Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Just Ranting

So recently I had the lovely experience of going up to the car dealership and enjoy the pleasure of car shopping! Gosh I really love car shopping, its just an experience that I don't think I could really live without! Well the reason that I had to go up to the dealership in the first place is because our millage was up on the lease. This is not to be confused with the lease being up by the way... Yeah, that's right, we drove the car too much and the last time this happened it ended up costing me a ton of extra money; so to avoid that, I thought I would be smart about the millage this time and just turn the vehicle back into GM early.

Well I spent most of my afternoon looking at vehicles and haggling with the salesman over different vehicles until finally we both agreed on a car with the options and pricing that I wanted. Turns out it was the same style of car that we had leased. No big deal really, its a nice car and for a family it is roomy. The vehicle that we decided on is a Chevy Impala. The car is nice, we even decided to take it up to our cottage the next day to get the car broke in.

We've had the car about a week now, no complaints and it even seems like it drives better than the last one. I am just starting to think, gosh what a great deal, got out of the lease, and we are buying what I hope is the last car for a long time. Little did I know, a little envelope was waiting for me in the post. Yesterday when I went and checked the mail, there was letter from GMAC, no big deal, I thought that it was probably a thank you letter from GMAC for leasing a vehicle from them. Well I wasn't too far off, they did thank me, but then there were charges for vehicle damage. They are charging me over $1,000 for road damage the vehicle sustained. Like I said, I thought I was doing the smart thing for turning in the car early, as they only charged me for the millage overage and no damage the last time. That bill only came to about $900 and the funny part is the car had been rear ended and there were a ton of scratches. Well I guess they figured that they were going to charge you one way or another.

It is very frustrating and the worst part is the letter stated that this may not be the final charge as they still have to sell the vehicle and because of economic conditions we may be responsible for the remaining balance of the vehicle if the vehicle sells for less than the value of the vehicle is worth. Its amazing that they include in a letter, about economic conditions as though they are the only ones feeling the pinch of the current economic condition. They should look at my 401k! I have lost thousands dollars in the past year and some of it was wrapped up in GM stock that took a beating. So who is responsible for the money that I've lost? I think I should be able to send a letter to all of my investments that state: "due to the current economic condition, you may be responsible for the remaining balance of my retirement in the event that I come up short of plan at retirement age!"

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Crazy Man @ Work

So I was at work last night, as I usually am and I stepped outside for a quick breath of fresh air when I looked off to the side of the building and noticed that a 12 speed bike was parked outside. I immediately knew who this belonged to and quickly ran back inside to confirm my thoughts! I approached my cashier and asked her if our friend who was here last night was here again tonight and she confirmed it! She told me he was out and about somewhere in the store! Gosh I was excited, finally something to do and watch! I find it fascinating to watch individuals like these!

I quickly headed out through the store to start doing my checks but I was really on the hunt for our new crazy that is out and about the store this evening. I finally ran across him, he was located in the DVD section of our store and he was in his electric wheel chair driving it back and fourth in one spot. I obviously stuck around him for a bit to see what kinda strange things he might be up to. Fortunately for me there was a computer near by so I was able to pretend that I was actually looking something up, not making it too obvious that I was watching what he was up to.

While I was in the process of signing into the PC when all of a sudden I heard what I thought might be a bird so I looked up and there was the crazy man sitting in his electric wheel chair flapping his arms like a bird and then bringing his hands close to his mouth and then tweeting again! I only can assume that he was pretending he was a bird eating something, it only makes sense right? So the man was drawing a crowd, people pointing and laughing, so being the nice guy that I am, I offered the other customers assistance, only to draw their attention away from the poor git, flapping his arms and pretending he is a bird.

When I came back after helping the other customers he had ended his flight of the birds routine and had commenced to talking to himself, but I can't say he was actually talking to himself, because I honestly believe he thought someone was there with him as he continuously looked behind him and mumbled something that I could not comprehend. Eventually my job called me away, which was fine, as he only repeated himself over and over. All in all he spent about 4 hours in my store doing about the same thing in the same spot most of the time that he was there.

It will be interesting to see what he will be up to this evening when I arrive to work! I still think Crazy Lady who has been banned is still the best we have had in the store, she atleast was vocal and wanted attention from other people. This guy is content in not bothering anyone at all!

Friday, July 24, 2009

A New Crazy at Work

So as many of you know that follow me on twitter I work the night shift for a 24 hour retail store/supermarket and well needless to say we get a number of weirdos that visit my location. We had this lady that came in on a regular basis that ended up getting a no trespassing order from the local police, so I could no longer tweet about her adventures in my store.

Well more recently we started getting visits from an older gentleman who would sit in our lobby and conversed with the wall. Apparently the conversations must be pretty interesting as I have found him laughing on many occasions. It appears as this guy may become a regular and though last night was only the second time that I have seen him, I have been told that he has been in every night that I have been off of work. I am looking forward to tweeting about him and his adventures, unfortunately though he left fairly early last night so my fun had ended.

Now for those of you who think I am being cruel, I am not making fun of him! I am merely observing the happenings and reporting what is going on, we do not bother him and he so far hasn't bothered anyone in the store.

Tahquamenon Falls

Well I finally took the family up to Tahquamenon Falls, we made what is supposed to be a 2 and half hour trip which actually turned into a 5 hour trek and let me tell you five hours in a car, with two very young children equals not much fun at all! However even with the torture of the kids driving us nuts on the way up we still had a lot of fun! One of the best things about going to Tahquamenon Falls is the fact that you have to drive over the mighty Mackinaw Bridge, which to me will never ever get old to see!

Once you make it over the bridge and into the U.P. there are a couple of Family friendly spots all within minutes away from the bridge that are worth mentioning. The first one, which can be seen as soon as you cross the bridge is Castle Rock, it only cost 25 cents to climb to the top and the gift shop is pretty cool too. The next stop is the world famous Mystery Spot, yes much like the one located in California, so east coast people, you don't have to travel all the way to California to visit the Mystery Spot, you can come right up to Michigan and view it! With that out of the way, it takes about another hour from the bridge to make it to Tahquamenon Falls.

Once you arrive you have to pay a state park fee, which if you are a resident its only six dollars and non-residents eight dollars, but this fee will get you into any state park all day long and is also your pass for both the upper and lower falls. I would highly recommend once you arrive into the Tahquamenon Falls area, you visit the lower falls first. Although this is not as magnificent as the great Upper Falls it is still worth seeing.

Here is a little interesting fact about the Tahquamenon Falls: The Tahquamenon Falls is the third largest falls East of the Mississippi River, after the Niagara Falls and Cohoes Falls, which are both incidentally located in New York. Also the Tahquamenon Falls are also known as the Cooper Falls due to the color of the water. This copper tint is from the tannins that are leached from the cedar swamps which the river drains.

Once you are through visiting the lower falls, make your way back up the Upper Falls and one of the first things you are greeted with is a wonderful Restaurant and Brewery located just adjacent to the parking lot of the Upper Falls. This is the first spot and last spot that I visit before and after seeing the falls. The brewery is designed after an old rustic cabin set in the woods and they not only make great beer, but also serve some very delicious food. I would suggest having the Buffalo Burger with bacon and cheese and do not under any circumstance substitute the french fries for anything, their fries are out of this world!

Once you have filled up at the brewery with food and beer, its time to go and get some exercise and visit the falls. There is a paved trail that you follow and breaks off into two different directions. The shortest walk is to the gorge of the waterfall, which also has the least amount of steps to climb back up! Only a mere 97 steps, but the site you see amazing! Once you are through visiting the gorge you can turn around, climb the 97 steps back to the top and then head down to the base of the waterfall, where the view is much more spectacular.

The base of the falls will lead you through a winding set of stairs that takes you all the way down to the bottom of the falls, however you will have to visit the falls yourself to find out how many steps it will take you to get back up to the top. I do not want to ruin the surprise of the exciting climb, but the view that you get is amazing and well worth the walk.

There are options for you to consider when visiting the falls for accommodations, but for a michigander it is possible to make a daycation out of it and travel back home which is what we did. Whether you stay near the falls or drive back home you will get to cross the bridge again and I suggest making a stop at Mackinaw where you can purchase their world famous salt water taffy and incredible fudge. You also get the ability to see some better views of the bridge that are breath taking. So make your plans, book your accommodations and head to Michigan for your next family vacation and visit the Upper Peninsula and see all of what Michigan has to offer!

Upper Michigan (Up North)

Up North Michigan is synonymous with a mystical place for many Michigander and I cannot think of any other place in this country where someone can say "going up north for the weekend," and people know that you're not leaving the state. The meaning "up north" has a very distinct and very different meaning for anyone living in this great state of Michigan and it certainly is that way for my family. The meaning of Up North for me is a place called Tawas, MI where as a child I spent many summers traveling there to our family cottage with my parents and grandparents.

I remember walking the white sands of Tawas state park beach and the feel of the rushing waves come crashing up on the beach and the frigid waters rushing over my feet as I would run to try and escape the torture of the icy waters of Lake Huron. On a hot midsummer day, the icy waters of Lake Huron brought a cool refreshing escape from the heat of the sun, even if you could not stay in the water very long.

Tawas also brings another image of childhood fun, I recall after spending the day out on the beach we would go into downtown, where there are a number of shops that line up and down Main Street. I remember visiting the ice cream shop that overlooked Lake Huron and enjoying the cold treat. We would then go down to the mini golf and enjoy a game with the family during the dusk of night. I remember the mosquitoes that came out and would feast on our flesh, and even from the nuisance of this we still had lots of fun.

As an adult now with children it’s these same memories that I am trying to give to my children. We still have the same cottage and now my parents are the grandparents and we are the parents. As I watch my child play on the same beach that I played on, and play at the same mini golf place, and eat ice cream at the same shop that overlooks Lake Huron. I am able to give the same meaning of Up North to my kids.

So where is your Up North, you may not live in the same state as me, but you can still create a place like this to share with your family, to create lasting memories of days of fun and summers spent relaxing. You don't have to live in Michigan to have a mystic place to share, so go out and start creating these lasting memories and pass them along to your family!

Friday, July 17, 2009

The Economy, Media, and Government

We all know the economy is bad right? Unless you have been living under a rock, somehow, someway and maybe even someone you know has been affected by this slumping economy! Believe me I know, I live in the state that seems to be taking the worst beating over this economy: Michigan.

However do we have to be reminded everyday about how bad the economy is? Really is the economy that bad? Well it depends really on how you are being affected by it. Sure unemployment is the leading indicator and if you are unemployed, certainly you are one that is feeling the ever tightening grips of this sluggish economy!

I am one of the fortunate ones that have a job, and believe me I am thankful everyday that I have the job that I do. The job that I have also gives me a different perspective on the economy as well. Being in retail and employed by a retailer that seems to be bucking the trend and actually turning a profit gives me this unique opportunity and perspective on the economy.

The first point I would like to make is that the media needs to calm down on feeding the doom and gloom of the economy. I have stopped listening to the news and have noticed that I am less concerned about how bad the economy is. As I have mentioned I work in retail and I still see money being spent on a daily basis on wants over needs!

How bad is the economy? If the economy was really that bad would the release of Harry Potter at midnight July 14th really be able to gross 22.1 million dollars in one night, setting a record for a single night release.

The second point I would like to make is that I find it absolutely amazing that banks that have taken TARP money are currently posting profits! How is this? Banks have frozen line of credit, shut off lines of equity to home owner and have for the most part stopped lending money! Isn't lending how a bank makes a profit? So if banks have slowed down their lending practices, then how are they able to turn a profit and so quickly after TARP? I have a feeling that banks are taking that TARP money and turning around and investing it into safe securities and it’s the interest or ROI that they are posting as profits! If banks turned the flow of money back on to the consumers, allowing consumers to access lines of credit, equity and mortgages the economy would start moving in the right direction without the need for government intervention.

This brings me to my final point; all we have learned from having a government interfere in a free trade system is that it only compounds the problems. Money given to banks has not ended up into the consumer’s hands like it was intended to happen and companies being saved from bankruptcy only turn around and still files bankruptcy! I say it’s time to allow the economy to run as it is intended and get the government out of it! Let the weak companies fail and the strong companies prevail. The only thing that I have seen come out of government interference with the economy is a larger debt that seems to be dragging our economy further down, rather than speeding up the process for recovery.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Movies (no spoiler)

Took the family to go see Harry Potter and The Half Blood Prince, the long awaited release that all Harry Potter fans have been waiting for and to say the least I was just a little disappointed about the movie! Don't worry I won't spoil it for you, but I will say that if you can wait for it to come out on video, then I would suggest doing so! Save your money and take your family to dinner instead! If you've read the book, then you are really going to be in for a major disappointment as the book this time was much better than the movie, and even though this is the case with all of the movies, it is especially true in this case. I say this because some major action was left out of the movie that I believe should have been added to give the movie the same spunk as the previous Harry Potter movies.

If you go and see the movie and haven't read the book, I would suggest going back and reading the book, you will be surprised by the amount of detail that was excluded in this movie! I know you are thinking that all books are better than the movie, but at least in previous Harry Potter movies, the major points were included, and though that is the case in this movie, the movie was still rather dry for the lack of action that should have been included. Hopefully for the two-part movie for book 7 will rekindle my love for the Harry Potter movies.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


Well it is official I am a twitterholic! How did this happen? Like most people we have been hearing a lot about twitter, tweeps, tweople, tweets and whatever other term that is out there, so I decided to check it out and see why people are talking about twitter so much!

I signed up with twitter in March of 2009, a late comer by many standards and at first I wasn't sure about it, so I started to post things like: "cleaning the couch off!" not really sure how affective my tweets were really being, and sure thousands of people will post this way, which is fine! However I wanted something more so quickly I jumped on the mass media band wagon and started following news feeds! I quickly found a way to voice my opinion about politics, the economy and other issues! It wasn't long that I started to build up a following!

Soon twitter became more than just a stage for me; it became a place where I have the opportunity to meet thousands of people that, under normal channels I would never have the opportunity to meet! Like many other twitter users I am drawn to the simplicity of the site, a place to make a 140 character posting about anything!

This is how I use Twitter now, it is a place to post about me, and my thoughts, some of the funny stuff I deal with and the things that I find funny that either happen to me, or I see happening. I also share the bad with the good and the funny part, people listen, which amazes me! It is this that has fueled my addiction and has also given me the driving force to blog!

So with that, I leave you with this! Twitter is not for everyone, but it does have its usefulness, and to me it is a place where I can quickly get caught up with the news, share my thoughts and opinions and listen to others, and even debate topics from time to time, but above all else it is a place that I have meet some terrific people and I would like to thank all my followers now!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Tech Notes from Josh

So I purchased a Samsung Epic I907 Window's Smartphone offered by AT&T about 2 months ago! I have been steadily using it for quite some time and have found that I do like the phone! However there are some negatives about this product that I think Samsung should address.

  • First off the glossy finish on the phone makes it very susceptible to numerous surface scratches making the fairly new phone look years old after just a couple months of use.

  • Secondly the QWERTY keyboard is significantly smaller than most of its competitors and not to mention the keys seem rather stiff, even after 2 months of use leading to a number of misspelled words while texting, twittering, blogging or anything else.

There are some options however that has made me look past these flaws and really enjoy the phone:

  • I really enjoy the integrated mouse that Samsung has developed, it makes using this phone that much more enjoyable and I think its a feature they should start to integrate within other smartphone models that Samsung offers.

  • The larger screen also makes reading through material easier

  • The battery life seems to hold well enough for a strong 8 hours worth of constant use however falls short of the 12 hours that Samsung boasts.

  • The phone also has a touch screen with a stylus, however with the mouse it almost seems redundant to even include this feature as part of the phone as I have only used the stylus a handful of times.

Overall I would give the phone a favorable review, an 8 of 10, nice job Samsung!

Can Homebrewing save me money?

A question was posed to me today that has prompted me to want to write about! I was asked if homebrewing was really an economical option to reducing cost! My answer is absolutely! Folks you do not have to have the most elaborate set up to produce good quality beer! A basic easy homebrewing start up kit with at least a 5 gallon brewing pot can easily set you up to producing good quality beer for pennies on the dollar!

The initial set up of equipment will start paying for itself after about 5 batches of beer has been produced and for every batch of beer you produce you will have just over 48 bottles of beer which equates to two full cases each and every time you brew beer. After which each time you brew beer the only cost to you will be the cost of the actual beer kit which can range from as little as $16.00 to as much as $45.00 depending on the style of beer.

Now I ask you, where can you buy 2 cases of beer for $16.00? Not even the cheapest beer you could find on the market will be that cheap! Not to mention the beer you produce will be of a higher quality and much fresher than any beer you can buy off the shelf!

So in my favorite words "Happy Brewing!"

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Thinking about Homebrewing

Do you enjoy beer? Yet the better question is do you enjoy craft beers and micro brewed beers? If the answer to that is yes, and you are like me, than you have developed a palate for fine brews! I too enjoy craft brews and have toured a number of micro breweries to get a sense of how beers are crafted and the art of bringing a beer alive. This passion has translated me to bring the art of this craft to my own home and hand craft my own beer.

The art of brewing a beer can be complicated and overwhelming, however there are less elaborate systems to allow the average Joe to step into the art of home brewing without knowing all there is to know about home brewing. Even I, who has been brewing for a few years will admit that there is still a lot that I do not know and I learn something new each and every time I brew a beer.

The first step in crafting your own brew is committing the time that is needed and then taking that leap from just drinking beer to crafting beer. The second step is finding a resource, and yes I am a resource, but only one avenue. I highly suggest that you locate a local home brew retailer. These are normally small shops who devote there attention to catering to the amateur and novice home brewer, not to mention home brewers themselves. These shops provide a valuable resource and are more than happy to answer any question that you may have and even help you solve problems that you may encounter while brewing your beer.

If you are reading this blog, most cases it means that you are thinking about home brewing and just haven't made that first leap! I am going to tell you that you should just do it and my suggestion is to start easy with a basic extract home brewing system. A valuable online resource that I have used to source some of my equipment has been who also sells basic home brew kits to get anyone started in the art of crafting your home brew. This link provides an overview of some home brewing kits, my suggestion is to purchase the basic home brewing set. This is the first set that I purchased and used in crafting some of my favorite home brews.

Although this set provides you with the basics that is needed, it does not supply you with everything. You will still need to purchase a stainless steel pot that can handle approximately 5 gallons of water. (DO NOT USE ALUMINUM, this can cause off flavors) and you will need approximately 52 empty amber beer bottles. Once you collect these three items the only other item you will need is an actual extract kit. Once again you can select a kit though northernbrewer by following this link: I suggest selecting an Ale kit as these are the simplest kits to produce good quality home brew. I will also suggest brewing a Kolsch Extract beer as this is a fairly simple kit and not to mention one of my favorite beers that I like to enjoy on a nice warm summer day, especially after mowing the lawn.

The total approximate cost to setting up a basic home brewing kit is: $169.00 through

You may be able to source some equipment and supplies cheaper through a local home brew supplier as well, its always a good idea to shop around.

My next blog will be brewing your first homebrew: Extract brewing