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October 2021 Update
My favorite season is Fall. The leaves are gorgeous and the temperatures are cooler. We squeeze in some family camping trips, especially on weekdays when campgrounds aren’t mostly vacant and the only other families are either retirees or homeschoolers like us.
Camping in New York and Ohio
Our big camping trip this fall was upstate New York and Ohio on the borders of Lake Ontario and Lake Erie. We started by driving through rural Pennsylvania and New York, enjoying the rolling hills and farmland. When I think of New York, I’m tempted to think of a crowded cityscape, but rural New York state is vast and open. We camped at a KOA southeast of Rochester and were surprised to find it nearly 100% full, filled with locals that regularly stayed on the weekends, playing Bingo and jumping on the camp’s inflatable toys.
After touring through nearby historical sites, we made our way to Four Mile Creek State Park, located on the southern edge of Lake Ontario. The weather was sunny and slightly cool, allowing us to see a tiny Toronto across the lake. We tent camp and are amused by the huge RVs and motorhomes and their owners’ antics. We saw one semi-pulled fifth-wheel that repeatedly attempted to back into a spot, even smashing it up against the branches of a large tree. The semi had a small platform between the cab and the trailer where a tiny Smart Car perched. Eventually, the driver succeeded in parking. It was amusing to watch from afar.
Our final stop before heading home was at Geneva State Park in Ohio, just northeast of Cleveland and situated on the southern shore of Lake Erie. We planned on staying there two days, but with cooler weather and the promise of all-day rain on our last day, we cut the trip short and headed home.
Between New York and Ohio, we stopped at Niagara Falls. We forgot our passports and vaccination cards at home which meant no traipsing into our northern neighbor. Instead, we enjoyed the overpriced Maid of the Mist and getting up close and personal with the falls. The amount of water that passes over is breathtaking.
Free Credit Reports
Instead of requesting all of my free credit reports all at the same time, I stagger the three over the year: Equifax in October, TransUnion in February, and Experian in June. I like to think that doing it this way gives me better coverage than doing them all at once. A calendar reminder tells me when and which one to do.
As with last October, I had problems getting my Equifax report early this month. The knowledge-based questions referenced entities I’d never heard of or didn’t currently have a relationship with. For both me and my wife, when we got through the questions Equifax informed us we’d need to submit a request in the snail mail. Yeah, right. I’ll get right on top of that.
I haven’t had any trouble with TransUnion or Experian. Maybe Equifax will work next October? I’m not holding my breath.
I’m not sure why I worry about checking. I already have a credit freeze at all three. It’s not likely that someone will successfully open accounts in my name.
Spending A $2,000 FSA Balance in 24 Hours
As I wrote earlier, we had 24 hours to exhaust our $2,000 flexible spending account (FSA) before losing the remaining balance. Our first stop was getting some family dental work done. The dentist quoted it at $1,400 but what I didn’t realize until later was the total amount, including the insurance portion. Our portion was only $800.
Thinking we had only $600 left (not $1,200), I next took my oldest son to Coscto. We both got prescription sunglasses and I got some regular glasses. Still not at $600, I threw in another six months of contacts and a package of over-the-counter Mucinex D. If I’d known I had another $600 to spend, I would have brought the other two glass wearers in the family and we would have monopolized the Costco Eye Center employees a bit more.
Other Odds and Ends
- Early in the month, I went to update the plugins for my blog and received a shock. I went to hit the “Update Plugins” button before the page had completely loaded and instead accidentally hit the “Re-install version WordPress” button. Not even a confirmation, just BOOM! and WordPress starts reinstalling itself. Several minutes later, everything was back to normal, but got me panicking a bit. My millions of readers gave a collective sigh of relief.
- I’ve complained about my fridge multiple times. This month we bought a new one. Dear reader, you and I both hope that this is the end of me mentioning my fridge.
- Elections. This is the second year that my oldest has been able to vote. So it’s a little amusing to get mail addressed to her informing her that she has a C+ voting record because she didn’t vote in 2017 or 2019. She legally couldn’t have voted. Talk about alienating voters.
From the Bookshelf
I usually have four books going at a time. If you like what you read on this blog, one way to support my writing is by clicking on one of my book links. It won’t cost you any more and I’ll get a tiny referral fee. /mendication
Here’s what I read this month:
- Loonshots: How to Nurture the Crazy Ideas That Win Wars, Cure Diseases, and Transform Industries by Safi Bahcall. Recommended to me by the VP of Engineering at my last gig. The book dug into how to balance an engineering organization between experimentation and franchising. You have to do both well to succeed. Do either one to excess at the cost of the other and you won’t be around long.
- Ask Your Developer: How to Harness the Power of Software Developers and Win in the 21st Century by Jeff Lawson. Recommended to me by the CEO at my new gig. While the mantra “ask your developer” is a great one, I didn’t find a lot of new ideas in the first parts of the book. However, in the latter part, discussions around a maximum team size of ten and spending effort defining the boundaries between teams spoke to me.
- Kill It with Fire: Manage Aging Computer Systems (and Future Proof Modern Ones) by Marianne Bellotti. I write a lot of greenfield code. But today’s greenfield code is tomorrow’s legacy code. This book was thought provoking, encouraging me to be less disdainful of legacy code and considering ways to write better, longer lasting code.
- The Power of Nothing to Lose: The Hail Mary Effect in Politics, War, and Business by William L. Silber. Discovered this book on the ProfG podcast. Nothing earth shattering but enjoyable stories. I enjoyed the context behind the Battle of the Bulge and why Hitler would take such a risky gamble when he had nothing to lose and a chance at an asymmetric payout.
- Fablehaven and Fablehaven, vol. 2: Rise of the Evening Star by Brandon Mull. My three youngest children were too young when I read these out loud to my children nine years ago. My second youngest insists on reading the words alongside me so he can say that he read Fablehaven himself, instead of just listening. He’ll gasp or laugh moments before I reach the phrase or sentence that triggered his response. I haven’t yet read the second series and will probably read it when we finish the first series.
How was your October? Read anything interesting this month? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.