Saturday, January 29, 2011

My Friendly Neighborhood Credit Union

I’ve been using the same credit union since I moved here 26 years ago. At the time it was centrally located and catered mainly to the military or government employees. Since then it has grown to be one of the largest federal credit unions in the country and the service has only got better.

They seem to be on the frontline when it comes to offering new services. The first biggie was back in the early 80’s with direct deposit. From then on, my trips to the CU got fewer and fewer. I seldom write checks anymore, but they were one of the first to offer overdraft protection and free checking.

When they went to online banking, I knew I had complete control over my finances. I remember when you use to have to stand in line at the bank just to deposit your paycheck or make a car payment. Now, if I have to go inside the CU I feel out of place. It’s almost like a new experience. It amazes me on how small their lobbies have got and how few employees they need now.

I’ve applied for credit cards, car loans and personal loans without even leaving my house. If a real signature is required, they’ll send the paperwork in the mail. All you have to do is sign it and send it back. Their rates are on their website for all to see. You can compare them with other financial institutions without even leaving your chair.

OK, I admit that I’ve strayed a few times. Some of the big name banks like Wells Fargo or Bank of America can offer some things that seem to be awesome. But after being with them for a short time, I figure out their shortfalls. They usually have fewer locations and generally don’t offer free services like notary and such.

I’ve had a few short lived issues with my CU. They usually were cleared up with a phone call. They have been so few I can’t even think of an example right now.

At their locations in some of the local big stores, they are open longer, open on some holidays and most weekends. Of course you have their website where you can check everything out 24/7/365. I’ve gone online and printed 1099’s, old statements, and old checks that I have written. I’ve even transferred money into my kid’s accounts while online.

I’ll stick with my CU. They seem to have my best interest in mind and they’re very convenient to work with.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Cold Start

This one might be a little cold starting.
It might be yesterdays gas pump, but we have Dish TV.
Posted by Picasa

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Football isn't football anymore!

I just finished doing something my dad wished he had done but never did. I just watched the 1958 NFL Championship Game and it was in color. Sports people all over call it the greatest football game ever played.

When I was growing up you like steamed crabs, the Baltimore Colts, the Baltimore Orioles and Johnny Unitas better known as Johnny U or The Golden Arm.. He had a flat top hair cut, I had a flat top hair cut. His uniform number was 19, mine was 19. He was my idol.

Remember, back in 1958 there was no over time. There had to be in this game so there could be a winner. There was no instant replay. The top salary was $10K and there were no guarantees. The Colts won in overtime 23 - 17.

As I got older I went to many games. Johnny U was the master. He was a record-setting quarterback and the National Football League's most valuable player in 1959, 1964 and 1967. His record of throwing a touchdown pass in 47 consecutive games (between 1956-1960) remains unsurpassed as of today. He is widely considered to be one of the greatest.
But like most childhood hero's, time is their enemy. Following the 1972 season, the Colts would see an end of an era when Johnny Unitas is traded to the San Diego Chargers. However, Unitas would not leave without one final great moment, as he came off the bench his final game at Memorial Stadium to replace Marty Domres leading the Colts hitting Eddie Hinton on a 55-yard Touchdown pass late in the 4th Quarter to help beat the Buffalo Bills 35-7, as Memorial Stadium gave the legendary a standing ovation as a small plane carried a banner reading "Unitas We Stand". I was there.
As you know, the Baltimore Colts no longer exist. The Indy Colts do thanks to the former owner, Robert Irsay, sneaking them out of Baltimore in the middle of the night so the fans wouldn't know in 1984. A move reviled to this day in Baltimore as "Bob Irsay's Midnight Ride," Unitas was so outraged that he cut all ties to the relocated team (though his #19 jersey is still retired by the Colts). Other prominent old-time Colts followed his lead. He asked the Pro Football Hall of Fame on numerous occasions (including on Roy Firestone's Up Close) to remove his display unless it was listed as belonging to the Baltimore Colts. The Hall of Fame has never complied with the request. That's when I stopped watching football until tonight one more time.

Later on, Sports Illustrated voted Johnny U the greatest athlete in the NFL's first 50 years. Johnny U passed away on September 11, 2002 never acknowledging the Indy franchise.

For the game following his death, Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning requested to wear a pair of black cleats as a tribute to Johnny's signature black boots. The league denied his request and threatened Manning with a $25,000 fine. Manning decided not to wear them. Ravens QB Chris Redman wore the cleats without asking permission and was fined only $5000.

I watched this game tonight and thought of my father often. The game was narrated by Johnny U's fellow players, the NY Giants players, the radio and TV commentators of the time and some of today's more famous players. If you want to see what football was, watch "The Greatest Game Ever" on ESPN.

Photo's borrowed from the Baltimore Sun and Sports Illustrated.

This blog post was reprinted from 12/13/2008 because it was worth it.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Practical before style

I’m not one that buys a new car or truck every year. I buy what I want and then keep the maintenance up. When I was shopping for a new vehicle in 2007, I was stuck between a new Jeep Cherokee or a Dodge Durango. I had driven a 1988 Dodge Ramchanger since it was new. I basically wanted the same thing, just updated. The Durango won out because Dodge (who owns Jeep) was in my price range, offered more incentives and had a larger cargo space.

You get what you pay for and you pay for what you get. In Alaska you can’t afford to be stranded on the side of the road, especially during winter. Vehicle breakdowns when you’re in the middle of Alaska when the temperatures are below freezing have cost people their lives. If you go off the main roads, you might not run into another soul for a long time.

Fuel economy is a good selling point with the price of gas going up and up. However a vehicle also has to be practical. A Toyota Prius might be awesome on gas milage, but you can’t carry passengers and cargo comfortably. I also need ample cargo space for luggage or large kennels. If I drive out of town, I have a tote that has my winter gear in it. In it you’ll find insulated underwear and socks, hat, gloves, insulated Carhart pants and coat, and a couple blankets. You have to be prepared for the weather if you break down.

There are also hidden compartments where I keep jumper cables, a tow strap and a few tools. You never know. I expect my vehicle to be reliable and maintain it to be, but not everyone does. If you’re broke on the side of the road, I’m there to help. It could be a long time before AAA gets you someone there.

It has to be all wheel drive or at a minimum front wheel drive. Traction is a must. If you’re driving 60 mph on ice covered roads, you have to have good traction. You also don’t wait for the snowplow after it snows to go somewhere. You get up and go, no matter how deep it gets. You don’t buy the discount tires, you buy the best.

The comfort items aren’t that big for me. I need a fair radio with an IPod jack, what we use to call a cigarette lighter but now it’s a 12v power outlet, an engine block heater and rear window defroster. Everything else that comes standard is good enough for me. A remote start is nice on those cold mornings that you would like to jump into a warm vehicle, but not a necessity.

What I would like to have in my next vehicle, whenever that might be, is Bluetooth capability. For now I have the earpiece, which I loose on an annual basis. OnStar and satellite radio with reasonable rates would be nice also.

Reliability and practicality works for me.

Posted by Picasa

Friday, January 14, 2011

It's been frosty lately

We've been getting some pretty cold temps with a lot of frost to go along with it lately. No snow forcasted in the near future. You folks back east that don't wnat it, send it our way.
Posted by Picasa

Saturday, January 8, 2011

My cell phone? You can have it, but not right now.

The one electronic gadget that has affected my life the most for both good and bad has been the cell phone. If you want to know how to get in touch with someone I know by either their home phone, work phone, cell phone, snail mail or email, look on my cell phone. Oh, wait a minute, don’t forget Facebook or Twitter. You need to know their birthday, anniversary, spouses name or nick name, I got it.

I’m a Blackberry guy. I started with one of those huge bricks. I think they were made by Motorola. When the people I worked for gave it to me I looked at it and thought “What the heck do I need this for?” It came down to that they could get a hold of me whenever they wanted to. I left it in my truck most of the time so I didn’t have to carry it around. Next was the Nokia candy bar. That lasted a long time until they went away from analog.

Then along came the Blackberry Pearl. I could now sync my pc and my cell phone contact list. A Sim card? Who needs it? Before that you had to enter all of your contact information in manually every time you got a new phone, or your phone belched. Now, when I get a new phone, I plug it into my laptop and a few minutes later she’s all loaded up. I switched over to the Blackberry Bold, no problem. I upgraded to the Blackberry Torch, no problem. All my information, my calendar, task list, it was all there. I don’t ever turn mine off. It’s on 24/7/365. As long as I’m awake, you can reach out and touch me.

I remember when I went to work for one company to do outside sales; they issued me a cell phone. I spent a lot of time entering a lot of contact information into it manually. A few years later I gave two week’s notice and they started to rub me the wrong way. My temper got the best of me and I handed them the phone and walked. What did I think of while I pulled out of the parking lot? What am I going to tell my wife? What am I going to do for a paycheck? Nope. All I could think of was all the information in that phone that I now didn’t have access to. Now you can sync them to your own pc and it’s no issue anymore. However, I never use a company cell phone anymore, always my own.

Sometimes being able to be reached anytime isn’t too great and sometimes it’s a blessing. I was riding my bicycle on the coastal trail and I got a call from Dillingham, Alaska, 331 miles away and no road connecting Dillingham to Anchorage. My oldest son was in an accident and was being flown on a medivac flight to Harborview Hospital in Seattle. Quick, get home, book flight and find out where Harborview Hospital is when I get there. If it wasn’t for that cell phone I wouldn’t have received that information for a couple more hours. That was about 10 years ago and my son is fine today and has 4 kids of his own now.

A cell phone can be frustrating too. Poor service areas, dead zones, software glitches, you name it. They’ve all raised my blood pressure some from time to time. I use about 1200 minutes a month. I could tell a lot more stories, good and bad. But, all and all the cell phone has really had an impact on my life, mainly all good.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

What Blizzard???

 There are seven of us from different parts of the country who write post for the Voices of Mainstreet. If you read everyone’s post, it’s supposed to give you an idea of what people across the country are thinking about this week’s subject. Sometimes I feel that living in Alaska I’m out of touch with main street America or they are way out of touch with Alaska. Maybe it’s both.

Our first two questions from the editor are “With colder weather throughout the country, do you have a routine when you’re trapped indoors? And, What do you do in the winter when you’re less able to go out and enjoy the outdoors?”

If I ever was trapped in doors in Alaska due to the weather and anyone found out about it, I would have to move. My routine along with everyone else is “It’s another day”. 4 inches, 8 inches or 12 inches of snow doesn’t matter. It might slow things down, but that’s as far as it goes. If you let a little snow keep you from going out, you’ll never go out.

Cold weather doesn’t keep you from going out either. Anchorage was just named as a bicycle friendly city earlier this year. People bike all year round. Hike, jog, ski whatever, dress for it and go do it. It’s winter from October to April. That’s 7 months of the year when any kind of winter weather can happen and it does. Who wants to stay inside for 7 months? Not me!

The rest of the questions are “Are there special recipes you cook? Crafts you do? Books you like to read? Does it make you crazy or do you find it calming? Do you still brave the elements to get in workouts or just fun?”

Nothing stops day to day life. The newspaper, the mail, and pizza’s get delivered. People go shopping, to the gym, watch outdoor events like dog mushing, go ice fishing, go to the zoo, you name it.

I volunteer at the Bird Treatment and Learning Center in Anchorage. We take care of wild birds that were sick, injured or orphaned and we attempt to rehabilitate them and return them to the wild. 75% of the center is outside. The well birds live outside year round. The eagles, owls, ravens, you name it, live outside year round. Thos birds need to be fed and cared for no matter what the weather is. You don’t stay home because it’s snowing or its cold out.

Today it warmed up to +18°f in Anchorage, but in Prudhoe Bay its -39°f with a wind chill of -68°f. You can bet the oil pipeline doesn’t close down and the trucks are still moving on the Haul Road. The Alaska State Troopers, fire departments, ambulances, garbage pickup, you name it, they’re all operating at 100%.

Life in Alaska doesn’t stop because of the snow or cold. You can count on that. But when it gets above 80° in the summer, well that’s another story.