Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Change Pot Tuesday

Highlights from this week's Found Money.

  • Thursday, I found 12 cents in the parking lot of Hart Field, Morgantown's Regional Airport. We had gone to the airport to eat lunch at Voyagers and when I got out of the car, I found a dime. I walked around in front of the car to open the door for Lori and I found a penny. When we returned to the car after eating, I found a second penny behind our car.

  • On Friday, I found two pennies at the Sheetz (a regional gas station/convenience store chain) on Route 7 in Morgantown. The first penny was partially hidden by the rug/mat in front of the register. I spotted it while paying for a couple of sandwiches and sodas. The second penny way lying on the floor across from the second register in front of a drink refrigerator. I found it on my way out of the store.

Weekly Total: $0.14
Year to Date Total: $1.32

Clean Sweep - Week 7

It's really hard to determine our progress this week. I can count 6 items that were purged, which doesn't sound like a lot, however, I discovered this week that Lori has been putting some of James' old clothes in a bin to give to our friends Andy and Geri. Andy and Geri had twin boys last year. I don't know how many items are in the bin, but it is pretty full. James has outgrown all of his 12 month clothes some time ago and is working on outgrowing his 18 month apparel. If I had to venture a guess, I would say that we have met this week's goal of 50 items because of how many clothes James has outgrown.

Next weekend, we are in Indianapolis all weekend, so I don't expect to have much at all in the way of progress. Overall, I feel we are coming along with the clean sweep, but I still have a feeling that when moving day arrives, we will have so much that we still need to get rid of.

Til next time.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Clean Sweep - Week 6

Week 6 of our Clean Sweep has been the most successful one to date. We purged 65 items and several bags of trash. We also finally took two boxes of magazines to the recycling bins. Our 65 purged items came from the garage, our guest bedroom, James' nursery and our medicine cabinet. All in all, I am very happy with our progress this week on our Clean Sweep and I am looking forward to the coming weekend to continue our work. I haven't decided yet which room we will attack next, but I am hoping we will find at least 50 more items that we don't need or use. Wish me luck.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Change Pot Tuesday

Well, after beginning our found money on such a good note - a $1 bill in the inaugural post, this week produced very little in the way of finding money. Highlights of the week are detailed below.

  • Three straight days of finding the big goose egg from Wednesday through Friday

  • Sixteen cents found on Saturday morning in a single location. I first spotted the penny, and as I was walking up to it, my eyes drifted back about a foot and I found the dime. After picking up the dime and penny, I turned and saw the nickel a few feet away. The 16 cents was found at the pay station of the WVU Mountainlair. We parked there because James' Saturday morning play group is right across the street from the Mountainlair.

  • Two cents found on Sunday. A single penny in two separate locations. The first was lying on the trash receptacle at the entrance of the Exxon station on Route 7 in Morgantown. It was obvious that no one had dropped the penny, but rather had intentionally laid the penny on the lid of the trash receptacle. The second was lying on the floor inside of Giant Eagle (grocery store) near one of the checkout lanes. The penny had been dropped and apparently rolled under one of the refrigerated cases that hold single serve bottles of soda.

It is probably best that I don't include the three cents I found in the "Take-a-Penny" tray at the gas station. (I did not actually take them, I only found them there.) I am also assuming I can't count the $2.56 I found lying on the bookcase in our den since it was our money to begin with.

In a twisted, but related way, I also found 31 intangible cents this past week. How could I have found intangible money? Well, regarding this particular 31 cents, I didn't actually "find" real money. What I found was 31 cents in the conception of money. On Friday, I stopped by the Kroger deli to pick up something for dinner. I purchased a pound of roast beef that rang up at $7.59 per pound. The sign inside the case said $7.39 per pound - a 20 cent difference. When I inquired about it with the deli clerk, I was told someone had put out the wrong sign and that the price was $7.59. He refused to give it to me for the price on the sign, which they have to do. So I asked as the register when I was checking out, and the nice cashier, Nicole, went back to the deli and had the guy reprice the lunchmeat since they had to sell it to me for the posted price. The lunch meat was actually just under a pound, so I only saw an 11 cent savings. On Sunday, the same thing happened to me at Advance Auto Parts. I bought two bottles of fuel injector cleaner because they were Buy-One-Get-One-Free. The shelf price was $2.69 each. At the register, the price rang up at $2.89 each. Apparently, it was an old price that no one every switched out. This time, however, the cashier had no problem with selling it to me at the reduced price. And so, between the two, I found 31 cents. Although, if I choose to donate my Change Pot to charity like the family that inspired this, it will be hard to donate the concept of 31 cents.

Weekly Total: $0.18
YTD Total:$1.18

Friday, February 13, 2009

Tagged!: The Random Bandwagon

Today, I got "tagged" by my friend and fellow blogger, Jen. Probably because when she got "tagged", I had to open my mouth ask what "tagging" was. According to Jen, "Getting 'tagged' in Blogger or Facebook simply means that one of your friends has 'tagged' you by letting you know in a comment or on their post, to do whatever it is we are currently doing." In this case, "we" are currently divulging 25 random things about ourselves. I had a hard time, because some of the best stuff I thought of was best left unsaid. (I didn't want to tarnish my reputation too badly). Here is my 25 random items about myself.

1. I have owned 11 vehicles in my 23 years of driving. Five of those have been Chrysler/Dodge/Plymouth products of which I will never buy another. Two have been GM vehicles and two have been Fords. Both Fords were the same model of different years. My favorite of the 11 is my current car, a Honda Civic! I have never owned a brand new vehicle. I have always dreamed of owning a Beamer - even if it is BMW's economy model.

2. In my 39 years, I have lived in 13 different places, confined to three states and four cities.

3. I am an Eagle Scout.

4. I have never done drugs. My first drink was at 18, but I never really acquired a taste for alcohol. I tried smoking in high school because I wanted to fit in. I didn't, so it didn't last.

5. I spent five years working as a nursing assistant and Qualified Medication Aide in various nursing homes in Indiana. I left the profession when a resident passed away on my shift (congestive heart failure) because I felt I should have done more. To this day I don't know how career nurses last as long as they do.

6. On my maternal side, I am a direct descendent of the Barons of Wedderburn (outside Edinburgh, Scotland) and Alphin, Kenneth I, Malcolm I, and Malcolm II, Kings of Scotland.

7. I collect Hot Wheels/Matchbox cars, Department 56 Dickens Village, and Harbor Lights lighthouse miniatures.

8. I have left the United States three times, all to Canada. I do not have a burning desire to go abroad because there is still too much of America that I wish to see. I would enjoy seeing a few places in Europe, but I will not regret it if I don't.

9. When I was a kid, I once dreamt of becoming a cowboy and moving to Oklahoma because my favorite aunt and uncle lived there.

10. Lori and I were friends for 16 years before we got married. We met while in high school and kept in touch through letters. The German language and terrorists can be credited with bringing Lori and I together.

11. I once had to repossess an entire house of furniture on Christmas Eve. I quit my job two days later.

12. My dream job is to someday own my own gift store by the sea. I would call it "The Sandy Cellar". I also think it would be neat to own an art gallery.

13. My favorite music group/duo is Simon and Garfunkle. I also enjoy listening to John Lennon.

14. I am a big Nicholas Sparks fan. I own and have read all of his books. Some of the more recognizable titles, which have been made into movies, include "The Notebook" (Rachel McAdams, James Gardner, Gina Rowlins), "A Walk to Remember" (Mandy Moore, Shane West), "Message in a Bottle" (Kevin Costner, Robin Wright Penn, Paul Newman), and "Nights in Rodanthe" (Richard Gere, Diane Lane).

15. I have been fired from two jobs. Both times I was fired for telling my boss what he was or what he could do in words that cannot be repeated here.

16. I don't understand how people who care for others, such as Nurse's Aides, can make far less money than someone flipping burgers at McDonald's. These people literally have someone's life in their hands every single day, yet many of them still only make minimum wage.

17. I find it ironic that while I have never been a big wine drinker, I love visiting wineries. It must be something about the atmosphere, because I really can't figure it out beyond that.

18. After high school, I joined the Army to be a broadcast journalist and was scheduled to be stationed in Korea upon completion of my training. I enlisted with a guaranteed job and after failing my training twice, I was discharged because the Army could no longer uphold its guarantee of that job. A clerical error was discovered after my second failure that showed I was never qualified for the job.

19. I am the middle child of my father's two daughters and three sons. The girls are bookends to the boys. Only four of the five are alive today. My younger brother passed away when I was five.

20. In a single year, I traveled for the first time on a train, an airplane, and a bus in three separate trips.

21. I am "double-jointed" in both arms and both thumbs.

22. I have two wisdom teeth that are horizontal in my jaw beneath the gum. They will never come in and therefore I will only be half as wise as everyone else.

23. I was the chess club champion of my junior high school in the 8th grade. I placed ninth in the state regional tournament that year. I would have had the opportunity to go on to the state tournament, but one of my games was disqualified because of a teammate.

24. I have always been fascinated by the historical origins of names of places.

25. I wore tennis shoes (with my tux) to my prom, not because I couldn't afford dress shoes, but because I wanted to be comfortable and make a statement. I would've worn them to my graduation, but the coordinator threatened to quit and refused to let me walk if I did. In a separate high school fashion statement, I did not own a pair of jeans all through my high school career. I found them uncomfortable.

Free Web Friday

This edition of Free Web Friday features two really cool and useful items from the internet. Both come from the web for use on the web. Best of all, they are absolutely free.

StatCounter - StatCounter is a completely free, completely configurable website counter. StatCounter provides up-to-the-minute reports on website visitors including where the visitor is located, how long they stay on your website, and how they got to your page. StatCounter provides simple step by step instructions on configuring your counter and installing it on you page. You do not need to know html code, simply copy and paste the code provided by StatCounter into you page and you are ready to start tracking you visitors.

Meez Avitar - Are you concerned about protecting you identity on the web, but still want people to have an idea of who you are? Meez.com has the answer. Meez.com allows its members to create an avitar which they can download to their computer, then upload to any site which allows members to add a picture to their profile. Meez members receive 2500 "coinz" when they sign up which can be used to "purchase" special avitar items, but many of the avitar characteristics and items are available without spending any "coinz". You also can earn more coinz by referring friends to join Meez. For members who want more "coinz" to get special avitar haristyles and clothing may purchase more "coinz", but there is nothing requiring members to spend money on their avitar, making this item completely FREE.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Presentation Disaster

Yesterday evening I had to give a presentation to the West Virginia University School of Journalism on Web Accessibility. I had been preparing for this presentation for several weeks and was really looking forward to the challenge. The presentation was based on a web accessibility assessment I had done for the School of Journalism, so I felt quite comfortable with the content and realy had few nerves to speak of. However, almost immediately after I arrived for the meeting, my presentation began to fall apart and in the end, my presentation turned out to be a disaster. This is the story of how it all came down - literally.

My presentation was a short PowerPoint slide show which I put on a key disk. I also had several handouts which I made sure to have extra copies of. Always one to try to be prepared, I took my own equipment - a laptop computer and an LCD projector. When I arrived at the meeting, I discovered that I would not need my laptop or projector because the room already had its own equipment and I would not have had anyplace to set up my equipment. Not a problem until I realized the room was set up with Macs instead of PCs. While Macs and PCs are coming closer to being able to "talk" to each other, I was worried that my Microsoft PowerPoint presentation would not work on a Mac. Luckily the Macs had Microsoft Office installed on them, so my slideshow would work. I had used a Mac about 20 years ago in high school when I was on the school newspaper staff, but Macs have changed a lot in 20 years and they operate a lot differently than a PC. Even something as simple as minimizing a "window" can cause a PC user to fumble around. This is exactly what happened, but that part was actually the least of my worries.

What transpired next was what really destroyed my presentation. Unbeknownst to me, the person who set up my presentation failed to tell me that I was not the only one presenting. I would be presenting after two individuals from the Univeristy's Web Services department. As I am listening to the presentation by Web Services, it occurs to me that my presentation has the wrong audience. I was suppose to present to a class of journalism students that had created a website as a class project. My understanding was that I was presenting to them so that they could fix their website's accessibility issues. What I discovered is that the students themselves have nothing to do with the design of the web site and have no control over making changes. They simply post to the website much in the same way that bloggers post to their blogs. Therefore, my presentation should have been given to Web Services who actually created the website for the journalism students. 90% of my presentation just went out the window. Now, not only would I be fumbling through using the Mac, I was also going to be stumbling through my content to find the 10% that was relevant to the students and try to salvage my presentation.

The two individuals from Web Services stayed to hear my presentation, so I was able to go over everything, but the students were all bored out of their minds and paying more attention to their MySpace pages (it was in a computer lab) than to what I was saying. I had to keep apologizing for covering information that was relevant only to Web Services.

I guess I will find out how I did on Monday. I have to meet with the professor of the class again to discuss the website further. At least this time, I will have a better idea of what to expect.

Change Pot Tuesday

Last week, our friend and co-worker Jen shared a blog with us about a couple who had been collecting "lost" money in a Change Pot for over three years. In that three years, the family has found more than $1,100. They family lives in or around New York City and takes daily walks solely for the purpose of hunting for money. They often even photograph where the money was found and plan on donating there finds once the Change Pot reaches $10,000.

Reading this blog inspired me because I often find money lying around on the ground. People always tell you to hold your head up high, but I say that you miss out on all the money that people drop. I may not find as much money as the family in New York because I don't live in as populated an area and I am only one person looking instead of an entire family, but I think I will do well. I wish I could say that I will be as generous as the family and donate my findings, but quite frankly with the tough economic times and soon to be a graduate student, I will most likely end up using my findings for our family.

With that being said, yesterday seemed to be a good day to start as I found a $1 bill on my way to do a presentation on Web Accessibility. The dollar was lying one the ground in the WVU Mountainlair (student union) parking garage. It was lying in a puddle of rain water underneath one of the pay stations. I picked it up thinking that the dollar would eventually dry out.

I won't post daily like the New York family because I don't have the time to post that often, but I will post weekly on Tuesdays detailing the previous weeks finds.

Weekly Total: $1.00
Year to Date Total: $1.00

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Clean Sweep - Week 5

Well, I have to say how disappointed I am in our progress with purging unwanted items out of the house. I only managed 3 for the week because we were out of town on Saturday and Sunday when I am able to do most of my purging. This week's items consist of a Car CD/MP3 player and two outdated text books that I had tried to sell online. We are home for the next two weekends, so there should be no excuse for not have boxes upon boxes of stuff to take to Goodwill. I am eyeing several things that will eventually go, but unfortunately, we can not get rid of them at this time. If we can get rid of enough stuff, maybe we can get a Wii before we move instead of waiting til we find ourselves in our new home. It might serve as an incentive to find useless stuff and get rid of it.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

39 and Still Climbing

Well today was my 39th birthday. No am I not like those many people who claim to be 39 forever simply to avoid being 40. I have 365 days to the top of the hill and I have to say I am actually welcoming it.

They say life begins at forty. All I know is that the climb to the top of the hill has been long and exhausting. I am looking forward to taking it easy and coasting down the hill for the remainder of my life.

I got a few of interesting "presents" for my birthday today. The first was from my sister. She sent me a picture of a tombstone with my name on it. It wasn't a joke - she actually sent me a real picture of a real tombstone with the name James Risk on it. The tombstone was from a cemetery in Scotland. The James Risk named on the tombstone was born in 1777 and died at the age of 92 in 1869. I was happy to discover I was still alive. Although, I am looking forward to coasting down the hill, I am no where near the ready to reach the bottom of the hill, let alone be six feet under.

The second was from my son, James. It was a pleasant surprise and a very special gift.At dinner, James said "appie birday, dada". It brought tears to my eyes. Later, James gave me a special present - a dirty diaper.

The third was a very eloquent and heartfelt letter from my wife, Lori, telling me how much she loved me and how much I meant to her. It brought even more tears to my eyes.

Lastly, the restuarant we ate at, Applebee's, gave us free desserts. I wish I could say it was because today was my birthday, but unfortunately it was because they were trying to make up for a mistake. They brought our dinners before our appetizer. To us it really wasn't that big of a deal. The waiter and manager made a much bigger deal out of it. It was funny when the same thing happened at the table behind us. Apparently the kitchen was overwhelmed and couldn't seem to get things in order.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Publication Request

This past Friday, I was quite surprised to find a comment on my history blog requesting permission to publish one of my essays on the California State Military Museum's website. The essay was written last semester for my class on U.S. Naval & Maritime history, which I posted to my blog, All Things Historical, about the Pacific theater of the Mexican-American War. The request came from the museum director who had read my blog entry and said it was an excellent history.

I gave the museum permission to post my essay and hopefully it will give me wider exposure and a greater audience. My history blog needs a few followers. I know I have readers from all over the United States because of my StatCounter, but apparently they wish to follow anonymously.

I will be sure to let everyone know of the link once the essay is posted, so they can read it for themselves.

Clean Sweep - Week 4

Well, as Week 4 came to an end, we made our second trip of the year to Goodwill. We dropped off three more boxes of household goods, baby items, and clothes. Although we purged several items this week, we actually had a net gain of items. This is because some of our very generous friends and co-workers came over on Saturday for our monthly game night and gave me a graduation present - a "PhD Survival Kit" which included more items than what I was able to get rid of.

The PhD Survival Kit included the following items:

  • a waterproof sea bag - for hauling all my maritime gear

  • a compass - to make sure I am headed in the right direction

  • a rain poncho - for protection against the elements

  • a cap light - for the end of the journey so that I may become a lighthouse for others

  • a wet weather rain hat - protection for the most important element of my dissertation

  • a whistle - in case of an emergency

  • a shake flashlight - to make sure I am always prepared

  • a can of nuts - fuel for my fire

  • a Jaws DVD - entertainment for days away doing "research"

  • a research notebook - to record my observations and data

  • a GPS for Dummies book - so mistakes from the past are not repeated (see blog entry dated September 14, 2008

Thanks everyone. It's a nice having such caring friends.