Category: Random Thoughts (page 1 of 2)

I like birds….and my bird feeder (REVIEW)

As I mentioned in my post about becoming a homeowner, I got into bird watching.  Sometimes I feel like I should be retired, because I remember my Grandma and Grandpa Pautz always watching the birds at the bird feeder by their camper.

When we first moved in, the previous owner of our house left her plastic tube feeder and the shepherd’s hook that held it.  Once it warmed up a little, I bought some cheap seed from Menard’s and decided to give it a go.  I was very fascinated by the birds that came, and impressed that such a cheap feeder could attract a variety of birds.  Unfortunately the feeder met its match at the less-than-perfect frisbee throwing ability of my younger brother Joe.  The frisbee hit it and it completely shattered.  It was an explosion of seed and plastic.

By this point I committed to the birds, so the next time I went to Menard’s I picked up the Wild Wings Cedar Bird Feeder. Nature's Way Bird Feeder

Design

Due to its hybrid design, this feeder attracts larger birds as well as smaller birds.  I noticed with the old tube feeder, that cardinals and blue jays and other larger birds only ate what fell, because the feeder wasn’t large enough for them to safely land.  The Nature’s Way feeder solves this by combining the feeding ports with a larger bird hopper style.   It attracts such a variety of birds, you really don’t need other feeders.

The other problem I had with the tube feeder was difficulty in cleaning it out.  The Nature’s Way feeder has removable acrylic windows and a removable grate on the bottom.  This makes it really easy to clean.  The grate is great because it keeps water from sitting in the seed after it rains, which prevents bacteria/mold.

Finally, this feeder looks nice. Much better than the cheap plastic tube feeder.  It also comes in a bamboo version, a wavy style, or a wavy style bamboo version on Amazon.  I can whole-heartedly recommend this feeder based on about 6 months of use.  (I’ll give future updates on how it does over time.)

Happy bird watching!

Reflections on being a homeowner, 6 months in

Alyssa and I have been homeowners since April and I figured it would a good time to reflect about what I’ve learned and my likes and dislikes.

I enjoy yard-work

When we first moved in the middle of April, the first thing I focused on was the leaves that weren’t raked last fall.  I had to buy my first rake!  It gave me a nice sense of accomplishment to both complete this task as well as to see how much better the yard looked upon completion.

After the grass in the yard started growing I had to mow the lawn.  At first I used an old mower that my uncle gave me, and after some struggles, decided to just buy a new one.  (Let me know if you are in the market for a new mower, I could pass on the research I did when I bought mine.)  The new mower is a variable self-propelled mower with bagging, mulching, and regular discharge options.  It is a joy to cut my lawn and the results are more than worth the effort.

There are a number of other things that I do around the yard, all of which I really hated to do a part of my chores growing up.  The years of not doing them, and the fact that someone (my dad) isn’t telling me to do it, makes these things more enjoyable.

Conservation is fun

I’ve always been pro-recycling and pro-environment, since I have a deep ingrained love of the outdoors, stemmed from my lifetime of camping/hiking/outdoor sports as well as my duty to protect  God’s creation.

Since owning our home, I made two cheap garbage cans into compost bins (drilled some holes in it) and we have been composting all our kitchen scraps and appropriate yard waste.  It is impressive how much less garbage we generate when composting.  Plus, pitchforks are fun.

We also bought a couple rain barrels and have been using rainwater to water our plants outside.  Next spring when we plant a garden instead of just using a bunch of planter boxes, I want to rig up an irrigation system with the rain barrels.  We’ll see if that happens.

You think differently about things

When we rented, we didn’t want to spend much time, effort, or money improving things, unless it came to cleaning.  We knew we weren’t going to be living there for very long, so it just didn’t make any sense.  Since we’ve been homeowners, we’re frequently making small improvements here and we appreciate the control and learning as we go.

I hate painting

Shortly after we moved in we re-painted 4 rooms.  Paint is relatively cheap and we couldn’t justify paying someone else to do it, so Alyssa and I bit the bullet and did the paint ourselves.  We learned some things as we went, and one of the things I learned was how much I dislike painting. I also learned that swatches aren’t enough for Alyssa to be happy with the color.  We needed to get samples.  (Repainting the kitchen right after we painted it the first time told us this.)

There is always something more I could do

…but that doesn’t mean I have to be constantly busy.  I could work on my house full time, but that’s not the point.  It will never be perfect.  Sure there are things I prioritize, but some things aren’t worth my time or money right now.  Maybe they will be down the road and that’s fine, but I’ve quickly come to the realization that I can’t do it all now.  I also don’t want to.

Am I happy?

I don’t have any regrets thus far.  When we made the offer, I was definitely hesitant.  Committing to paying that amount of money will do that to a person.  What if something went wrong?  What if the inspector missed something crucial?  I got over my fears and since the house checked almost all the boxes in our search, we went for it.  Alyssa and I are both really happy with the decision.

Breakfast Cereals, Ranked

I eat breakfast every single day, and most days I eat cereal.  When I say cereal, I don’t mean that dog food stuff that some people eat or the cardboard that others eat.  I eat cereal that tastes great, and may or may not be that great for me, though mostly the fact that I’m eating breakfast is what is really important.

The rules for this list are simple.  First, every cereal on this list is still manufactured and sold in stores.  Someday I may do a tribute to great cereals that are no more.  Second, every cereal on this list I have personally tasted.  While you’d think this would severely shorten my list, you’d be wrong.  I’m a cereal lover and connoisseur.  Finally, I’ll add there are not many cereals on this list one would consider healthy.  I usually steer clear.  Cereals like Special K, Total, Kashi, etc. are not on this list because I don’t eat them.  And I probably won’t in the future, unless you convince me otherwise in the comments.

Without further ado, here is my list of breakfast cereals, ranked: Continue reading

Appreciate the things we don’t get anymore

Last week my company held its second annual User Group conference, where we invited all of our clients and to come to Milwaukee for sessions, networking, and to meet our team.  This year it was held at the Pfister Hotel, a luxury hotel built in 1893.

Being in such an old building and experiencing the awesome architecture reminded me of my time in Europe with my college choir, seeing cathedrals, opera houses, and old churches.

Sitting at lunch last Tuesday, talking with one of my coworkers and a couple clients, I commented on how cool the ceiling was in the Imperial Ballroom.  Interestingly, my coworker really didn’t care about it at all.  I love the level of detail, the work involved, and the fact that most of it was likely hand-carved.  I appreciate it because this level of decor and detail is pretty much extinct.  Everything nowadays is more function over form, mostly because of cost.

I appreciate functionality as much as the next guy, but late 1800s architecture really is special.

The Imperial Ballroom at the Pfister Hotel, Milwaukee, WI

State of the Jimmy: End of May 2013

I’ve been lazy lately when it comes to blogging.  I’ve probably had time to blog, but I just wasn’t in the mood.  I’ve been spending my time getting moved in my our new bigger place and, because of the move, catching up on TV.

TV

I got really behind on Once Upon a Time and I got slightly behind on The Office, which just aired its last ever episode last week.  It was an emotional finale, but it was one of the most satisfying finales (and overall last seasons) I’ve ever seen.  Steve Carrel even made a small cameo as Michael Scott!  I definitely recommend this season and the entire series to watch (or binge watch).

Once Upon a Time on the other hand is probably the most average of the series that I am currently watching.  It is good, but not as mind-blowing as similar series (Like LOST, Fringe, etc.).  It just ended a couple weeks ago and I’m intrigued, but the entire series feel so gimmicky to me.  I still like it enough to keep watching, but I don’t look forward to it as much as the other shows I’m watching.

Revolution‘s first season will be wrapping up in a couple weeks and I’ve been really impressed with the grittiness of this show.  The concepts are really amazing and they’ve really blossomed as of late, but the execution really went in a war-like and violent direction that was a bit unexpected for me, but in a good way.  I’m also pleased that it was renewed for another season.

Another show that was renew, even though I didn’t expect it to be, is Community.  The 4th season started in February and ended a few weeks ago.  It was funny, but it wasn’t by any means its best season, but it was must have been good enough for NBC to renew so I’ll be watching.

Psych has really been awesome.  I’m glad there was been at least a couple more seasons of this hilarious and addicting comedy.  There are a couple more episodes this season and I’m excited for what is going to happen.

My wife and I have been watching Firefly, which is a very good show that we can stream on Amazon Prime.  Space cowboys.  Enough said.

Finally, I’ve started watching The X-Files and I’m already hooked.  It reminds me of Fringe in a lot of ways.  (I know that Fringe came much later, but I watched it first…)  Amazon Prime with my Roku is awesome.

Movies

I haven’t seen any new movies lately, but I’m really looking forward to seeing Iron Man 3, Star Trek 2, Man of Steel, World War Z, The Wolverine, and After Earth.  The only downside of having kids is that you need to get a babysitter to go somewhere…otherwise parenthood is awesome.

Camping/Backpacking/Outdoors

I’m looking forward to camping this year, we’re going car camping a bunch of times already this year, starting with next weekend.  I’m pumped.
I’ve also been slowly acquiring some backpacking gear, you saw my tent, but I’ve also acquired a Sawyer filter water bottle (which has a 1 million gallon guarantee), some para-cord, and a foam sleeping pad.  I decided to go foam with the sleeping pad because it was cheap and I do like a firm sleeping surface.  I’ll try it and see how it goes.  Plus, I won’t have to deal with leaky air mattresses.  
I’ll be getting a backpack from my father-in-law, and hopefully that fits me.  Otherwise, I’ve got my eye on a Kelty Trekker external frame backpack as a backup.  I’m also going to get a lightweight, compressible sleeping bag from Suisse Sport for a great price.  I’ll probably also get a fixed blade knife, but for now my folding Buck knife will suffice.
Honestly, I won’t have the best gear, and I don’t have backpacking experience, but I’ve got to start somewhere.  I enjoy car camping and the outdoors, I really want to get into backpacking as well.
Finally, I’d like to shout out to my beautiful and talented wife for getting me this t-shirt (and for being awesome in general!):

Jimmy’s Sweet Job and other things

That’s right, I have a job now!  Well, I had a job until the end of the year, but then I didn’t.  Now I have a sweet new job at a sweet company with sweet people.  I’m a software developer (in training) at Digital Measures (don’t worry, a new website is in the works and will be coming in a month or so) in Milwaukee.  I’m very excited and I enjoy coming to work.

This means I don’t have to use my time outside work to search for jobs anymore.  I still spend time with my wife and son, but I’ll definitely have more time to spend on writing this blog.

I’m actually in the process of writing a bunch of mini-reviews of movies that I’ve seen in the last several months, since my time in the last year on this blog has been a bit minimal.  I’ll continue to write some full length reviews and share my thoughts on the TV I’ve been watching as well.  (I’ve gotten into more survival TV that Discovery Channel puts out, and some other shows.)

I also plan to share my media server setup, which I put together after we got a Roku for Christmas.  I’ll even share some photos as well.

Finally, I’ve car camped my whole life and I love it.  I’ve decided to go a little ‘rougher’ and do some backpacking as well.  I’ll share some of my gear, and my experiences as a beginner backpacker.

Stay tuned.

-Jimmy

The Election: What God has to say and other thoughts

I’m not going to share my opinions, I’m just going to quote the One who really knows what He’s talking about.  (Then I’ll quote Jon Foreman of Switchfoot.)

Romans 13:1-7

Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. 

This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

Matthew 21:15-22

15 Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. 16 They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. “Teacher,” they said, “we know you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are. 17 Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” 

18 But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? 19 Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, 20 and he asked them, “Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?”

21 “Caesar’s,” they replied.

Then he said to them, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”

22 When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.

 1 Peter 2:13-17

13 Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, 14 or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. 15 For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men. 16 Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God. 17 Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king.

Some other wise words…

Finally, I’d like to share with you some of the words of Jon Foreman, a Christian man from the band Switchfoot:

The self-evident truths that bind us together as a nation are not our arguments or our greed. Rather, the shining hope of our land is the democratic notion that all men are created equal, with equal access to liberty, justice and civil rights. In a government of the people, by the people, for the people, we define ourselves. The American Dream is your dream. And my dream. We are the problem and the solution; we each have an irreplaceable role in our communities and in our nation. No matter what the statistics say, people are not numbers. And neither are you. You can serve our nation in ways that even the president cannot.

Every day you cast your ballot—with your time, with your money and with your actions. You vote for the president once every four years. But what about the 1,460 days in between? The question facing our country is: What kind of nation do you want to live in? Yes, the United States has problems. But has there ever been a generation free from worry? Our country is run by fallible people who make mistakes like you and I. But my heroes, my favorite Americans, are the ones who spend their time changing the world instead of complaining. People who are facing the irreducibly complex issues of our times with practical love and tangible solutions. Because America starts in our own backyard.

[…]

The trouble with a democracy is, you’re in control. And we’re all counting on you, for our economy and our nation. For better or for worse, you were born into a place of privilege and responsibility. Our country could use a few true patriots, modern patriots, rational patriots.

You can read the whole Op-Ed here.  I would recommend it.

Update: I’m still alive!

No, I didn’t die.  I’m just employed.  But I did get a chance to re-theme this blog for Christmas.  What do you think?

I thought that this year, instead of telling you my favorite Christmas films, I would tell you my favorite Christmas TV episodes.  Before I divulge my list of favorite Christmas TV episodes, I would be interested to know some of your favorites (leave a comment).

One more bit of news is that I am now the proud owner of an Amazon Kindle Touch.  It is a wonderful device that is highly portable and encourages me to read more.  I still love and read real books, but the Kindle is an nice way to read as well.  I would definitely recommend it if you are interested.

Finally, I just wanted to express my sheer joy in the fact that there is snow on the ground in Wisconsin.  It feels more like the season and I am very happy.  (Also, if you type “let it snow” into Google,  you get an awesome surprise.)

Taking the First Amendment too far?

After reading the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s article about the recent recall elections in Wisconsin, I scrolled down to the comments.  What I saw was extremely disappointing.  Both sides of the issue posted comments and most of these comments were slanderous, rude, and garbage.  They did not have facts to back their claims and they were not even polite.  There are about 350 of these comments.  Let’s read a couple:

YouAgain300 – Aug 13, 2011 8:10 PM

The rottenness that is the demorat party can no longer be denied, you have to be morally bankrupt to vote for this party of marxists. Lies and deception are there only outputs, why even have a debate with such rottenness. Its nice that the urinal/sentanal can join in the rottenness.

This one is obviously from a conservative who insults the newspaper for reporting the news.  Here’s one from the other side:

BruceSpringsteen – Aug 13, 2011 10:12 PM

MEpublicanism is a social disease sure to ruin America. Death to the tea party!

I would wager that the amount of comments added to this article would be much less if jsonline.com used real names for commenting, like the Facebook comment system.
After seeing an “infographic” on Mashable.com and having a discussion about it in one of my college communications classes , the battle between online anonymity and transparency rages inside of me.  In this case anonymity is provoking behavior from “adults” reading and reacting to the news that many would expect from troubled children.  I would argue that if those commenting were accountable for their actions–at least by putting their names on their expression–JSOnline and other websites may get a decent dialogue going in the comments.  Sure you would still have a couple nut-jobs who don’t care what others think, but it sure wouldn’t be the majority like it is now.

There are many good comments on many JSOnline articles, but whenever a political article is written, this happens.  This one time is not an isolated occurrence.  I’m all for the First Amendment right of free speech, but I don’t think our founding fathers had this in mind.  I think transparency is the obvious answer to this problem.
What do you think about this issue?

I’m still alive!

I just wanted to let you know that I’m still here.  I know it has been a while since my last review, but I have been busy graduating, getting ready for my wedding, and other random stuff.  I have, though, watched quite a few movies (Year One, The Princess and the Frog, Kick-Ass, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, The Lake House, Speed, The Other Guys, and a few more) and I’m ready to review them.  Soon.  Until then, give me some of your opinions on the list in the comments.  Reviews soon!

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