My Son The Sooner

At the beginning of the football season, Candace surprised Cole and me with some new Oklahoma Sooners gear. We were so excited.

Next week, Oklahoma plays Texas in one of the biggest rivalries in college football. This one is especially exciting since both teams are in the top ten.

Well, my company is based down in Longhorn country in Austin, TX. This means my co-workers are Texas Longhorn fans. Just for fun, Candace decided that we should take some pictures so I can send them around the office to be sure the battle line is drawn. So here is my son the Sooner and his Sooner family:

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I Feel You Need To Know

I feel like it is my duty to let everyone know that James Taylor has announced a tour for the western half of the United States. The dates are slowly coming together, though he’s already announced the date in Las Vegas will be on November 10th at the Mandalay Bay. The Las Vegas tickets don’t go on sale to the general public for a few more days, but they do have a presale going on for members of the official JT fan club. Of course I’m a member so I got an email that the password is “drums.” So, just go to the page on Ticketmaster, choose the tickets you want, and enter “drums” as the password.

There are still floor seats available for now. If anyone decides to go, do let me know to look for you. Oh yeah, Candace, I guess I should tell you that we’re going and I already have tickets.

Update: I think I should sell this concert a little more. This will be my twelfth James Taylor concert and I love them more and more. There are some concerts that you go to and the music just sounds like what you hear on the radio. No deviation or creativity. But there are other concerts that you attend and the artist is a real musician. They can take old songs and make them familiar enough to love and new enough to feel like you’re discovering them again. James Taylor is certainly one of those people.

Organizing Movies The Mac Way

I’m very meticulous on managing memories. I think it’s a very important thing to do. I guess my thought has always been “If you plan to live a life worth talking about then be sure the story can be told.”

Computers make organization much easier than it has been in the past. Right now on my computer I have 10 years and 2200 pages of journals, 9000 photos all carefully tagged with keywords and after this weekend I now have all home videos imported, organized and tagged. And of course I have everything backed up. Following is my experience with organizing movies with the new iMovie from Apple.

The new iMovie is radically different than the old iMovie. It still comes free with all new Macs and I like this one better. Before it was a tool focused mostly on the project. But the new iMovie does well the with project AND helps you organize all of your home video footage. It is almost like an iTunes for your home videos now. Watch any video any time. It’s quite fun.

Since we have a new HD camera coming this week, I thought it was time to have all of our current home videos imported so we could sell our current video camera. iMovie makes this incredibly easy. You just need to plug your camera in and hit the button for automatic import. This procedure rewinds the tape, imports everything on it, and then rewinds the tape again for you to eject and store somewhere safe. I especially like that iMovie makes each day a separate event. So, if you have a Christmas Eve dinner one night, and then record Christmas presents the next morning, iMovie already separates these as two different events. You can then name them and tag them with keywords so they are easy to find later. iMovie takes it even further by organizing them in chronological order by year.

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Once you have all your clips imported, it is quite fun to work with them. iMovie makes it easy to highlight different parts of clips (much like highlighting text to copy and paste) and then you can drag it into a new project. Mix and match different clips. Add transitions, text, music, photos, etc. Then, when you get done it just takes one click to send it to iTunes for your iPod/iPhone/AppleTV or one click to send it to Youtube. And if you’re a .Mac member then you can send straight to your gallery. (See an example gallery here. They are nice.)

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So if you’ve been waiting to preserve all your old home videos, Apple has made it quite easy. And don’t forget, tape based videos have a shelf life of 10 years before they start to degrade and turn dark. Get those memories from your childhood while you still can.

A Little More On Money

I’ve had a lot of emails about my post on finances a few days ago. Since money is obviously an issue of interest for everyone, I thought I’d share one more tip.

For the last few weeks, I’ve been a beta-tester for Mint. Mint allows you to track all of your cards/accounts/loans online. You can think of it as Quicken online.

But what this online application is better than something like Quicken is everything is so simple. For instance, rather than downloading your data from different locations, it will all be updated every time you log in. Mint lets you track where your money is going. They let you know when you’re charged fees (and how you might be able to avoid them in the future.) And my favorite part is that your spending is analyzed and tips are offered on how you can better pay off your debts, earn more interest, or just save your money in general.

If you’re looking to get serious about tracking your money, give Mint a try. It’s now open to everyone.

Thankful For The Holy Ghost

I’m so grateful to have a knowledge of the true nature of the Godhead. I am careful not to take it for granted. Put plainly, I am a literal son of my Heavenly Father. I love and worship him. Jesus Christ is my older brother and has a personal relationship with me. If I do right, that relationship is capable of saving me from sin. And as the third member of the Godhead, The Holy Ghost guides me in all truth and “witnesses of the Father and the Son.”

I’ve thought a lot about the Holy Ghost this month. I think I should do it more often. His role is so special. I love the idea that He serves to be present and strong but at the same time so inconspicuous as to deflect all attention to the Father and the Son. We’d all be wise to mirror him in that.

“All good people can feel the influence of the Holy Ghost, but only those who are baptized and who receive the gift of the Holy Ghost by priesthood authority have the right to His constant companionship throughout life….Your ability to enjoy this divine gift depends on your obedience to God’s commandments, as the Holy Ghost cannot remain with those who do not live according to God’s teachings.”

I feel deeply for those people who lose His companionship because of disobedience. Perhaps we’ve all had our times when we are less worthy to receive his promptings. But it’s important that we regain worthiness and make our way back.

Recently I’ve been praying that the Holy Ghost would prompt me when I’m in company with someone who has lost His companionship. It isn’t important why they’ve lost it. It’s much more important that they have everything they need to regain it. Especially the desire that is necessary but so often lost. My prayer has been answered at appropriate (and surprising) times and I’m so glad for the opportunity to serve. In the process, it has helped me to better understand the Holy Ghost and His process of communication. I hope this becomes a pattern in my life.

If you have not yet received the gift of the Holy Ghost, may I invite you to seek baptism and confirmation by those who have the authority to offer the Gift.

If you’ve lost the companionship of the Holy Ghost, I hope you’ll begin now to regain it.

If you feel His presence in your life, take time today to cherish and strengthen it.

Cole’s Big Morning Stretches

The other day I was telling a friend that morning is my favorite time of day. I’ve always loved getting up early, but with Cole it is even more fun.

Candace still gets up with Cole once or twice a night so she is quite tired in the morning. I’ll usually get up early and when I hear Cole stirring I rush in there because it’s playtime. He always wakes up so happy. He is usually just laying there waiting for me and when he sees me he greets me with a smile. He’s all wrapped up tight in what I call his “Torture Blanket” and I love unwrapping him. He gets wiggling as soon as I start the unwrap. As soon as his arms are free, they’ll shoot above his head for the big morning stretch. He obviously loves the freedom. Once done with that, he lifts his arms up to me ready to be lifted out. (An invitation I quickly and gratefully accept.)

This morning I brought the video camera in there with me. Since the sun hadn’t come up yet, it is pretty dark. But, I was able to lighten it a bit in the new iMovie.

If you’d like to see his big stretch, the movie is below. (I’m thinking only aunts and grandmas will really be interested in this but oh well.)

[QUICKTIME http://www.brianstucki.com/blog/wp-content/video/colewakingup.m4v 480 272 false true]

A Finance Suggestion Of INGDirect

A while back, my buddy and I decided to sell a website we had been working on for a couple years. At the time, the traffic was incredibly high and the ranking was in the top 80,000 sites on the internet. (That number may sound large but it’s quite hard to do.)

We listed the site on a high-end webmaster marketplace and by the end of two weeks we had sold it for much, much higher than we had ever imagined. It was a nice reward for working so hard on it. We split the money down the middle and went about in riotous living. Of course, riotous living in our colleges years would have meant bigger motorcycles and faster women. But at this time in our life it meant pay off all school/car loans and then invest the rest. Crazy I know.

At first I took my remaining earnings and just put it in my Wells Fargo Savings account. Candace and I rarely touched it and we hoped that we could just use the money to earn more money and we’d have cushion to fall back on if times got bad.

After a few months, I realized that the money was growing very slowly. As it turns out, brick and mortar savings does little for interest and growth. I thought I’d write about it now that I’ve found a much better option.

I decided to take a majority of the savings and move it to INGDirect. INGDirect is an online bank. It’s been around for years and it has a very good record of being consumer friendly and offering great interest rates. They are able to offer the higher interest rates because they don’t have the costs of buildings and branches.

The signup process is simple. We opened a Orange Savings Account that is paired with our checking account at Wells Fargo. This savings account has no fees, no minimum balances, no service charges and no hidden costs. And the best part is that the interest is high. At the time of this writing the rate is 4.5% compared to the Wells Fargo rate I had of .5%. This might not seem like much but it certainly adds up.

Let’s take an example. If you deposited $20k with Wells Fargo and came back a year later you would earn $100.23 in interest. That same amount with ING Direct would bring $918.80 in interest. Quite a difference.

Transferring money between ING Direct and Wells Fargo is simple and free because your accounts would be paired with each other. The only caveat is that it takes a couple days to move the money.

This is how we have it set and it has worked perfect.

  • Wells Fargo Checking: At the beginning of the month I deposit enough money in this account for all our bills, shopping and entertainment for that month. It’s hard to beat the convenience of ATM’s and checks with Wells Fargo. If there is any money left at the end of the month we transfer it to our Savings with ING Direct automatically.
  • Wells Fargo Savings: This account just keeps a balance of $2,000 at any time. I don’t view this as an interest yielding account. It is just there if it is needed in an emergency and needs to be quickly put into Checking for a car repair or something.
  • ING Direct Savings: This account holds all the marbles. Anytime I can transfer anything here, I do it. (It’s becomg a bit of an addiction really.) The high interest adds up but the money is still accessible without any fees if we needed to dip in for a larger emergency or for a planned family trip.

One more thing to mention about ING Direct. Because it doesn’t have a minimum fee, you can start small. You can have $20 automatically go from your checking to your Orange Savings each month. You won’t even miss it and it adds up faster than you think.

I understand that some people have hesitancies to put money into an online bank. I think we’re at a point where it’s quite safe. It is insured in the same way as a brick and mortar bank. In fact, did you know that only 10% of money in the United States is paper currency. The rest is just digital money anyway.

I’d be happy to answer any questions if you want to know more. If you look into it and decide it’s something you want to do, I can give you a member referral and you’d even get a little extra money bonus for signing up. And before you ask, that’s not why I wrote this post. I’m just surprised at how much more you can earn by putting your money in the right place and thought you’d want to know as well.

Hope that helps.

Human Body 2.0

The other day I was playing with Cole and he started moving his face around real cute and funny. Being a long time allergy sufferer, it looked to me like he was trying to scratch an itch on his face. Poor little boy doesn’t know how to move his hands well enough to pinpoint an itch and scratch it. I decided to help so I took his blanket and played peek-a-boo with him but made sure there was plenty of contact with the blanket and his face so hopefully I was able to relieve him of the itch.

Doing this reminded me of something I thought of long ago. Without sounding too sacrilegious, if I was able to re-design some elements of the human body there are a few things I’d change. I try to make them realistic enough to be helpful but not make everyone the same. (For instance, not everyone can have rock hard abs.)

My Suggested Changes

  • I’d have itches be visible. The itches would have a slight glow from beneath like when you put a little flashlight under your finger and can see it from the other side. That way, I could scratch it for Cole without a problem. This would also be great when getting a back scratch or when your arms are full and need someone to get an itch for you.
  • I’d have a zoom built into your eyes. It’d be similar to the zoom on a camera. However, when you zoom in it wouldn’t stay that way. Unless you are purposefully zooming your eyes and holding them there then they would return to normal vision. This would make driving much safer because by default you’d always have your natural vision. The zoom button could be in your earlobe. The zoom would just be handy at concerts, sporting events, hikes, etc.
  • A person would be able to stop and start hair growth. This wouldn’t be intended for people that are losing their hair. You’d only be able to work with the hair that you have. But, if you had a great haircut you’d be able to turn off the hair growth and keep it for a while. Then, when you get sick of it just turn it back on and your hair will grow and normal speed. Maybe the button could be kept in your other earlobe.