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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Just did a mortgage refinance

from our old 30 year @ 5.875% to a 15 year @ 4.675%, with no points. Our payment will go up by about $300/month, but our mortgage term will be shorter by 8 years and our interest is over 1% lower. We're doing an "even-steven" refi; no cash out or cash in (although we'll probably get a bit of cash at closing depending on the timing of the closing)

We figured we aren't going to do much better interest-rate wise, so we decided to pull the trigger.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Managing one's software career

Today, I was at a party with some friends, and one of the people there had been recently laid off from his job at HP. At the end of the day, his problem was he tried to stay a "web generalist", and ran out of gas trying to stay on the infinite "skilz treadmill". He's walking away from programming...

I've chosen a different career direction: getting to a high level in an extremely useful, if old, programming language - C - and mastering a relatively obscure application domain. A useful side effect is I don't have to retrain every two or three months or master yet another script language. I don't love syntax enough to play games with it over and over, and would much rather learn new algorithms and genuine new approaches to hard problems over mastering yet another bunch of syntactic gobbledygook.

My career pledge is to avoid any programming that involves a "color". It's worked well so far.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Losing weight...

Yesterday, I hit Magic Number #1 on my attempt to lose a bunch of weight. Unfortunately, programming for a living isn't exactly something that works up a physical sweat, so I've accumulated rather too many pounds over the years.

Fortunately, I'm still quite healthy due to exercising on our crosstrainer machine, walking, and backpacking trips, but I'm still well above where I should be. I don't put much stock in silly BMI numbers, but I still want to "get down" by a fairly significant amount.

Anyway, Magic Number #1 is about 25 pounds less than my "zenith weight". Magic Number #2 is about 15 pounds more. Ultimately, my target weight is about 30 pounds less than Magic Number #2.

My big changes:

1. Eating less rice. My wife is Chinese, and we eat a basically (home-made) Chinese diet, with lots of rice and noodles. We've done what amounts to a "mini-Atkins" by upping the green veggies and downsizing the rice and noodles in our meals. We eat half the rice we used to eat. My wife now uses various stringy veggies like bean sprouts as a partial substitute for noodles in soups.

2. Less snacking. I used to always have a bag of corn chips handy. It's now gone.

3. A bit more exercise. For my three times per week on the cross-trainer, I've upped the workout from 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes (+ 10 minutes cooldown). (We also walk file miles twice per week)

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Thoughts on emergency kits

Some random thoughts on emergency kits:

1. As a Californian, my main "emergency" would be earthquakes. Earthquake emergency kits are somewhat different from most other kits, although they would tend to have the same "stuff" in them. The biggest difference is that an earthquake emergency kit probably should be in the back yard, away from the house. Since earthquakes can destroy houses, having an emergency kit in the garage or closet may not be useful. We keep ours in a small shed in our backyard.

2. The emergency kit contents would include the usual: a week's worth of MRE-type food, water (we keep 25 gallons and rotate it every six months), warm-weather clothes, blankets, a first-aid kit, candles, hand-crank flashlights and radios, batteries, etc. Good lists can be found in numerous places online. One other thing that's good to have is a shovel so you can dig an emergency latrine or do other emergency duties that involve moving dirt.

3. A temporary place to sleep is also useful. We keep our camping and backpacking gear with our emergency kit so we can have tents and sleeping bags if we need them.

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