the Arkansas Museum of Discovery, which had gotten fairly high reviews online. I could tell my wife wasn't that excited about it though, and then we walked through the door and it smelled funny, so we bailed on that too. Another $7 each saved! We then proceeded down the street to the Old State House Museum. This was a very impressive museum for the price of admission: free! Seriously, it was very high quality, but it only made me realize how Arkansas has been the site of virtually nothing important to our nation's history. Sure, they participated in big events, Civil War, Mexican War, etc., but not much actually happened there and they have very few citizens of national significance. Somewhere in there we grabbed some very good Chicago-style pizza. Not up to the awesome standard of Folsom's Chicago Fire, but better than anything we've yet found in Dallas. After the pizza, and knowing my weigh-in in the challenge at work was fast approaching, we then went back out to the Pinnacle Mountain area and walked around in two more parks, Maumelle and the Arkansas State Arboretum. We also managed to check out some real estate in the area, as we are always curious about the types of homes you can get for the money in different areas of the country. I think real estate is my wife's hobby. Then Monday we returned home. I'll give a couple of more in-depth stories in another post; this one is already too long.

PBG checkpoint

Date Workout Time Calories Burned Weight
2/23/2006 256
2/24/2006
2/25/2006 Elliptical 60 1450
2/26/2006 Elliptical 60 1507
2/27/2006
2/28/2006 Elliptical 42 1050
3/1/2006
3/2/2006
3/3/2006 Elliptical 42 1050
3/4/2006 Elliptical 50 1200
3/5/2006 Elliptical 60 1440
3/6/2006 Elliptical 51 1250 258
3/7/2006 Elliptical 50 1250
3/8/2006
3/9/2006 Racquetball - cutthroat 90 1200 255
3/9/2006 Precor Elliptical 30 620
3/10/2006
3/11/2006 Elliptical 36 900
3/12/2006
3/13/2006 Precor Elliptical 40 750
3/14/2006 basketball 90 1350
3/14/2006b walleyball 90 1200
3/15/2006
3/16/2006 jog 2 mi 20 400
3/16/2006b stairmaster 10 200
3/16/2006c Precor Elliptical 20 400
3/17/2006
3/18/2006 Elliptical?
3/19/2006
3/20/2006 Elliptical 5 125
3/21/2006 basketball 90 1000
3/22/2006
3/23/2006 Precor Elliptical 43 850
3/24/2006
3/25/2006 Elliptical 60 1500
3/26/2006
3/27/2006 Elliptical 10 250
3/28/2006 Elliptical 52 1200
3/29/2006
3/30/2006
3/31/2006 Jog 2 mi? 20 425
4/1/2006 climb mountain, etc for 5 mi hike 150 2100
4/2/2006 walk 3 mi 80 600
4/3/2006 Elliptical 60 1540
4/4/2006 Elliptical 42 1050 245


It's been a while since my last update on the contest. We had to weigh in by today under our target weight. My target was 253, and as you can see, I was well under. Now I just have to keep it off for the next 30 days and I will split the pot with the other successful folks. No word yet on how many else made, but current speculation is still five or six, which would yield a profit of about $150 for me. I still need to keep exercising and watching what I eat, as I gamed it a little bit this morning to get eight pounds under. I didn't eat breakfast and had a very small meal last night for example. So if I had not done that, I would have still made it, as I have been consistently weighing in around 249 to 250, but without as much breathing room.