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Another holiday, another headache

Today is Memorial Day – and thanks you to all the veterans that we hold in our memories today.

But onto the main topic… Holidays and my parents.
For the last 2 weeks or so my wife’s family has been making plans for the holiday as they normally do. Renting/reserving out a park pavilion, figuring out who is bringing what, etc – all sort of planning with over a weeks notice.

Yesterday (Sunday) we had plans to go out in the boat with my parents. Never mind that we would have had to skip church to do that. Anyhow the weather was bad so nothing happened. My wife and I had a great day relaxing around the house and just being able to sit down finally with everything else going on.

Fast forward to this morning-
I get a phone call from my mom at 11:03am. Seems we’re having a family get together at my parents house at 3pm. They want us to come. Spectacular notice isn’t it?

I tell my mom we’re going to be going to my wife’s family’s event which is at the same time.
I get an earful about how her family takes precedence and my mom is notably displeased.
Anyhow I pretty much get hung-up on.

How in the world does this work?

Her family has been preparing/planning and notifying for 2 weeks. They’ve reserved a park. We’ve even already made food to bring to the party.
My parents call and give us 4 hours notice – then try to make me feel bad by telling me that “her family takes precedence”, and to top it off, tell me that we haven’t seen X-Y-Z family members since Christmas.
My parents seem to believe that we have nothing else to do in our lives and that they can call us up and tell us to be anywhere they want in a few hours, or on whatever night of the week.

My wife and I have a life – and schedules and lives.
I’m sorry – but when somebody else has been planning a holiday event for 2 weeks a phone call the day of (and a few hours before an event) is not going to trump the planned event.

…Anyhow, now I’m all worked up and angry. Need to go relax.

Cutting monthly bills to save money.

So lately I’ve been pushing for ways to save some money due to other items going on here at home. Nothing truly serious thankfully, but a good idea at least. One area I’ve been looking at is the monthly bills.

Last fall I hit the gas/electric bill. I bought and installed a 7-day programmable thermostat and replace the ‘one-temp-set-and-forget’ thermostat the house had. I replace every high use light bulb with the energy saving compact fluorescents. I set my PC up to turn off automatically instead of running 24/7. That was a big change mind you. I’ve been running a computer almost constantly for the last 8 or 9 years.

Today I tried the biggest bill of them all – the Home Mortgage. Due to the recent mortgage crunch and skyrocketing foreclosure rates with rock bottom interest rates I figured I might as well give one of these ‘no closing cost’ refinance ads a shot. Heck, our mortgage is from Wells Fargo – and the ad we got was from them…
Anyhow, turns out they don’t want to drop our interest rate and add a year to our mortgage just quite yet. I’m going to guess that by dropping us a few points and taking our 29 years left back to 30 they don’t make any money. I just wanted a lower rate… Anyhow, I got told ‘no’.
I might try again in a few weeks after I’ve done a little more research.

So next up on the list – my cable/internet bill.
I’m paying $93.99 (before taxes and franchise fee’s (site note, what in the world is a “franchise fee”?). I’m seeing ads all over the place for my current plan at about $65 for ‘new subscribers’.
So I ring up the cable company, deal with the horrendous automated support menu, and finally arrive at a human named ‘Joe’ after I decided to start smashing buttons in the hopes that the automated system would figure out I had an issue…
Joe asks how he can help me out today and I simply start that I believe my bill is significantly more than I think it should be due to all of the 12 month promotions I’m seeing. He asks me what sort of promotions I’m taking about. I happen to have one on my desk right in front of me for my current plan for $69.95 – $24 less than what I’m paying now. In a quick look I tell him about that one and that it’s for about “60 bucks”.
The response amazed me – he said hold on a minute while I see what I can do.
A minute later he offers me a slightly new offer-
-My internet speed is incresed to 2x the speed it is now (7 to 15Mb/sec) (don’t really need but I’ll take it!).
-I get an additional 60-some channels added to my plan.
-When we get a digital TV all I have to do is stop into the local office for a free upgraded cable box for digital TV-out
-My new monthly bill, for the next 12 months, is $58.90

Thats a savings of $38.09 A month – or $457.08 over the next year.
Success! I cut a bill down by 40% with a 20 minute phone call.

…You think the power company would give me a lower rate on my electricity? 🙂

Nice Day!

So today was a great afternoon to get out. The wife’s at work tonight so I’ve got the place all to myself. Right after I got home from a great day at work I hopped on my bike and went for a ride. I don’t really know how far I went, the battery in my speedometer/odometer on the bike appears to be very low. Guess I’ll have to pick up a new one. A quick look at a map gives me at least a 4 mile trek, most likely more. Anyhow – I’m out of shape. 🙂 That 4 mile trek was worse than the 12’s I used to do nightly 2 years ago… Before I starting dating anyhow!

Anyhow, back the work topic.
I work where every Monday I get to run a few reports. Then come Thursday I have to explain some mundane detail about an entry that was made the previous week on the manufacturing floor. Mind you a few hundred entries are made weekly. We have all sorts of ‘weekly’ reports. These reports show us “how we did” last week.

I want to know how we are doing now.

Simply put – we have lots of reports for last week – but absolutely nothing for ‘right now’. This in turn means that it’s impossible for the production floor to know if they are doing ‘good’ or ‘bad’ right now. I can tell them next week though…  but by then – nobody knows what happened last week [or cares].

Today, I started to ‘fix’ that. Over the last few months I’ve been toying with a new tool to pull real time data on the fly. It came back semi-real time and required a ton of work to display it in a logical order – but it was a start. Last week I received the ‘key’ piece to make it work – on accident.
I found an error in the management level report for the previous week (I’d reversed engineered the site metric a few months back so I could actually figure out how it worked – and properly explain it when asked…). Somehow it was adding in a few ‘extra’ hours. Anyhow, long story short the programmer gave me a section of the code he was using to generate the report (It turned out to be a database error – my report was correct, management was wrong. Nice job to me)

But the code… Bingo. It solved my issue will pulling the data. I changed it up a little bit and hit run – and I got exactly the data I was looking for back. In real time.
Over the last week I’ve created a new report that runs in real time (ok, every 3 minutes it updates itself…) and shows how we are doing right now on our most expensive production equipment/line (easily $5 million per line – and we have over a half dozen in the building).
So I setup a simple old PC to display the data at the production line and sent out an email to the factory leaders about it at about 3:30pm.
The response from the factory people wasn’t spectacular, but Site Management found out quickly enough… I have to give a demonstration at 8am tomorrow to two of the site management guys and the emails I received back from them were very praising. 🙂

Now I need them to let me buy a new PC with dual screens to display the data and it’ll not only display how we are doing now, but it’ll look great and let me add in a few more features I’d like too….

Going to be a good week I think!