Archive for November, 2013

‘Tis the Season for Debt!

November 30, 2013

It has finally arrived, the beginning of the holiday buying season.  And for the most part, I am already finished with my Christmas shopping and I have managed to stay within my budget without having had to whip out my credit cards.  Last year, according to the American Research Group, the average holiday gift spending was $854, which is up over 30% from the previous year.   Ideally, getting through life in general, let alone the holidays, without having to use credit cards would be a wonderful thing.  I strive to reserve using my credit card for travel expenses, emergency expenses, or only those expenses  that can be covered within any given month.  And, for the most part I have been successful.   But there is a large number of persons who are not so fortunate.  Did you know that . . . the average U.S. household credit card debt stands at $15,185 (wow!)?  Additionally, the average mortgage debt is $147,133 and the average student loan debt is $31,509.  Luckily for me, I do not have a mortgage or a student loan, and, my credit card debt is virtually nonexistent.  My key to success . . . delayed gratification (generally easier said than done, but doable nonetheless).

Sources:

  • The U.S. Census, taken by the federal government every 10 years, tells us how many American households there are;
  • The Aggregate Revolving Consumer Debt Survey, taken monthly by the Federal Reserve, tells us how much debt is outstanding, in total; and
  • The Survey of Consumer Finances, taken by the Federal Reserve every 3-5 years, tells us the percentage of families with credit card debt.
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Less is More!

November 29, 2013

aspirationdemotivatorOn this, Black Friday, the official first day of the Christmas shopping season (though we’ve been hit over the head with the advertising and hype since October), here is one of the newer demotivators (courtesy of http://www.despair.com) that expresses my aspirations for this holiday weekend away from work.  We are half way through the weekend and I think that I have been overwhelmingly successful (so far).

Happy Thanksgiving, 2014!

November 28, 2013

It is not “officially” winter (yet), but our cold snap this week certainly has us thinking that winter has arrived. So, how about a little “Winter” from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons to get us in the mood? The first one is courtesy of Victor Barinov.

Here’s another rendition courtesy of Ukrainian Aleksandr Hrustevich (both playing an accordion). Hrustevich’s even has his own YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/Hrustevich#p/u.

And if you just can’t get enough of Vivaldi, here is the entire Four Seasons Symphony:

College Basketball 2014, Week Three!

November 27, 2013

127Following their wins in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic last weekend (over Virginia Tech and Oklahoma), the #1 Spartans get a bit of a break and don’t play again until Friday (Mount Saint Mary).  Go Green!   Considering we are still in November (i.e., the early non-conference season), there have been quite a few upsets this week and numerous “close calls” for many teams in the top-25.  If these early upsets are any indication of what is yet to come, then we may be in for a really wild college basketball season this year.

The upsets among the top-25 this week included:
Louisville (#3) losing to North Carolina (#24).
VCU (#10) losing to unranked Florida State.
VCU (#10) losing to unranked Georgetown by four (4) points.
Gonzaga (#11) losing to unranked Dayton by five (5) points.
Michigan (#14) losing to unranked Charlotte by two (2) points.
New Mexico (#19) losing to unranked Massachusetts.
Marquette (#25) losing to unranked Arizona State by only two (2) points.

The close calls (wins by six points or less [two scores]) among the top-25 this week included:
Duke (#6) defeating unranked Vermont by only one (1) point.
VCU (#10) defeating unranked Long Beach State by only six (6) points.
Wisconsin (#10) defeating unranked Saint Louis by only six (6) points.
Michigan (#14) defeating unranked Florida State by only two (2) points in overtime.
Baylor (#18) defeating unranked Dayton by only one (1) point.
Connecticut (#18) defeating unranked Boston College by only two (2) points.
Connecticut (#18) defeating unranked Indiana by only one (1) point.
New Mexico (#19) defeating unranked UAB by only three (3) points.
Baylor (#20) defeating unranked Charleston Southern by only five (5) points.
Iowa State (#21) defeating unranked BYU by only two (2) points.
Marquette (#25) defeating unranked New Hampshire by only five (5) points.

The losses to higher-ranked teams among the top-25 this week included:

Apples and Pear — a Fall Dessert!

November 26, 2013

Here’s an easy recipe for a delicious fall dessert . . .

Fruit Tart

½ cup butter, softened
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1½ cups all-purpose flour
2 large apples, peeled and thinly sliced
1 medium pear, peeled and thinly sliced
4½ teaspoons cornstarch
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cardamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ cup orange juice
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
½ cup apricot jam, warmed

In a small mixing bowl, beat butter and cream cheese until smooth.  Gradually add flour, beating until mixture forms a ball.  Cover and refrigerate for an hour.

In a large bowl, combine apples and pear.  In a small bowl, combine cornstarch and spices; stir in orange juice until smooth.  Stir in brown sugar until blended.  Add to apple mixture and stir gently to coat.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough into a 14-inch circle.  Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Spoon filling over the pastry to within 2 inches of edges.  Fold up edges of pastry over filling, leaving center uncovered.

Bake at 375º for 40-45 minutes or until crust is golden and filling is bubbly.   Spread with apricot jam.  Using parchment paper, slide tart onto a wire rack to cool.

Abandoned But Not Forgotten, Number Twenty-Seven!

November 25, 2013

KeelungHere is yet another example of a development project that never reached fruition.  It would appear that this was a project in Keelung, Taiwan, during a time when housing demands were increasing and many developers were rushing to capitalize on the growing need for houses (probably in the mid- to late-1990s).  Unfortunately, it is purported that the construction company went bankrupt in 1997 and that these unfinished apartments have spent the 15 years that followed totally abandoned and now partially reclaimed by nature.  I believe these were finally demolished in 2012 to make room for a new development of luxury villas.  Ah, the ebb and flow.  Hopefully this new developer will not run out of money.

College Football 2013, Week Thirteen!

November 24, 2013

127For the second consecutive week, the Spartans were on the road.  This time, they traveled to Northwestern to take on the Wildcats who were winless in the Big Ten.  Michigan State’s win today at Evanston, coupled with Minnesota’s loss to Wisconsin guarantees the Spartans a first-place finish in the Legends Division and a trip to the Big Ten Championship game in Indianapolis on December 7th.  The Spartans remain unbeaten in conference play (7-0) and still have a two-game lead on Nebraska (whom they beat head-to-head) with only one game remaining.  The Big Ten has four teams ranked in the latest BCS rankings (for now, Minnesota may drop out this week following their loss to Wisconsin): Ohio State (#3),  Michigan State (#13), Wisconsin (#19) and Minnesota (#25).  Next up for the Spartans: at home against the Golden Gophers of Minnesota.  And, on the basketball front, the #1 Spartans won the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic in Brooklyn by defeating Virginia Tech on Friday night and Oklahoma on Saturday night. Go Green!

The upsets this week included:
Baylor (#4) losing to Oklahoma State (#10).
Oregon (#5) losing to unranked Arizona.
Texas A&M (#12) losing to LSU (#22).
UCLA (#14) losing to Arizona State (#17).

The close calls this week (games that were won by a touchdown or less) included:
Louisville (#21) defeating unranked Memphis by only seven (7) points.

Top-25 matchups won by the higher-ranked team included:
Missouri (#8) defeating Ole Miss (#24).
Wisconsin (#19) defeating Minnesota (#25).

Mind Your Consumption!

November 23, 2013

With the holiday season right around the corner,  let’s be careful about our consumption of alcohol.  Did you know that 23% of men binge drink (five or more drinks in one sitting)?  This month, Men’s Health magazine examined and ranked cities on their levels of intoxication.  The metrics used to measure and rank included: persons killed in alcohol-related crashes (NHTSA), death rate from alcoholic liver disease, percentage of people who are binge drinkers (CDC), number of DUI arrests per capita (FBI), and the strength of various state DUI/DWI laws (IIHS).  Did you also know that only 65% of all designated drivers actually abstained from drinking and had BrAC (breath alcohol concentrations) less than .02%?  Seventeen (17) percent did not abstain and had BrACs under .05%, but eighteen (18) percent actually had BrAC greater than .05% and were considered “impaired.”  Here are the results:

Most Sober Cities:
1. Salt Lake City, UT
2. Jersey City, NJ
3. New York, NY
4. Plano, TX
5. Chicago, IL
6. Miami, FL
7. Boston, MA
8. Virginia Beach, VA
9. Newark, NJ
10. Bridgeport, CT

Least Sober Cities:
91. Reno, NV
92. St. Louis, MO
93. Austin, TX
94. Billings, MT
95. Fresno, CA
96. San Bernardino, CA
97. Cheyenne, WY
98. Stockton, CA
99. San Antonio, TX
100. Bakersfield, CA

Source: Men’s Health magazine (www.menshealth.com/metrogrades)

Fifty Years Ago Today!

November 22, 2013

Do you remember where you were when you learned of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy?  Today marks the 50th Anniversary of his death . . . here are some of the facts:

  • Kennedy was the 35th President of the United States.
  • Kennedy was the fourth President to be assassinated.
    • Abraham Lincoln (1865)
    • James Garfield (1881)
    • William McKinley (1901)
    • John F. Kennedy (1963)
  • Kennedy was assassinated at 12:30 PM CST.
    • by a sniper,
    • on Friday, November 22, 1963,
    • in Dallas, Texas (Dealey Plaza).
  • The weapon used: 6.5 × 52 mm Italian Carcano M91/38 bolt-action rifle.
  • The assassin: Lee Harvey Oswald.
  • Also wounded:
    • Texas Governor, John Connolly.
    • James “Jim” Thomas Tague (bystander/witness).
  • Occupants of the Presidential limousine:
    • President Kennedy,
    • Jackie Kennedy (wife),
    • Governor John Connolly,
    •  Nellie Connolly (wife).
    • Secret Service Agent William Greer (driving).
    • Secret Service Agent Roy Herman Kellerman.

Some other resources:

A Scare A Day!

November 21, 2013

Everyone is familiar with the famous quote from Franklin D. Roosevelt’s inaugural address about fear, aren’t they?  “… let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is…fear itself …”  But were you aware of a another quotation (often attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt, though in reality should probably be attributed to Mary Schmich [according to the “Quote Investigator“]) that is closely related to FDR’s quotation . . . perhaps the attribution to Eleanor was because it was so similar to her husband’s famous quotation.

“Do one thing everyday that scares you.” — Mary Schmich

This is all about “risk” and to achieve individual growth, you must be willing to exercise or to take risks in life.