2024 June Update

What’s Going On:
June went by just as fast as May. I’m sensing a pattern in 2024 as the days blend together, and the weekends go by WAY too quickly. Our office was closed on July 4th and 5th (and I took the 3rd off as a PTO day). So, at least, I feel like I’ve gotten a break. I have a busy couple of weeks at work coming up that I need to prepare for.

I just realized that in June, I had lived in the same house for 20 years. It doesn’t seem like yesterday, but I was surprised to see it was 20 years ago. I’m doing everything I can to pay off this place before I even think about retiring. There is nothing like NOT having a house payment when you decide to give up the 9-5 grind. I don’t see myself retiring 100% anytime soon, but not having a house payment gives you more options to do something different.

Luckily, I moved from a career that could be a daily grind (IT Consulting) to something I enjoy (Operations). I’m still involved in the IT aspects of the company, but I like the other parts, like organizational operations and HR the most. We’re moving our office in October, and that’s a project I enjoy being involved in as well.


What I’m Buying:
If you’ve never tried a shampoo bar, it’s a game changer. It’s like a bar of soap, but for your hair, it’s much easier to travel with than liquid shampoo. C.O. Bigelow sells the Badger brand shampoo bar, and I ordered one a few months ago.

As soon as I used it for the first time at home, I ordered another one for my DOP kit. They seem to be out of it at the moment, but I was able to find it on Amazon at the link above.

Speaking of DOP Kits, I ordered the Tom Bihn Standard Spiff Kit (in Sangria 210 Cerylon) for my shorter trips in June. I have an awesome canvas DOP kit that I use on longer trips, but for 2-3 nights away, I wanted something a little smaller as I have learned how to pack lighter and NOT check a bag. In fact, I traveled over a week in Thailand last February with only a carry-on and a personal item. My Switzerland/Paris/London trip last September taught me never to check a bag again if I could help it.

I had never heard the term “Kitchen Candle” before reading this article in Food and Wine. I ordered a Vanilla Kitchen Candle from Amazon, and there really IS a difference! The scent is a lot less strong and helps cover up those smells left over from the last dish you cooked. I’m a fan and will keep one of these around from now on.

I love my flashlights, and I finally pulled the trigger on the (newish) Olight Arkfeld Pro. It has upgraded specs from the original Arkfeld (now in my car), but now it’s “Pro” and has a green laser! This one is now in my EDC because you never know when you need to laser-point something. 🙂


What I’m Eating:
I watched a YouTube Video from America’s Test Kitchen about Cast Iron Pizza a few weeks ago. I love pizza and had to try this out. Let’s just say I’ve fixed two in the last two weeks, and I’m never going back to frozen or delivery. The cheater’s move is to purchase pre-made pizza dough (and sauce) from Fresh Thyme. It saves you a lot of time, and they both taste delicious.

I was in Huntington, Indiana, the other day and finally got a chance to try the tenderloin at Nicks Kitchen. The place is pretty small, and they had a decent lunch crowd. I sat at the lunch counter and placed my order (with pickles, mayo, mustard, and onions).

This sandwich did not disappoint, and it lived up to the hype! The crinkle-cut fries (with Mama Selita’s Jalapeno Tomato Ketchup) and freshly made iced tea rounded out the meal. The total price was around $20 with a tip. Service was attentive, and I’d 100% return here again when I was in the area.


What I’m Watching:
I started the latest season of The Bear, and it’s just not holding my attention. The other two seasons were just OK. It’s just not living up to the hype for me. I do enjoy the chef cameos and the random Easter eggs sprinkled throughout the shows, but I’m not sure I’ll finish it any time soon.


What I’m Reading:
I just finished a 13-hour audiobook by A. American called Going Home. It’s the first book in The Survivalist Series (I’m looking forward to starting book two called Surviving Home. I didn’t realize I liked the dystopian genre, but I enjoyed this book. In fact, I decided to start watching “The Last of Us” on HBO because of it. I’m only 1 episode in, but I really like it so far.

I tried Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited 30-day trial but can’t justify the $11 a month when I have had good luck getting books from the local library using Hoopla and Libby. That’s where I got the Going Home audiobook (for free).


What Else:
Chat GPT released a desktop app for the Mac, and I have been playing around with it to see if it’s of any use. So far, when it comes to writing, I’ve found Grammarly to be easier to use, but at $150 a year, I might not be renewing. Some AI features in an upcoming MacOC release will render Grammarly an expensive add-on that will probably no longer be needed.


And Finally…
The most significant Security Flaw in North America

2023 Week 22 – Wanna Trade?

What’s Going On:
Sierra Trading Post (now just Sierra) recently opened a brick-and-mortar store on the NW side of Indianapolis. I remember (mail) ordering from them back in the late 80s, and you could get just about anything you needed for camping and hiking.

Over the years, I had all but forgotten about them and became an REI fanboy. Sierra was acquired by the TJ Maxx companies in 2012 and folded into the family of companies, including Marshalls, Home Goods, etc.

I visited the store on Sunday afternoon and was pleasantly surprised with the variety of gear they had and the prices were amazing! Think of it as a TJ Maxx for outdoor enthusiasts. I didnt have anything particular in mind to buy but walked out with a new pair of hiking shoes, convertible pants, smart wool socks, and several discounted dehydrated meals. All of this I’m planning on utilizing in an upcoming trip.

If you’re looking for some additional gear to fill any gaps you might have in your setup, I would make it a point to check out Sierra first; you might save a significant amount of money!


What I’m Buying:
As mentioned above, I went on a little shopping spree at Sierra, but prior to that, I picked up a new Tom Bihn bag called the Side Hustle. This bag is a newish design that the company is having a hard time keeping in stock. Every time I’ve tried to order it, they were sold out, but Tom Bihn allows you to add your email to a waiting list and get notified when they refresh their stock.

About three days before the big day, I was notified that the latest Side Hustle batches would be released at 2 pm PT. I posted up at my favorite watering hole and patiently waited for 5 pm ET to arrive. I was torn between the grey bag with a yellow lining like my Synik 30 and a dark blue with the same yellow liner. Well, my decision was made for me as the grey bag sold out in less than 10 minutes. Dark Blue it is!

After I use the bag for a few weeks, I’ll post a review. I purchased it as a weekend bag to carry my iPad and other items around and a day bag when traveling. So far, it’s exceeded my expectations in build quality and versatility.


What I’m Eating:
This section should be called “What I’m obsessed with this week.” I had lunch at Garden Table with one of my vendors last week. The Chicken Salad there is delicious, BTW. The server brought out a little tabletop carrier containing salt, pepper, and Tabasco Siracha! I had never seen this and tried a little bit on my last few bites of chicken salad, and my mind was blown.

I LOVE Tabasco, and I’m 50/50 on Siracha (It needs to be something compatible for me to really enjoy it, like Pho or a Bihn Mi sandwich). The combination of the two is a whole new flavor that I can not get enough of. So naturally, I decided to seek it out. Amazon had it, of course, but I refrain from ordering any food from Amazon because it’s just not cost-effective. PLUS, I enjoy the hunt to find things in the Mirad of grocery stores we have in the area.

The “Where to Buy” section was not working on the Tabasco site, so I started using Google to narrow it down to the Walmart in my area. I hadn’t been to the local Walmart in YEARS. I used to buy shotgun ammo there because it was dirt cheap, but then I started buying it in bulk online & never went back. Walmart had 11 oz bottles which are a little on the small side but at $3.50, quite a steal. I grabbed four bottles and got the hell out of there. I’m planning on spreading the word and handing a few of these bottles out to friends and family to see if I can get them hooked.

I ordered a cheesesteak from Mambo’s in City Market last week. It wasn’t the best cheesesteak I’ve ever had in Indy (that award goes to Hoagies & Hops) but paired with the seasoned fries and soda, it was the best $15 I’ve spent on lunch in a while. The city market is running at less than 50% vendor capacity, but the ones who are still there are serving up some quality food. I’m trying to do my part and grab lunch there at least once a week, if you’re working in downtown Indy you should too!


What I’m Reading:
I finally finished Solo by William Boyd. Set in 1969, it’s a James Bond book set in West Africa and book 38 in the extended series. If you’re into the franchise, it’s a worthwhile read, and I can never get enough to 007, so it was a must-read for me.

I moved on to a new author to me named T. J. Newman. She’s a former flight attendant, and her books focus around that. Her first book, Falling, is about a pilot who must crash his jet (9/11 style) or lose his family. The supporting characters really support the storyline, and I’m already halfway through the book. It’s that good.


What Else:
I’m trying a new template for the blog to give it a little more consistency and to help with the writer’s block I sometimes get when writing a weekly post. I may not use all the sections, but I’m using them as primers to help me remember all the things that went on during the week. I’m debating if I want to keep the weekly YouTube video at the end. I like it, but I may be the only one!


And Finally…
Why Fort Knox is Totally Forbidden, I was hoping they had tours available at Fort Know, but this video explains why it’s unthinkable.

2023 Week 11 – Have a Seat

WEIRD mix of weather this week with a low temp of 19 Saturday morning. We had 2 dustings of snow, and the temps are expected to be in the 60s mid-week. I did a thing Saturday night and bet against Purdue in the first round of the NCAA Championship. I turned $2 into $42. Fairleigh Dickenson, who I have never heard of, made it a great game and ended up winning 63-58.


I’m still battling some lower back pain and narrowed down one of the contributors to my home office chair. I thought it was adequate, but after healing up and sitting it last weekend for a couple of hours, my lower back pain flared up again. After some research, I decided to move to a “Gaming” style chair.

This is an interesting sub-category with various makes and models that appear similar but are priced entirely differently. Color makes a big difference within the same lineup, with some colors being 50 percent less than others in the same line. Take the AKRacing AK-SX-WT Gaming Chair for example. I purchased the black with white trim version for $283. If I wanted all black, it was going to cost $489. SAME chair, just a different color. As I revisited Amazon to get these prices, they have already changed in a week since I ordered. My black and white is now $384, and the purple-trimmed model is now selling for $287. If you’re interested in this chair & can wait, you might save some serious money.

AKRacing AK-SX-WT Gaming Chair

Overall the chair was delivered quickly, and it only took about 20 minutes to assemble. The hardware appears stainless, and the fit/finish is very nice. It sits like a leather automobile seat and has a large, adjustable lumbar and neck pillow. You can even pull a lever and recline the chair to a flat position (not sure WHY you would want to do this, but you CAN), and the armrests are adjustable up/down, left/right, and forward/back. Overall I’m giving this chair a 9/10. It’s supportive and comfortable and has helped elevate my back pain when sitting in the home office for extended periods of time.


And finally… My son wanted a globe when he was younger, and I was surprised at how expensive it could be. I saw one for a reasonable price at an antique store, only to find out it was old enough not to have the correct names for some countries. Lesson learned. The following video shows what it takes to make some of the most expensive globes in the world.

2023 Week 7 – Lock-n-Load

Feb 27, 2023 – I just realized this post was still sitting in the Drafts folder!

The last two posts have had a lot of food content in them so I’ll start this one with just one piece of food news. According to Eater, In-N-Out is expanding eastward and opening up an office outside of Nashville, TN to oversee “expansion”. My son & I tried In-N-Out on a trip out west several years ago and while we both enjoyed it, we liked Del Taco better.


Given all thats going on in the world these days, I found it very interesting an Air Force General sent his troops a memo telling them to get prepared to go to war with China in 2025.

“I hope I am wrong. My gut tells me will fight in 2025,”

Gen. Mike Minihan in a memo sent to the officers he commands and obtained by NBC News.

Gen. Minihan feels the upcoming 2024 elections are going to be a distraction where China will invate Tawain & provoke a war. I sure hope he’s wrong!


8888 Keystone Crossing, Indianapolis, IN, 46240 - Coworking Space on ...

Here’s a link to a fun video about Keystone at the Crossing, the Fashion Mall at Keystone and the Bazaar (YouTube would not let me embed it into the post). The facility was opened prior to the completion of final leg of 465 in October, 1970 between Keystone and Shadeland Avenues. You can (kind of) see the 465 construction in the background of the arial shots. I visited it before it’s demolition in 1986 and only remember the wood paneling and the stairs everywhere (so many stairs)… Evidently the mall even had a Disco called Lucifer’s.


And finally… Speaking of history, it’s been 20 years since Space Shuttle Columbia broke apart during re-entry creating the largest crash site ever on record. The following is a very well produced video shoing what happpened.

2023 Week 1 – Happy New Year!

Welcome to 2023! I hope everyone had a nice New Year’s weekend and returned to the office with a new spark, ready to tackle what 2023 has to offer. I was off work for 2 solid weeks and was ready to hit the ground running when we all came back into the office last Tuesday.


It’s official! Saraga International Grocery in Castleton is FINALLY open! The grand opening and ribbon cutting were on December 23, but we were in the middle of an artic freeze, so I’m sure the turnout was pretty light. I had an invite but decided to stay home and stay warm instead. I stopped by after Christmas for a brief walkthru, knowing I would be returning later in the week for some more serious shopping.

If you’re looking for that hard-to-find ingredient or like to try foods from other countries, this is a place you must check out. It’s no Jungle Jim’s, but it will fill the need for a lot of items I would normally drive to Cincinnati for.


I’m a slow riser in the AM & after getting a short news brief from NPR via the Alexa alarm, I like to scan the headlines before getting out of bed. There are some really good newsletters out there, and because of these, I can’t tell you the last time I sat down and watched the local news. Some of my favorites are:

Now, I don’t read all of these each morning, but I always have at least one in my inbox queued up for something to read when I have some downtime, like standing in line or waiting for my food at a restaurant. Do you have a favorite daily newsletter to share? Leave us a link in the comments!


And finally… When was the last time you watched a truck being built? It’s amazing the amount of automation in use these days, and the following video shows how they assemble the new Ford F-150 Lightning.

2022 Week 34 – Fun At The Speedway

It’s time for the 2022 Devour Indy Summerfest to begin on August 22 and run until September 4, 2022. Over 100 participating restaurants will have three-course, value-priced menus available. While not a huge savings from the standard menu prices, it’s a chance to save a few bucks and maybe check out a new place. Be sure to make reservations if you can because this event attracts a lot of attention.


Wired magazine had a great review of The Best Laptop Backpacks for Work (and Life), and it sent me down the rabbit hole of Tom Bihn bags. I used to carry a backpack with my work gear in it for years after using a messenger bag for as long as I can remember. I’ve since switched back to the messenger bag but find it a little limiting and uncomfortable to carry for long periods.

After a little YouTube research, I placed an order for a Tom Bihn Synic 30 with a Grey shell and yellow liner. It was NOT a cheap bag, but if it lives up to the hype, it might be the last bag I’ll ever need. I’ll report back in a few weeks after I get it in hand and have time to put it through its paces.

Tom Bihn Synic 30

Last weekend was the 2022 Indiana Sports Corp Corporate Challenge. As a consultant, I could never participate with my clients, and my company never participated (engineering nerds). With over 4000 people in attendance, it was a HUGE event at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS). The map they gave us before the event made it look like it was just going to take up a small part of the IMS infield, but it actually took up at least 50%. The best way to describe the event is a giant Field Day for adults. It would be great if they held it on a Friday and had some events go into the night, but they typically do it on Saturday mornings. Events include:

  • 5K Run
  • 10K Run
  • Basketball Shootout
  • Cornhole Tournament
  • Cycling Time Trial
  • Dodgeball
  • Football Toss
  • Frisbee Toss
  • Home Run Derby
  • Team Obstacle Relay
  • Total Body Fitness
  • Tug-of-War
  • Yoga
  • Zumba
  • and lots more…

As you can see, they have something for just about everyone, and it’s a nice way to compete against friends at participating companies. I ran into several people I knew from around the Indianapolis area and had a lot of fun competing for points with my coworkers.


MacMost posted a video a while ago showing several ways to Search for Photos on your Mac. Some good stuff in this video that you’re sure to learn something new.

https://youtu.be/l0Sh8MjSiig

2022 Week 30 – The Little Robot That Could

Looks like we’re finally getting a break from the heat this upcoming week. That should be good news for the expected protesters that will be downtown as Indiana lawmakers return for a special session starting tomorrow. The focus is on Abortion and what, if any, change Indiana will be making to their existing law. VPOTUS is coming to Indy tomorrow as well so it could get interesting. I’ll be sure to have the scanner with me in case something happens.


I was happy to see Amazon had a Roomba i7+ listed at 50% off during Prime Day(s). I’ve had one of the original Rumba Vacuums for years and it works pretty well but it randomly wanderers around the house bumping off walls and furniture as it does its job. The only way to contain it is to close doors or put up battery-powered “walls” that projected a beam of light.

The new Roomba Vacuums are a huge upgrade. Not only can you control it with your phone over WiFi, it maps out your house and allows you to label each room. It can handle up to 10 floorplans (each level of your house is considered a floorplan). The advantage of this is I can tell the Roomba to clean the Living Room and it will go directly there, start cleaning, and return to its charging base when it’s done. Oh, and it cleans in straight lines, not random patterns!

The Plus version I purchased has a self-cleaning base that sucks the dirt and hair out of the Roomba into a bag that only had to be changed every 30-ish days (depending on how much it picks up). That was one of the downfalls of the original model, you had to empty the bin each time and clean the rollers every 2nd or 3rd use.

I’ve been VERY impressed with the cleaning ability of the i7+ and the self-cleaning function is a game changer. There are newer (and more expensive) models, such as the j7+, but the i7+ works perfectly for me and I’m really happy I was able to pick it up at such a discount.


And finally… Kevin Hunter The Homework Guy had a great video about the environmental impact of electric vehicles. Kevin is an ex-car salesman and has a ton of great tips to help you purchase your next vehicle. If you’re in the market for a new car you should watch a few of his videos and get up to speed on the current sales “tactics” being used.

2022 Week 27 – Odd One Out

There were several large protests in downtown Indianapolis last weekend and even more this past week. All were regarding the Roe vs. Wade reversal, and all were peaceful, which s a lot better than the mess we had downtown a while back. I’ve grown up in a conservative household and have always considered myself a conservative, but as I get older, I start seeing myself siding with some liberal issues. I think I’m a Centrist, and I’m OK with that. As an example, I’m Pro 2nd Amendment as well as Pro-Choice when it comes to women’s reproductive rights. I’m not a fan of Big Government, but I also understand the need for subsidies, where needed, for the greater good. I’m a proud American, and I appreciate the freedom we have to exercise our right to protest and use our vote to produce change peacefully. I’ve left a long career with a very conservative (politically and financially) privately owned company and moved to a more liberal, not-for-profit organization. Within the first month, I opened my eyes to some things I would have never noticed before. It will be a wild ride, and I’m looking forward to growing my understanding of the “other side.”

people rallying on street
Photo by Rosemary Ketchum on Pexels.com

I had to get a new phone when I left my last employer, so I upgraded from an iPhone 12 Pro to a 13 Pro. I haven’t had to pay for a cell phone for 20+ years & was a little surprised at the cost of a non-enterprise line and phone! I decided to purchase the iPhone 13 Pro outright to give me flexibility should I want to upgrade at a future time and trade this unit in for credit. You get a surprisingly decent amount of money for used Apple products when you trade them back into Apple.

The 13 Pro has slightly better battery life, a better camera, and screen than the 12, but that’s about it. I had been upgrading my work phone every two years and was on the “Even Cycle” of phones (8/10/12) vs. the “Odd Cycle” (9/11/13). The Even cycle of iPhones always seems to have the most significant technological leaps, with a rumor that the iPhone 14 will switch from Lightning to USB-C for its power connector. Of course, Apple could remove the connector altogether and be a true wireless phone.

Luckily I get a decent stipend from the new job to cover the cost of my cell phone, but it’s nothing like having it provided for free as an employee perk. I find myself being much more careful with this $1200 device than I was when it was standard issue equipment as part of the job. I’ve also never been one to use a screen protector, but after finding what looks like a small scratch on the screen of my new phone, I ordered some tempered glass screen protectors from Amazon. We’ll see if they make a difference or not.

pexels-photo-9667337.jpeg
Photo by Caleb Oquendo on Pexels.com

And finally… CNBC had an interesting YouTube video about Amazon. It’s a combination of several pieces, so there is some redundancy, but it does a good job explaining what happens when you return an item to the shopping behemoth.


2021 Week 34 – Keto Update

I start my 3rd-week with the “Low Carb” diet this week, and I can honestly say it’s going very well. I’m getting a little tired of the limited food choices, but I found a few cookbooks over the weekend that should help mix things up a little.

My original goal was to do this for 2 weeks, but I’ve been so pleased with the results I’m going to keep up with it for a while. I’ll admit I’ve had a few cheat meals, but just being conscious of what I’m eating vs. just eating to bet full has been truly eye-opening. Also, the energy I’ve gained by drastically reducing carbs (and sugars) makes this all worth it.

Dining out has been a little tricky, but it’s doable. I’ve found most restaurants have a low-carb option on their menu, although it’s not always called that. Asking for things without bread or adding a green vegetable over fries or other starches helps keep the carbs down. Now on to our regular programming…

I decided to refresh the look of the site over the weekend & turned on a new theme called “Kvarken”. It’s an older theme and might not be supported in upcoming releases of WordPress but it was time for a refresh. I still haven’t found the “perfect” theme for the site, but as time goes on, I keep getting closer. Unfortunately, there are so many themes to choose from, and many of them are not backward compatible with what I’ve been using, so I’m a little limited in my options.

I downloaded the Grammarly app over the weekend, and I’m in the process of testing it out both personally and at work. Grammarly is a real-time spelling and grammar checker with a huge list of features available (when you pay for a subscription to access them). However, the free version is also very useful and might be what I fall back to after my 90-day subscription ends.

https://youtu.be/SphqFgCl6Po

Finally this week… The NY Times had an interesting article about the “issues” created when switching from plastic bags to cotton “totes”.