Thursday, June 26, 2008

Huzzah!

There is finally an update to Morning Coffee for Firefox 3!!

Now if I could just get my iFox theme back, I'd be 95% happy.

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Completely unrelated, but I just saw this and found it interesting. One of the arguments against a genetic component of homosexuality is "Since gay men cannot (naturally) breed, why hasn't the gene become extinct?" There's a study that was just published in PLos ONE that suggests a theory that a gene for homosexuality in men may be "sexually antagonistic" - that is, provide a reproductive benefit to only one sex, and a reproductive detriment to the other. They found that maternal female relatives of gay men had higher reproduction rates than paternal female relatives, and the inverse was true for straight men. You may not be able to get to the PLoS article, since I'm accessing this from a Hopkins-networked computer and may be reading it through our subscription service. There's a summary of the article on Slate, and if you'd like to look at the original article I'd be happy to download it and send you a copy.

New bed look

The headline makes sense, I promise :-)

The cats had gotten a little claw-happy on our sheets. So I bought new ones at Target, but then they didn't match the rest of our bedding (everyone in the world has a queen sized bed, so my choices were somewhat limited). All the bedding sets at Target were either ugly, or over $100 and ugly.

I ended up getting a duvet set and then getting a bedskirt and pillow shams separately at BB&B - I wanted the white in the shams and skirt because I wanted to lighten up the navy blue a bit. I think it looks pretty good!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Unbelievable (OH!)

The Pew Trust released results of a survey on America's religious landscape. I am intensely suspect of any conclusions they present, based on this one reported statistic: 21 percent of self-identified atheists said they believe in God or a universal spirit, with 8 percent "absolutely certain" of it.

If you can't even get that one right by definition (A-Theist) then how can I believe anything else presented?

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I got the "sad ipod" icon on my ipod while we were in Birmingham. I checked Apple support online when we got home, which was completely worthless. Circular "non-help" like the fact that when I plugged my ipod into my computer, it didn't show up in windows or in itunes. One of Apple's suggestions? "Your ipod may need to be reset." Which you can't do if it doesn't show up in itunes!! The bottom of their "help" page said that my ipod needed to be serviced by an Apple technician, which according to the internet costs between $100-200. So I kept digging.

I found a message board thread about someone who had the same problem and had said that hitting your ipod against a hard surface, charger port side down, solved the problem for him and many other people. I was skeptical, but figured "What have I got to lose?" So I turned it off, whacked it on the table and turned it back on. AND IT BOOTED BACK UP!

Apparently the principle is that the hard drive cable sometimes works itself loose if it gets jostled around a lot, and that hitting it against something (in that specific direction) jolts the cable back into place. I can't say for certain if it's true, and I take no responsibility if you break your ipod. But it worked for me. YMMV.

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I saw the most amazing rainbow ever on the way home. Two full arcs! I was so disappointed that I didn't have our camera with me, but I stopped and took a picture with my cell phone anyways (I could only get about 1/3 of the arc in the frame). It doesn't do it one bit of justice, but maybe you'll get just a little idea of what I got to see.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

1827 days later...

M and I have been married for five whole years! And didn't kill each other! :-D

It's been a fantastic time. Plenty of ups and downs, plenty of triumphs and a few heartbreaks - such is the road of life, and I couldn't have picked a better co-captain for my trip through the past half-decade (it sounds soooo long when you say it that way). We've accomplished so much together in such a short time.

We finally got to open our time capsule wedding gift when we got home from Nicole and Mike's wedding (slightly after midnight). As per our instructions, it sat in a "visible location" for the past year:

We cracked the box open at around 12:10am:

It was a good thing we didn't try to open it before the allowed time!

The contents:

Included, among other things, are our wedding invitation and program, a booklet and sand/seashells from the place we stayed at in the Keys, an invite from one of my showers, a card from the restaurant where we had our rehearsal dinner, glasses and t-shirts from Kabuki's in Blacksburg the first night we met, photos, and the CD that has our first dance song on it.

We went to Mortons for dinner, which was yummy as always. Matt ordered me a Garmin Nuvi 350, which should be here in a few days - he had brought up the subject on the way down to Birmingham, but I told him I wasn't sure. That was before we got lost approximately six times because there was a severe sign shortage in Birmingham. I'm rather looking forward to the GPS now. I got Matt the new Coldplay CD, V For Vendetta two ways (novel and DVD) and a squishy neck pillow of his own because he kept stealing mine on the train last weekend.

Happy Anniversary, luv!

Numero Cuatro

Matt wanted to make sure everyone knows where we are in the count.


Nicole and Mike's wedding was gorgeous, even though it was fairly hot outside (even at 6pm!) It was our second outdoor wedding (ever), and everything was perfect. Although I later learned that the cloud I was so appreciative of that just so happened to come by five minutes before the ceremony started almost made Nicole cry because she was so worried that it was going to rain.

We sat with Rob and Jill Granger at the reception, ate food and cake, and had a nice time. We're off from the wedding circuit for almost 10 weeks before rounding out the season.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Over the hump

Both in terms of this week, and weddings. Number 4 is this Saturday outside of Richmond, and then we're off the hook until the end of the summer (so far...)

Matt and Shelly's wedding(s) were beautiful, and the travel was relatively stress-free. Other than the fact that they must have mixed up the coach car with the refrigerator car, because it was *freezing* on the trip down. I mean, Matt was cold. And Matt is NEVER cold. Matt roundhouse-kicks cold in the face.

Mandatory C&M pic #3:


(doesn't M look good? I picked that shirt and tie out!)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Curing cancer is not a crime!

Part of my research involves use of an irradiator. Last year, my advisor had to sign a statement that I was "significantly trustworthy and reliable" and did not have any nefarious purposes in wanting to obtain access to the irradiator. Apparently that's not enough anymore. Now, anyone who wants unescorted access to the irradiators has to undergo a FBI background check and fingerprinting by July 15th.

I told them no. I don't see any reason why the FBI should have my fingerprints on file for the rest of my life so I can kill some cancer cells for the next 4 months. I also don't see how my fingerprints attest to my trustworthiness any more than a background check alone would. Furthermore, I think it's ridiculous that with all the potential threats that we face, they're worried about graduate students taking apart a machine the size of my laundry room to steal a chunk of cesium.

So, I have access to the irradiator until July 15th. After that, my ID badge stops working in the door and I have to have a "chaperone" to get in. I'm attempting to have that portion of the project done before then though - feasible, but we'll see what happens.

I'm sure I probably just got myself on some "uncooperative" list, but whatever. I was already a dirty libertarian :-)

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

$220 later...

My battery light started coming on while I was driving Friday afternoon. It would just blink on for a minute or so, and then go away - maybe 3-5 times during my commute home. But on Monday, it was on for nearly half the drive to work. Same thing on the way home, though I figured out that turning everything off in the car (radio, fan/AC, headlights) and driving below 50mph kept it to a minimum (I didn't take the interstates home).

So I took my car in this morning, around 9:30. There is a $92 charge just for them to tell me what's wrong with the car. I thought it was going to be the alternator, since there didn't seem to be any problem starting the car. Nearly two hours later, they told me it was the battery. Apparently one of the battery cells died, which left enough voltage to continue starting the car but caused the battery to short out when it tried to recharge off of the alternator. This actually made me happy, since having a new battery put in is about 1/4 of the cost of having a new alternator put in.

And then it took them TWO AND A HALF HOURS to put the battery in. Did I mention it was *freezing* in the customer waiting area? I didn't get out of there until almost 2pm.

I am thankful, however, that this is barely a blip on our budget radar. We put aside money for car-related stuff every month that will cover most of the charge, and have savings for the rest. I know in this economy, some people aren't so lucky.

Congrats to Ashley and Jeremy on their new daughter Aubrey!!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Bananas "prove" God?

That's just...well, bananas.



For reals though, stuff like this really gets my goat. There is so much beauty and wonder and mystery in our natural world. We shouldn't be reduced to arguing that God must exist because a banana fits in my hand and is easy to eat. Besides, a banana as we know it has been cultivated for its desired characteristics. Wild bananas don't exactly look like good eats (TM) to me.

Monday, June 09, 2008

More goals!

I like goals. It keeps me focused on the big picture while still letting me get pumped up for the details. So we've got a couple laid out for the rest of the year into 2009...and by "we" I mean I say to M "We should do this" and he says "Okay, whatever." I guess if you look at our household from a company standpoint, he's the CEO and I'm the CFO :-)

So for startsies, we're increasing M's 401k contribution to 8%. We're both getting C.O.L. raises in in July, so the money's not even going to see our budget. That plus our regular savings and my IRA will put us at a healthy 18% savings rate. M's company also contributes to his 401k, but I don't count that in our savings % because we don't have any control over it and it could technically change at any time.

We're also opening an IRA for M in August. I decided to start his acct with Vanguard's STAR fund, which is a very conservative balanced fund (60-40 stocks and bonds) but only has a $1000 investment minimum. We'll eventually have most of his contributions going towards Vanguard's Target Retirement 2045 fund once we have enough to meet the fund minimum.

To round out the summer, I am upgrading our dishwasher and having a thesis committee meeting - hopefully my last. And of course vacation, but that's more a respite from the goals than a goal itself :-)

Moving into the fall - I'm expecting to have a "real" job in November, while our C.O.L. will remain relatively unchanged. With the price of gas and not having to drive to Baltimore anymore, it will likely even drop a little. I may or may not have a retirement account with this job (at the moment the opportunity I'm looking at is likely no), but if I do, it'll be funded. The new dollars in our budget will be funneled into our ING account for a few months. We'll also be paying off the 0% financing from the electronics purchases we made in the spring (not technically due until March but I want to free the monthly allotment up) as well as replacing our stove (which will complete our kitchen appliance upgrade and also free *those* dollars up).

At this point in the game we will be saving *over 30%* of our income (again, still not counting any matching funds going into 401k accounts). Now comes the fun part.

New year, new account. Since we're looking to buy a bigger place in around 2-2 1/2 years, I'd like to not just rely on the equity in our condo for our down payment. So we'll be opening up a taxable investment account in January and putting most of our former savings account contribution (60-80%) into it - I think there comes a point where excess liquidity becomes a hindrance rather than a help. Since we'll need the money in a relatively short amount of time, it'll be in conservative investments. I'm thinking half in Vanguard's Total Bond Market Index fund and half in their Prime Money Market fund; possibly a very small percentage in a Total Stock Market Index fund. After our next house is purchased, these dollars will be split towards increased 401k contributions and saving for our next car(s). In the meantime, we'll continue to fund the Roth IRAs yearly. I haven't figured in any pay raises after 2008, so we'll figure out what to do with that money when we come to it.

So there you have it. We are, of course, relying on a couple assumptions (for instance, that I can actually make it out of grad school unscathed and find a job that doesn't involve the prefix Mc; that nothing disastrous happens over the next two years - why is there no 'E' in disastrous??) I also recognize that saving 30% of our income is not likely something we can keep up in the long term (or maybe it is, who knows?) But for the most part I think we're on a really good track and I hope we can stay that way.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

2 outta 3 in just under 5 months!

I had three goals in my new year's post.

1. Pay off my car. Made the last payment in March! It feels so great not having any car loans.

2. Open an IRA. Done! I opened my Roth IRA at Vanguard Friday night. I feel like such a grown-up. I decided to go with their Mid-Cap Growth fund to start, which turned out to be a really good thing! They have this neat analysis tool that lets you include outside accounts, so I put in all the info for Matt's 401k and it turned out that his funds were ALL large-cap and small-cap companies. So this will provide some much-needed balance. And come July (when we're upping M's 401k contribution %) we'll be right on target for savings.

Still working on #3 (graduate). Megan gave her thesis talk Friday afternoon, so I guess that makes me "officially" next. Pressure's on.

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We do not have any free weekends in June. We're going hiking with C&E this coming Saturday and having dinner with Norm and Laura on Sunday. The weekend after that is Skinner's wedding in B'ham (I think we're going to have to rent a car, bah). The Saturday after that is Nicole's wedding in Richmond, and then our 5 year anniversary/white-water rafting trip that Sunday. The weekend after that Matt and Sarah are coming up. Whew!

I got 36.75 mpg on my last tank of gas :-)