A few goals for this week

I have a few goals this week that I hope to accomplish:

  1. Get new shocks installed into Saab and the Saab registered with the city/state.
  2. Do lots of overtime for a project at work.
  3. Get a payment plan together to pay off my Subaru this year (~$5600 left on that loan).
  4. If final tax documents arrive, begin work on taxes.
  5. Figure out a cool geek project to dive into at home. It has been awhile since I have done something like this.

On a side note, it looks like my wife is going to steal my Subaru until the spring. She likes driving it in the winter and doesn’t like the thought of switching to a new car during the winter when she doesn’t know it very well. So it looks like I will have the 1993 Saab 900s convertible until spring. Which is alright, I miss driving a small car. I always said if I had to do it over, I would have not gotten a Subaru Forester and would instead have gotten a sedan.

The one constant about cars

If there is one constant in the universe about cars, it is that they break. Sooner or later, it happens. In my experience, it always seems to be when I just received something like an overtime check or a bonus. Never fails! This golden rule regarding cars can also occur when the last thing you need on your mind is a broken car. It is like the car has a sixth sense, as if it were a teenager who figured out how to get a few extra bucks out of the parents when they least expect it, just so they can have the latest and greatest (in this case, parts). 

My wife had a 1997 Dodge Neon that, to put it bluntly, was a piece of shit. No air conditioning, creaking/rattling like there is no tomorrow, a nice dent right in the trunk area, and slowly falling apart. She hated it with a passion, but she only drove the car about 7000-8000 miles a year. It had no car payment, it still got from Point A to Point B, and insurance was pretty cheap too. Once in a while, repair was needed, but we hoped to get it through another year while I finish paying off my Subaru.

It was up for inspection and registration last month, so I had it done. It passed inspection miraculously, but the mechanic gave a long list of things that sooner or later would need to be replaced. We knew it, 2009 would be the last year for this car. Maybe we could get the car to June or July before we had to make the decision.

Less then two weeks later, my wife was driving to work and all the sudden heard a loud constant noise coming from the car. It was so loud, she didn’t want to start the car again, afraid she would scare all of the kids at the daycare she works at.  A tow to the garage confirmed our suspicions: the car had a new problem that of course was not on the list when the car was inspected. It wasn’t worth fixing. We had to find her a new car.

Luckily, I was told that my grandparents were selling their 1993 Saab 900S Convertible. A quick phone call to them and within a day, we agreed on a sales price. It had 162,000 miles and needed some work, but the price could not be beat and overall the car was in great condition considering its age. My wife can already picture her summers in the convertible.

We are putting a lot of money into the Saab. A friend of mine does a lot of work on Saab’s, so I was able to save money having him work on the car. At my last count, we are at the $600 range, due to it needing a new starter, 4 new shocks, a tune-up, new wipers, new rear backup lights, and an oil change. However it drives extremely well and even factoring in the repairs, we  have come out so far ahead compared to buying a used car from a dealer and having a loan. So far ahead, it is entirely worth it, especially given the limited miles we will be putting on it.

Of course, I am sure the Saab is going to figure out who he is dealing with real soon. It won’t take it long to figure out how to tick me off.

DRM Smart Playlist in iTunes

With the announcement yesterday that all music on the iTunes Store will become DRM-free, I decided I wanted to track the progress to see which music files in my library haven’t been updated to 256kbps DRM-free AAC files yet (compared to the old 128kbps DRM’d AAC files). So I created a Smart Playlist to accomplish this!

  1. Make sure you have the latest version of iTunes (version 8.0.2 as of this writing).
  2. Go to File –> New Smart Playlist
  3. Under Match the Following Rule, do the following and then click OK.
    Screenshot of DRM Smart Playlist window
  4. So what is this Smart Playlist doing? When you buy a DRM song from the iTunes Store, the Kind tag is set to “Protected AAC audio file.” So all this playlist does is look for any file who’s Kind tag contains “protected” and is part of the Music playlist (meaning, the music section of your iTunes library).
  5. Once done, click on that newly created playlist and you will automatically see all music in your iTunes library that is still has DRM. As Apple rolls out the music that is available to be upgraded to DRM-free, you can upgrade your music and this playlist should shrink as a result. The goal of course is to have 0 songs on this playlist real soon (assuming you purchase the upgrades). Supposedly that will happen by the end of March 2009 when all songs become DRM-free on the iTunes Store.

On a sidenote, you can go through the same process to create a playlist that contains all of your iTunes Store music that is DRM-free. Just change (or create a new playlist) that searches for music with the Kind tag containing Purchased. That is all you have to change! The smart playlist will now contain all of your 256kbps AAC files purchased from the iTunes Store.

I did notice that if you changed any of the tags on your iTunes purchases, the iTunes Plus upgrades may not overwrite the old entry in iTunes. You may have to manually delete any duplicates.

2009 Resolutions

In 2008, I intentionally only had two New Year’s resolutions in order to increase the likelyhood of successfully completeing them.

The first was to get some of my debt paid off (credit cards and if I was lucky, a loan) and the second was to write more on this site.

I am glad to say is I succeeded in getting all of my credit card debt paid off. I was unable to pay off any loans, but the fact that I did get the credit cards paid off was an enourmous confidence booster.

However, writing more on this web site was a mixed bag. I wrote more earlier in the year, but definitely slacked off towards the end. Gotta work on that more this year.

My 2009 resolutions are:

  • Pay off my car loan – With my wife’s car “circling the drain” (that’s my father’s favorite saying when a car is on its last legs), it has become priority number one for 2009 to pay off my car loan. I have become a firm believer in how bad car loans are for any person, as cars never gain in value.  So I am working constructing a plan to get the last $5800 on my car loan paid off this year and be able to save up enough to get my wife a different car if her’s dies.
  • Exercise more – When I first started working at my current employer, I became a frequent visitor to the company gym and for the first time in my began to really increase my strength. Over a year ago though, I stumbled and became very lax in my gym visits before they stopped completely. I need to return to the gym more dedicated then ever. My goal is to visit the gym 3 times a week (Monday, Wednesday, and Friday).
  • Read more – While I read a ton of web sites online (thanks to Google Reader), I really want to get more into reading books again. I find that I learn the most when I read books and reading them keeps my mind very sharp.

Here is to a great 2009!

Goodbye 2008

2008 was a  year that I am going to be sorting through for years to come. There were great highs that I never dreamed of and the worst of lows for me.

The lows:

  • Goodbye Jen – Just 22 days into 2008, I lost a beloved cousin of mine to suicide. I’m still trying to cope with the fallout from losing her. We grew up together, graduated in the same high school class, and had many mutual friends. She was almost like an unofficial sister. I think about her every day, sometimes at the most random moments when something reminds me of her. The guilt of not knowing what she was going through (and thus not helping her) until it was too late will be with me for the rest of my life. Rest in Peace.
  • The Economy – While my life and I are lucky to have a good job, my 401k has declined by nearly 50% and the economy is in very rough shape. I am optimistic for 2009, but it is going worse before it gets better.
  • Ice Storm of ’08 – 3 days of no power seems insignificant compared to other people I know who went 6-12 days without power. I still hear that there is a few scattered homes without power still. I know one thing is for sure, I will take snow any day over ice.

The highs:

  • Banner #17 – The Boston Celtics pull off two big trades,  play the best basketball I have seen in my lifetime, and won banner #17. I grew up hearing about the great Celtics teams, but forced to watch the worst of the worst Celtics teams. This made it all worth it.
  • Patriots Perfect Regular Season – It didn’t end with ring #4 (still bitter about that one…) but they were clearly the most dominating football team I have ever seen. Don’t expect any team to match a 16-0 season again. Too bad they couldn’t stretch the magic to the Super Bowl.
  • A new President – Finally we elected a President who actually knows how to lead. Already a 1000% improvement over Bush and he hasn’t even taken office yet.
  • Employment – My job is at a very stable company and weathered 2008 well.
  • Working off the debt – The credit cards have been paid off. This month, I will begin working on paying off my car with the goal accomplishing the payoff by the end of 2009.
  • Family & Friends – With the death of my cousin earlier this year, I certainly became much closer with family and friends, especially those who went to high school with my cousin and I. I cannot thank them enough for their support. They helped me get through the darkest time of my life.
  • My wife – She rocks. Been married over a year and couldn’t imagine it any other way. Thank you.

In the end, I don’t know how to rate 2008. It will be one of those years that I will have to reflect on when I grow old and wise.