Thursday, June 30, 2011


If anyone wants a Google + invite, leave me a comment and I will send you one.  It's supposed to be Google's version of something similar to Facebook but different and new...It's got a good amount of Buzz, so I will check it out and let you know about how I like it when I get a chance.  It's invite only right now and I just received my invite from a friend last night, so haven't had a chance to do much other than login. I watched the video at the link below and looks like it could be cool with features like putting people in a circle like 'work people' where you share certain things with them, vs maybe 'family' where you share other info, etc.  That is one place where Facebook is lacking in my opinion and that is a feature I've wanted, so I will definitely check it out. 

Here's some more info about Google+.

** UPDATE **  Invite capability has been disabled due to too high a demand.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Motivation For Blogging

When I initially started my Blog around New Years 2011, I had several motivations. I'd owned the domain name for quite a few years and wanted to do something productive with it. We also had recently been progressing through the Dave Ramsey plan and wanted to share our experiences along the way. Additionally, I was interested in posting financial information about stock/options trading and sharing investing ideas through the blog. Indirectly it would also be a time line of the year, highlighting specific memorable events. I also genuinely wanted to provide information that I thought others would find useful, helpful or inspirational so that they would enjoy checking out my blog on a regular basis.

I had also hoped that along the way I would learn more about the web and how pages appear in search engines and possibly on ways to drive traffic to your site and how to eventually generate revenue at some point in the future.

So far I have learned a lot. First off, it's a lot of work to come up with something new and unique on a daily basis. It might not take long to post a few pictures from a recent activity/event and say a few words about it, but generally speaking it takes me around 2 hours and many times longer for most of my posts. I'm definitely a perfectionist when it comes to certain things like writing and am always thinking about what I'm typing and the way I'm saying things. In addition I tend to sometimes go off on tangents, will re-read things and decide that wasn't the point of what I wanted to say and then delete whole sections and start over.

Also, I found out early on that you have to be conscious of your audience. I would hear from some folks that they couldn't quite follow or weren't overly interested in some of the in-depth financial topics. I realized that I had to either expand my content out to more everyday topics or decide to become a specialized financial blog and alienate many of my existing readers. I decided to expand the range of topics out for now and just make it more of a personal blog.

I have also learned some interesting things about web traffic. I use and also Google Analytics to keep an eye on traffic stats to my blog. It's very interesting to see which posts are most popular, where geographically people are coming from, how your traffic varies from week to week and topic to topic, how people are arriving at your site (referring pages), etc. I found it quite interesting that early on, my most popular post by traffic was my Same Siders post of all things. I then did a Google search for 'same siders' and realized my blog post shows up on the main page, about 8 links down depending on the day, which was pretty cool.

I also started to get a comment or two from anonymous people in response to a few of my blog posts, which made me realize other people are arriving at my site as a result of search engines or through other means. It opened my eyes to the fact that you have to be careful what you say at times, because your potential audience is much wider than you realize. For instance, right now my Happy Anniversary post is by far the top page in recent traffic volume. It was a post primary for the benefit of my wife, but apparently lots of other people were interested as well. Here are the top 4 pages by recent traffic:


The fact that people are arriving at my blog based on certain search words and key terms got me thinking about the topic of getting a site/page ranked higher in search engines and how to potentially generate revenue as a result. I haven't done anything personally, other that adding 'labels' to my blog posts.

I read a little bit about search engine optimization (SEO) a few months ago and one of the basic ways to get your site to rank higher in search results is to have people link to your page from other popular sites. Each search engine does their ranking differently, but generally speaking, the more referring links that are out there, the higher search engines rank your post. Based on my experience with the same siders post, it also seems that the more unique your information is, the better your chances are for a higher rank since there simply isn't all that much information out there about a particular topic.

I find all of that very interesting and think it would be fun to play around with that a bit and see what the results are. For example, I might key off my same siders post and put a link to that post on several other sites that I find with anything at all related to that topic and watch and see how my traffic to that post goes up over time and see how that affects my ranking on Google. In addition, I'm going to mess around with some of the different methods for generating revenue from ads or through similar means. So you may see ads popping up at various spots and I'll try to make sure it's done in a way that doesn't distract from the experience.

I will post results of my experimentation and if you have any specific tips you can share regarding search engine rankings, web traffic and revenue generation, please share them here as well! Thanks ahead of time!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Cat Creativity

We may not have human children, but we certainly have cat children and at times it seems like we have real children.  We get woken up in the middle of the night at times, mostly the wifey since she feeds them, we have to clean up after them, which quite often involves puke, poop and the necessary steaming of carpets as a result and with 4 of them, there's usually always something going on.  We sometimes have to get creative when it comes to trying to solve issues we run into.

Sage is our skittish kitty of the bunch.  Around us he's generally calm and happy, although he does not like loud noises, especially when you are watching sports on TV and yell YESSSSSSS when someone scores a goal/touchdown, etc.  It's kinda funny, when you do that he'll chirp at you for about 30 seconds to tell you to cut it out.  He does the same thing when you put away the silverware from the dishwasher into the drawer.  When you leave for work in the morning, if you say bye to him he will also chirp to say goodbye, it's super cute.  But he also has an intermittent issue where he will be spooked by something or someone and will leave poop nuggets around the house.  It's very hard to pinpoint at times why it happens, but sometimes it's obvious. 

If we come back from vacation and it happens, that is obvious.  Mainly I think he doesn't like all of the smells of other pets that the pet sitter brings in and isn't too excited there's a stranger in the house, so that's understandable.  There is another potential cause we're aware of and that's if he gets anything stuck on his fur, he freaks out....If he starts to go and something sticks to his fur, he flies out of the litter box and zooms around the house apparently trying to shake it loose and he keeps going.  I know it's gross, but probably not any more so than the stories I'm sure all of you out there could tell from your pets or children.  And the good thing is the nuggets are hard as a rock, so no messy cleanup other than a quick shot with the carpet cleaner.  Heh...anyheu...

But at times he'll relapse for a day out of no where like he did the other day.  Generally it's in the middle of the night and the only thing we can think of is that he sees other cats or bigger animals outside.  We would occasionally feed this one stray cat and her kittens if we saw them wandering around our house, but we didn't initially make the connection between that and his behavior.  We usually wouldn't notice when other animals were around outside, but he sure did as he'd run back and forth from the sliding glass door to other windows at night trying to see where they were going.  Once he started to do that we realized he was a bit spooked out.  Usually if he leaves us presents, it's in the middle of the night and we can hear him zooming around the house.  He usually sleeps against the sliding glass door, so we're thinking that he's seeing animals. 

We do get deer in our back yard that come and go from the golf course open areas and for sure there are cats around occasionally, armadillos, etc.  Since the sliding door is the only place for him to look out at night, since we have plantation shutters closed on the rest of the windows, the wifey came up with an idea for blocking the lower portion of the glass with Wallpaper for Windows.  If you've never seen or heard of it, check out their site, it's really a cool/inexpensive product that we've used many times.

We use it on the small glass area next to our front door and also the big open glass area above our front door.  This is a picture from their website, but it's real close to what ours looks like, except we just have glass on one side of the door. It provides a level of privacy and adds to the look as well.  It works great, you just spray water on glass, put the plastic type paper on the window and squeegie out the water with a credit card like thing.  It can come right off anytime you want to remove it, but otherwise it stays tight.  Below is a picture showing what it looks like on.  You cannot see through it, but it does not completely block out the light, so it should work great.  And it is just tall enough to block his view at night, without sacrificing our view during the day. 

I hadn't thought of that idea for the sliding door, but it was a great idea.  We just put it on tonight and hopefully that solves that problem for good, or at least until we go away somewhere again.  I think this just might do the trick!  Hopefully this might help out someone else that has a creative problem that needs a creative solution!

Do you have any pet or child behaviors that you've solved creatively or are looking for creative solutions for?  Let me know!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Potential Cell Phone Data Plan Changes

There have been rumors about cell phone tiered data plan changes with Verizon since around Christmas time, when their 4G LTE network started to roll out. Surprisingly at the time, there were no major changes.

For smartphones, Verizon has quietly gotten rid of the $15/150MB plans for new customers over the last few months and requires the $30/unlimited choice currently. That hasn't affected us, since we already had the $30/unlimited option. We found that we use on average around 700MB each per month. I just checked and in April I used over 1GB. That is strictly 3G data, it does not include data that you use over a WiFi connection. Granted we don't always switch over to WiFi when we're home, since it's unlimited data, but when downloading updates or anything that pushes heavy data, we usually do switch to WiFi since it's much faster.

The rumors out there right now, which are changing daily, point to a minimum $30 data charge for smartphones and it would be limited to 2GB. The unlimited option would no longer be offered. There would then be a 5GB plan for $50 and an 8GB plan for $80. There would be no difference in charges for the faster 4G phones/data vs 3G. So the main difference for most is that you'd currently go from unlimited (in theory) to a limit of 2GB, which for most wouldn't be a big deal.

It appears right now that anyone currently on the unlimited $30 plan would be able to keep that plan and as of right now, folks are saying that even holds true when updating your phone in the future. If you change your actual plan I bet that will be a different story, but not 100% sure. That would be good if you can keep the unlimited $30 plan indefinitely. So will see how things begin to unfold.

Since T-Mobile is being swallowed up into ATT and we're getting less competition as a result, we'll probably see these same changes across both carriers with a few month lag in between. As always, should be interesting to see how things unfold.

Here is a link to the full details on Engadget.

How much data do you use? Would this affect you or cause you to want to change carriers?  I'm curious to hear your thoughts.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Words of Wisdom

Today I have a guest post submitted from a regular blog reader...since I didn't have anything prepared for today, thought I'd share it for others to read...

A 92-year-old, petite, well-poised and proud man, who is fully dressed
each morning by eight o'clock, with his hair fashionably combed and
shaved perfectly, even though he is
legally blind, moved to a nursing home today.

His wife of 70 years recently passed away, making the move necessary.
After many hours of waiting patiently in the lobby of the nursing home,
he smiled sweetly when told his room was ready.

As he maneuvered his walker to the elevator, I provided a visual
description of his tiny room, including the eyelet sheets that had been
hung on his window. I love it,' he stated with the enthusiasm of an
eight-year-old having just been presented with a new puppy.

Mr. Jones, you haven't seen the room; just wait.'

'That doesn't have anything to do with it,' he replied. Happiness is
something you decide on ahead of time. Whether I like my room or not
doesn't depend on how the furniture is arranged ... it's how I arrange
my mind. I already decided to love it. 'It's a decision I make every
morning when I wake up. I have a choice; I can spend the day in bed
recounting the difficulty I have with the parts of my body that no
longer work, or get out of bed and be thankful for the ones that do.
Each day is a gift, and as long as my eyes open, I'll focus on the new
day and all the happy memories I've stored away.. Just for this time in
my life.’

‘Old age is like a bank account. You withdraw from what you've put
in. So, my advice to you would be to deposit a lot of happiness in the
bank account of memories! Thank you for your part in filling my Memory
Bank. I am still depositing.’

Remember the 6 simple rules to be happy:
1. Free your heart from hatred.
2. Forgive others.
3. Free your mind from worries.
4. Live simply.
5. Give more.
6. Expect less.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy Fathers Day!

Happy Fathers Day Dad! This was from a trip to watch the Bills play the Jaguars in Jacksonville...Good times!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Smokey in Florida

Due mostly to wildfires in South GA, but some smaller ones around town as well, we've been smoked in for a few weeks to varying degrees.  Today is real bad in most areas.  This is a picture from work today. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Best Cat Toys and a Useful Tip

In case you aren't aware, the wifey and I are cat people!  We're just not quite as over the top as Debbie the viral video eHarmony bio chick, which I really think is fake anyway.  We love cats and have 4 of them to prove it.  All the negative stereotypes of cats being aloof and keeping to themselves, only to want attention when they want it are just not true in our experience.

Our boys greet us at the door, fetch balls, follow us around the house, sit on our laps, etc.  Not all of them at the same time, but they take turns.  We like dogs also, especially our doggy nieces Maddie and Molly, but cats just make it easier for us to travel and leave them at home to be cared for by a pet sitter.  We can't forget our niece kitty Bella as well, Sage used to play with her when she and my sister stayed with us for a while.  They were buddies. 

Usually the simplest things are the best cat toys, like string or paper bags, but we do have a few toys they really love that are definitely worth checking out.

Pawbreaker Original Catnip Ball - We just received two of these from Amazon and they REALLY like them.  They were all batting it around the house like they were having a soccer match.  It's actually a hard ball made of catnip, cool idea.

We call this one the rainbow toy, but it looks like the official name is Cat Dancer 301 Cat Charmer Interactive Cat Toy.  This one is kinda like a long string on a stick, but for some reason they like this even better.  They will chase this for quite a while if you run around the house with it and they will jump quite high as well.  Good toy to wear them out a bit.

Laser Pointer.  A staple in any pet owner's arsenal of toys.  This is the absolute favorite toy of Sage.  All we have to do is say 'where's the dot' and he immediately knows it's time to play with the laser pointer.  We try and use it mostly when he is good to reinforce good habits. 

Little play mice (pictured above).  These are pretty simple and when you shake them they make a small noise like there is rice or something inside them.  They love to fetch these and our cat Monkey will sometimes bring them back so you can throw them again.  As he's gotten older he doesn't bring them back as much, but he still likes to run after them and bring them back partially.  They all like these toys and you'll hear them playing with them occasionally out of the blue.

And here's a useful tip....If you have a cat that, for whatever reason, doesn't seem to want to keep his butt down when he pees, try this homemade litter box idea!  Our cat Stinky is getting up there in age and for some reason over the last 6 months or so, he starts out fine but as he's finishing up his butt gets higher and higher to the point where he was sprinkling all over the place just outside whatever corner of the litter box he was using.  TMI?  Anyhow, here's your potential fix...

As long as he doesn't decide to pee in the area of the opening, this will solve your problem!  I was searching for litter boxes with the highest sides possible, but they really weren't any higher than the big ones we already had.  And we can't use the ones with the tops, because Sage won't use them, so I found a post where someone made their own with a storage container.  I had a bunch of them in the garage and it works perfectly.  Definitely a quick and easy solution.  I only used a small hack saw and it took around 5 minutes.

Be sure to check out two other kitty related articles that I posted:

The Best Pet Water Fountains  
Dr. Elsey's Precious Ultra Cat Litter

Friday, June 10, 2011

Movies/Shows For Weekend At Home

I'm on-call for work this week, which means I stay at home for the most part.  While being on-call itself can be rough if you get a lot of calls, it's only once every 12 weeks for me and it can be enjoyable for a change of pace.  Normally we feel the need to head out and do something fun and get out of the house, but being 'forced' to stay at home gives you extra time to just relax, watch a movie/tv, catch up on some reading, do some extra cleaning, etc.

In honor of being stuck at home, I decided to check out what movies/shows we might want to watch and here's what I came up with as potential options....

Paul - "Two British comic-book geeks traveling across the U.S. encounter an alien outside Area 51."  One of the Brittish guys is the main guy from Shaun of the Dead.  A friend at work saw it and said it's pretty funny and I remember wanting to check this out when the previews came out, so this is probably our number 1 option. 

Cedar Rapids - "Tim Lippe has no idea what he's in for when he's sent to Cedar Rapids, Iowa to represent his company at an annual insurance convention, where he soon finds himself under the "guidance" of three convention veterans."  Stars one of the guys from the Office and a few other well known peeps.  Decent ratings and could be funny, so this will be option 2 on the list. 

Game of Thrones - "Kings, queens, knights and renegades use schemes and swords to battle for the throne." This is a new series on HBO.  This is not my normal genre of show that I would watch, but 5 guys at work have been talking about it and they all collectively said it's very good and most of their wives have watched it as well.  It's also got great ratings on IMDB.  This is how we also got into True Blood and Breaking Bad, lots of people were talking about it at work and eventually I gave in and watched a few episodes and was hooked.  We'll watch the first two episodes and decide if it's something we want to keep watching.

Just Go With It - This one was a late add, just requested by the wifey.  "On a weekend trip to Hawaii, a plastic surgeon convinces his loyal assistant to pose as his soon-to-be-divorced wife in order to cover up a careless lie he told to his much-younger girlfriend."  Staring Jennifer Aniston and Adam Sandler.  Ratings are slightly less then the previous two comedies above, but I might have to just go with it.  

Have you seen any movies/shows at home lately that you'd highly recommend?  Let me know and I might check em out as well!  Have a great weekend!

Thursday, June 9, 2011


I've been on-call this week, so haven't had a chance to do much blogging, well that and I can't stop playing ZOMBIES...Plants vs Zombies to be exact!  It was the Amazon App Store free app of the day a week or so ago and I can't stop playing it.  It is hard to describe the game in words if you've never seen/heard about it. 

You have to plant sunflowers to give you sun power, which you can use to plant other stuff that will slow down or inflict damage on the zombies.  And just when you figure that out, they'll throw some new Zombie your way that does some crazy new thing you have to counteract.

It's really quite funny and creative and challenging.  The picture below shows a Zamboni driving Zombie...too funny...good stuff!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Extended Vehicle Warranties

I'll start by saying I NEVER purchase extended warranties for anything and I always end up saying I'm so glad I didn't bother.  It just never seems to make sense for most items, typically they'll wear out or become obsolete and come way down in price anyway, so it's usually not worth it.

My vehicle is at the 33,500 mile marker and when I took it in for an oil change/rotation Friday, I got to thinking about whether or not I might want to get an extended warranty.  The bumper to bumper warranty expires at 36,000 miles or in about 3 months and then the PowerTrain warranty would remain, which would cover pretty much just the engine and transmission for about 2.5 more years.  

Normally I would think that the price of an extended warranty just prior to yours expiring would either be highly cost prohibitive, like $2000+, or more specifically I'd be concerned about the fine print of what isn't covered, what deductibles you might have to pay, strength of the company, etc.  I follow a few of the forums for my car online and almost 100% across the board, everyone said do not go with any of the 3rd party warranty companies. Two people had their warranty companies go out of business and many others were not recommended because of what they did not cover.

While I don't agree that ALL 3rd party companies are bad, in this case GM itself does have their own extended warranty that basically is a full continuation of the bumper to bumper warranty with very few exclusions and the prices through one dealer online are really pretty good.  So in this case, if you have a GM car, I would agree with them that you do not want to go with a 3rd party company, but your mileage may vary depending on your specific situation and make/model of vehicle.  Interestingly, the site lists the prices for all makes and models of vehicles, not just GM vehicles.

Dave Ramsey has a 'just say no' policy.  I know definitely NOT to purchase an extended purchase contract from a dealer, unless you come fully armed with a pricelist similar to the link below.  A prime example of this, is that my friend purchased a used vehicle 2 months ago from a dealership and I found out today that he paid 700 more for the same exact warranty that the site below provides.  Never a good decision.

It all comes down to cost/benefit, is the cost worth the peace of mind and knowing that you won't have major repair costs?   The warranty also includes roadside assistance, rental vehicles for longer repairs and is transferable in the event you sell your vehicle.  Since my vehicle actually originates in Australia, the parts sometimes take a while to arrive, so the rental coverage could come in handy, but it's only a max of around $220 per incident.  For me it would be a matter of considering the following two options:

3 years/45,000 additional miles for $1070
4 years/60,000 additional miles for $1685

What do you think?  Have you purchased a vehicle extended warranty and either used it for major repairs and were glad you had it or paid for it and never got the benefit of using it?  Would love to hear your experiences. 

GM Major Guard Extended Warranty (Highly Discounted) 

Friday, June 3, 2011

Anna Maria Island Trip - Part 3

Since it's Friday and the weekend is upon us, thought I'd wrap up our Anna Maria Island & Tampa area beaches trip recap with some pictures of cool places for food, folks and fun!  Have a great weekend!!

View from the Old Salty Dog on Sarasota Bay

Centro Ybor in Ybor City Tampa - Lots of Bars/Restaurants Downtown
Restaurant in Ybor City - We liked the name

Sunset picture from the Beach House Gulf Front Restaurant on Anna Maria Island
The Hut - A small little dock restaurant we ate lunch at - John's Pass in Madeira Beach

Tiki Guy at Sculley's Restaurant at John's Pass - Madeira Beach

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Anna Maria Island, Florida - Amazing Water Views

The wifey and I took a weekend getaway to Anna Maria Island, which is in the general Tampa vicinity, about 30 minutes south.  We really love the Tampa/Sarasota area and everything in between, specifically the abundance of water and ways to take advantage of the views.  They have so many waterfront restaurants, bars, parks, beaches and navigable waterways there and in most of the areas the water is perfectly clear and has that bright/light blue color you usually only see in the Caribbean.  Each time we visit we find a new area we love and this trip was no exception.

We stayed on Anna Maria Island at the Bridgewalk.  We had never been to the Island before and we were very pleasantly surprised with how beautiful it was there.  The wifey has always liked how clear the Gulf water is on that side of the state, but we had never seen such blue water other than certain areas of the Florida Keys and the Caribbean.  The highlight was an area called Bean Point, which is the northern most part of Anna Maria Island, we read about that as one of the top attractions for the area on Trip Advisor. 

It is rare that something lives up to the hype of positive reviews, but OMG...what a view from that location.  That is where the Gulf of Mexico meets Tampa Bay and you get a 270 degree view that rivals anything I've ever seen before in print or in person.  The first 3 pictures below are from that area.  Honestly, after walking around there for 30 minutes or so, all I could still manage to say was 'WOW, this is really amazing'.  These types of views are exactly what we travel to places like the Dominican Republic or Mexico to see, but after seeing this view we both agreed there is no need to go to the Caribbean when we have views like this 4 hours away!

At that spot, with that view, I had one of those epiphany type moments where something just clicks.  The wifey has dropped hints, some subtle, most not so subtle, over the last few years that the Tampa area really suits our desired lifestyle much more than where we currently live now.   I'd always agreed, but never really pursued things much further.  That all changed at that moment.  When we saw that view, it really began to sink in.  Since one of our favorite things in the whole world is to just sit and take in views like this and with nothing that comes close to that in our area and with so much more to do and enjoy there, it was time to come up with a plan to move that way. 

Since our longer term goal has always been to live on or near the water with some sort of water view, why wait around.  We're not getting any younger and there is really no reason to do it later rather than sooner.  We're not going to stick a for sale sign up in the yard today, but we're thinking more of a 2 year plan.  Our goal will be to start preparing, researching, saving up $ and putting a plan in place to meet our goal/timeline.

We think we have a general idea of where we'd like to live, which is the area from Madeira Beach up to Belleair Beach.  That is the general area we'll be researching and we're thinking we would like to rent either a condo or home on the inland waterways within walking distance to the gulf beaches.  Something similar to the pictures at the bottom.  We went down lots of side streets and took lots of pictures on our way home to help visualize our goals and help to make them a reality!

During the next 2 years we would visit a bit more and look to rent a place or two for a few days in the interested areas to get a better feel for how things really are at different times of the year.  Since the wifey has limited time off and it's all already scheduled or used up for this year, we're thinking we could use the time around Xmas to check things out and maybe the family could all meet up there as well!

We're excited about this new adventure and looking forward to seeing how things begin to unfold.  Have you been to the area we're speaking of?  Do you have any fond memories of certain places in the area, any suggestions/tips?  Would love to hear them!


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