Archives For November 2004

PNC Advisors is the wealth management unit of The PNC Financial Services

Group, Inc., (NYSE: PNC), one of the nation`s largest diversified financial

services companies, operating businesses engaged in regional community

banking, wholesale banking, wealth management, asset management and global

fund processing services.

                    PNC Advisors` Christmas Price Index


                                                                     % Change

                                       1984        2003        2004   2004/03

   One Partridge in a Pear Tree      $32.52      $77.50      $93.00     20.0%

               Partridge              12.57       15.00       15.00      0.0%

               Pear Tree              19.95       62.50       78.00     24.8%

   Two Turtle Doves                   47.71       58.00       40.00    -31.0%

   Three French Hen                   14.78       15.00       45.00    200.0%

   Four Calling Birds                280.00      400.00      396.00     -1.0%

   Five Gold Rings                   275.00      361.25      255.00    -29.4%

   Six Geese-a-Laying                150.00      150.00      210.00     40.0%

   Seven Swans-a-Swimming          7,000.00     3500.00     3500.00      0.0%

   Eight Maids-a-Milking              26.80       41.20       41.20      0.0%

   Nine Ladies Dancing              1511.50     4230.89     4400.13      4.0%

   10 Lords-a-Leaping               1679.45     3921.44     4039.08      3.0%

   11 Pipers Piping                  770.56     1982.40     2053.20      3.6%

   12 Drummers Drumming              834.78     2147.60     2224.30      3.6%

   Total Christmas Price Index   $12,623.10  $16,885.28  $17,296.91      2.4%

   % change

   True cost of Christmas in

    song                         $62,427.10  $65,264.28  $66,334.46      1.6%

   % change

   “Core” index, excluding swans             $13,385.28  $13,796.91      3.1%


                                                                    % Change

                                                  2003         2004  2004/03

   One Partridge in a Pear Tree                $171.67      $147.50   -14.1%

               Partridge                         66.67        67.50     1.2%

               Pear Tree                        105.00        80.00   -23.8%

   Two Turtle Doves                             100.00       105.00     5.0%

   Three French Hen                             172.50       202.50    17.4%

   Four Calling Birds                           330.00       429.00    30.0%

   Five Gold Rings                              183.75       240.00    30.6%

   Six Geese-a-Laying                           375.00       600.00    60.0%

   Seven Swans-a-Swimming                      4620.00      6125.00    32.6%

   Eight Maids-a-Milking                        296.00       296.00     0.0%

   Nine Ladies Dancing                         6450.00     6,600.00     2.3%

   10 Lords-a-Leaping                         10122.85    10,629.00     5.0%

   11 Pipers Piping                            1600.00     1,650.00     3.1%

   12 Drummers Drumming                         687.50       712.50     3.6%

   Total Christmas Price Index              $25,109.27   $27,736.50    10.5%

   % change

   True cost of Christmas in song          $101,206.09  $115,460.50    14.1%

   % change

   “Core” index, excluding swans            $20,489.27   $21,611.50     5.5%

SOURCE  The PNC Financial Services Group, Inc.

i am exhausted. last night was my first full night of sleep in almost a week, but it was a truly wonderful thanksgiving.

starting last Tuesday night, i got the new drive for my laptop; a huge thank you to my JS benefactor; spent a great deal of time installing a new beta OS, realising it wasn`t working, scrubbing the drive again and cloning everything off my functioning system, managed to stay up until 1am working on that.

Wednesday was even more entertaining, had to get to work early to drop off a print job for a client, then left for what i thought was an hour to drop vic to work and pick up a friend from the airport, managed to be out of the office for three hours, not bad generally, but considering my original plan to leave after lunch, it didn`t look good. i managed to finagle my early departure by pointing out that i had been at the printer after work hours on Tuesday and at the client early on Wednesday. i left the office, picked up the boychick, son of a good friend and my favourite librarian and began the trek to Kingston, TN. Obeying all speed laws made reasonable time, then proceeded to leave the gas sipping Neon there and return to Nashville in my mother in law`s Grand Caravan with a hutch, coffee table and television stand. I was making fairly good time back, traffic and all when the rain came down and i realised how badly the wipers need to be changed. Made a slight detour to Walhell; mea culpa, mea culpa; changed wipers in the rain and got back on the road and home a little before 9pm. not content with how well the new drive was functioning i decided to make a second stab at installing the beta os while i was waiting for SOS who was overnighting to arrive. i managed to completely screw up the installed os, requiring another scrub and attempt and a clean os install. SOS arrived close to midnight and we stayed up until 3am catching up.

Thursday was a little less hectic but just barely. after the two late nights, we didn`t managed to get up until late, well i was up earlier than everyone else, but was trying to get my machine to work the way i wanted it to while everyone else was asleep. i managed to get the beta os up and running but i wasn`t getting my mail and resorted to dumping the mail folder and trying to import my old mail, not fun, since i also lost all my signatures and all my rules, since i`ve been accumulating them since 2000, i wasn`t looking forward to redoing all of that manually. i abandoned the computer to accompany vic to CSG`s first annual non-traditional thanksgiving feast which was spectacular fun. it was vic, CSG, Ms Te and us, the significant otters, dining on home made fajitas, playing trivial pursuit; girls against boys, we won and then monopoly; i won. we returned home for pie making and savouring the fact that we had the house to ourselves. there was no hope for a full night`s sleep on Thursday because i had to pick up two Trini friends from the bus station at 2:45am, being awake enough to drive to pick them up, threw off my sleep cycle and i had to get up early to take vic to work anyway.

Friday was the first encounter with a real bird. i picked vic up from work and along with my two trini friends went to CSG`s parent place on the outskirts of Nashville. there were two birds to chose from; a deep fried cajun turkey and a traditional bird, both of them were lovely and i ate to much, laughed loudly and had and eventually reposed to the couch for a nap.

Saturday was another early morning, with a drive back to Kingston in the picture. note to self, playing freeze tag with the nieces and nephews in the cold wind blowing off the lake, not a good idea on the part of a 33 year old, but it was fun. more consumption of good food, more great conversation, then we took a trip to Knoxville to see another one of vic`s friends and her wonderful house. cue massive amounts of house envy. then back to Kingston too late.

Sunday; waffles, waffles, waffles and an early departure back to Nashville to beat the traffic, a pit stop at the Eddie Bauer outlet to look for a leather jacket, nice jackets, but nothing i could afford.

I am driven out, but i wouldn`t have changed anything about this weekend. good friends, good food, good company. i am truly thankful for my life.

accessories, accessorise

November 29, 2004 — Leave a comment

With the growing popularity of the ipod, so have the number of accessories grown exponentially, with a new item almost daily, ranging from the ridiculous; ipod socks; to the sublime; the iTrip. Today, I`ll  try to cover some of the more coveted accessories for ipod owners.

For drivers that own ipods but no longer have cassette players in their cars, there is the iTrip. The iTrip is an FM transmitter that plugs directly into the ipod and broadcasts through the radio in your car on any available FM frequency, it also pulls power from any ipod, thus requiring no extra cables. The iTrip retails for US$35 and is manufactured by Griffin Technology. Griffin also manufactures the US$40 iTalk; which turns the ipod into a voice recorder and the RoadTrip, which adds to the functionality of the iTrip with the addition of a charger, cradle and buttons to change your broadcast channels,

recommended retail price; $80.

For ipod users on the go, there are no less than 84 cases listed at Apple`s online ipod store — from the patently ridiculous Apple branded isocks; which require users to slide the ipod in and out to change playlists or dock; to the more practical Belkin Leather iPod Case. However with  four generations of ipods, not counting the mini, shoppers would be advised to find out which model the prospective receiver owns before purchasing anything, because some cases are not compatible with some models, for example the Belkin Leather Case does not support the ipod mini or ipod with click wheel.

For audiophiles dissatisfied with the quality of sound from headphones there are a number of speaker solutions starting with the US$299 Bose SoundDock Digital Music System. Bose long known for bringing professional quality audio to home users has done it again with this speaker/docking station combination with an infra-red remote, making enjoying the music on your ipod as simple as plugging it into a cradle. Also available is the JBL On Stage – iPod Speakers; suggested retail, US$199; which also features a small footprint and docking station for your ipod. Renowned computer speaker manufacture Altec Lansing also offer ipod speaker dock solutions with their iM3 and iMMini  for standard and mini ipods respectively, prices are US$180 and US$130.

If none of these catch your eye, here are a couple more neat  and budget conscious toys from Griffin, geared towards ipod owners; the iBeam; US$19.99; is a snap on laser pointer and flashlight for your ipod as well as the podpod; US$9.99, a cradle that sits in car cup holders holding the ipod at a visible and accessible angle with room inside for the docking cable.

This is by no means is a definitive collection of ipod accessories, but a guide to help you get started on gift ideas for your favourite ipod owner. The popularity of the ipod ensures that there are a plethora of products available and if you don`t get one this year, there`s always next year.

i loathe banks. if i could survive in this country sticking my money under my mattress i would.

without getting into too much detail, let just say our bank has screwed us over for the third time in as many months and it`s all about how they credit balances, every time you talk to them it`s a different story. we`re sick and tired of it.

we need a new bank, although i`m not sure any of them are going to be any better. it`s all about taking your money, however they can. we`re living credit card free. it`s about what we earn and living with that, so to be paying charges on money that`s there because of changes in banking practices just makes my blood boil. and the customer service reps are so facetious, like they`re doing you a favour by mismanaging your money.

we`re thinking about moving to a credit union or swallowing the marketing ploy of Bank of America. The credit union and our current bankers are both regional, so theoretically we should get better service where they know your name as opposed to the large faceless national bank? i just don`t know, i`m unhappy with this bank, but wondering if it`s worth all the stress and hassle. are we going to be jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire?

what’s next?

November 22, 2004 — Leave a comment

we put up or Christmas tree this weekend. it may be early for some people, but Christmas is a big deal for Vic and the boychick, there is a lot of pomp and ceremony, including a new ornament for the tree. vic got me my first ornament on Friday and for the first time in a really long time i really am looking forward to this holiday season.

the other reason the tree went up this weekend, it`s the first and last weekend in an incredibly long time that we had nothing to do. this week is packed with travelling, guests and vic officially begins her hobby with pay and then a trip to the family thanksgiving on Saturday in Kingston and then back to Nashville on Sunday for vic to get to work. there is a lot of driving in my future and i`m looking forward to it.

much ado about nothing

November 19, 2004 — Leave a comment

i`m loosing weight. not in a spectacular; 10 pounds in 10 days kind of way, but a gradual erosion of the weight i`ve packed on over the last eight years and more specifically the 30 or 40 pounds i put on this year alone.

when i got here in March i was close to 315 lbs, which was my heaviest weight ever, granted i`d been living on complete and utter garbage for at least a month before i arrived but i wasn`t happy with my weight, no matter how well i carried it.

diabetes doesn`t run in my family, but hypertension does, so it behoves me to monitor my weight. my magic number is somewhere between 240 and 250 and i`m hoping to meet that goal by my next birthday, it`s not impossible, i`m currently in the 280 pound vicinity. to put this in some sort of perspective at age 25 i weighed 180 pounds, soaking wet. i was tall and thin and had a metabolism that allowed me to eat any and everything without a care in the world and then it stopped and i gained a pound here; my stomach; and a pound there; my hips until i became the man i am today.

so far i haven`t started on any workout regime, other than the occasional walk around the neighbourhood and at least four trips up and down the stairs at my office. i`m hoping Santa gets me bicycle for Christmas so i can ride to work and get some real exercise without distressing my knees too much. i am however eating a lot better and i have a partner in vic. together we`re working on being healthier and extending our lives together.

through judicious shopping we`ve pretty much cut high frutose corn syrup and hydrogenated oils; partially and otherwise from our home cooked diet. we`re not food nazis and sometimes it is better not to read the label, you really don`t want to know.

Republican lawmakers plan to reintroduce a bill to suspend the sale of RU-486, the abortion pill, and probe the process surrounding its approval now that three U.S. deaths have been linked to the drug.


for a little bit of perspective, according to a UNESO study, the maternal death rate in the US is 9 in 100,000.

snagged off MEFI

for the first time in half a lifetime, i`m looking forward to Christmas. i`m actually looking forward to the massive family gathering that is Thanksgiving with vic`s family.

i grew up an only child, so large family gatherings fascinate me, i think i live vicariously through them. i`m not by nature a social person, but i`m also not the sort to sit sullenly by. vic`s family is very welcoming and engaging so Thanksgiving, celebrated the Saturday following this year should be great fun.

we`ve also put fruits to soak for a traditional Caribbean black cake as passed onto me by my grandmother. this is also going to be my first Christmas with Vic and completely away from my girls, so this is going to be bittersweet to say the least.

my grandmother`s birthday is in a month, more or less, on the same day as my ex-wife, is one of my best friends in the world. as it`s inappropriate to discuss a lady`s age i`m not going to say how old my grandmother is. what i am going to do is marvel at her experiences.

my grandmother was born less than 100 years after slavery was abolished in the British colonies, less than 50 years after it was abolished in the US. She`s lived through two world wars, seen transportation and communication grow by leaps and bounds.

i always find it fascinating to think that when my grandmother was the age i am now, electricity, telephones and indoor plumbing were all still luxuries. i think it`s one of the things that help give me perspective.

my grandmother is bedridden, some of it due to old age and partially due to sheer ill will towards my mother, but mentally she is razor sharp. i`m sorry i`m not going to be there to share this birthday with her and i worry about her and my mother. to describe their relationship as antagonistic would be polite, but i think it keeps them alive and i worry if something happens to one of them, the other is not going to be around much longer after that.

i worry about them and i miss them, but i can`t just pick up and go see them, i can`t pick up and go anywhere for at least two years and that bothers me as well. my fervent prayer is they can both hold on at least for me to see them one more time.

choosing the right ipod

November 16, 2004 — Leave a comment

i`m trying to swing a press pass for MacWorld SF, next January and one of the qualifications is an industry related story published in the last six months. i completely forgot that i promised an editor in Trinidad that they`d have a piece today, so i`m actually writing it here first to get all the kinks out and then sending it on.

There are quite a number of portable music players on the market, but none as recognisable as Apple Computer`s iPod. For the last three years this has been the must have gift, for everyone. This Christmas is not going to be any different and with three standard models and a limited special edition version, the choices have become; if anything; more difficult.

The three standard editions are the iPod Mini; which comes with a 4Gb hard drive and six colour choices; the iPod; which comes in either 20 or 40Gb versions and the iPod Photo; which boasts a colour LCD display with a choice of 40 or 60Gb drives. Apple also introduced a special black and red U2 edition of the iPod with a 20Gb drive.

According to Apple, the iPod Mini allows you to carry 1,000 songs. This figure is based on an assumption that all songs are all four minutes long and encoded at 128Kbs; which produces fairly decent sound quality. If you have a small to average music collection and not necessarily looking bang for your buck this may be the iPod for you. The Mini; as the name implies is the smallest of the iPods; is a little smaller than a pack of cigarettes and comes in silver, gold, blue, green and pink. Apple`s recommended retail price is US$249.

However with an extra US$50 ($299) you can get five times the music with the standard 20Gb iPod. The 20Gb iPod is the ideal balance of price and storage capabilities. Put in perspective, 2OGb of music would allow you to listen to a different song, all day, everyday for approximately two weeks without hearing a repeat. if you have the money to burn and truly want to be different you could shell out the US$349 for special edition U2 iPod, which is just a marketing gimmick. You`re basically paying $50 more than the standard iPod for a black and red iPod autographed by U2, not particularly worth the extra expense in my book.

If you`re an audiophile and believe you can discern between MP3 and AAC encoding and can tell the difference between files encoded at 128Kbs and 320Kbs, I would recommend the 40Gb iPod. Solely so you can have some of your music to go. The 40Gb iPod retails for US$399.

the new iPod Photos, in my humble estimation, are geared toward the technophiles that must have the newest, latest, shiniest toys. I think the colour screen is cute, but see no need to upload photos to my iPod. I do however appreciate the possibilities inherent in 60Gb of storage space. My current digital audio collection is close to 50Gb and the ability to have all of it, in one place makes me drool. The prices are however a little steep, running US$499 and $599 for 40 and 60Gb models respectively.

All versions of the iPod work on both Macintosh and computers running Windows with Firewire or USB 2.0 ports