Apartment Search
Jan 12th, 2010 by Mike

Several months ago, I told my landlord that I wouldn’t be renewing my lease when it was up in mid-March. I love living in Salem, but it’s incredibly inconvenient. With chorus rehearsal once a week and the doctors I see in the city, Salem becomes more inconvenient. That said, I started looking for a place in East Boston.

Some of my friends suggested that I move to other parts of Boston, but Eastie works for me. It’s close to so many things, it’s an up-and-coming neighborhood, and it’s really convenient to get to I-93. That was my big driver. If I get on I-93 heading northbound in the morning, it’s usually wide open until you hit the I-95 interchange. I’m thinking this will shave about 15 minutes off my commute each way.

On Saturday, my friend Ulli went with me to look at several apartments. One had a lot of character and was in an awesome neighborhood but had an electric stove. Ultimately, the lack of laundry facilities took that one out of the running. Another one was a nice condo with a dedicated parking spot and a HUGE bedroom. The cave-like living room, oddly laid out kitchen and less than desirable neighborhood took that one out of the running. That left us with three brand new apartments all in the same building. The third floor (including the fourth floor) was amazing but out of my price range and was more apartment than I needed. The first and second floors are identical except for the little office off the living room on the second floor. I’m going with the second floor. It’s nice, new, and has an nice kitchen with a ton of storage. The bedroom is small but has a really nice sized closet. It has laundry and a storage space in the basement. Best of all, it’s in the next block from Ulli and around the corner from the 303 Cafe.

Today, I filled out all the paperwork and did some negotiating with the agent. I will know tomorrow if everything will work out. Lets keep our fingers crossed.

Ringing in 2010
Jan 3rd, 2010 by Mike

They say that how you end the year is an indication of how you’ll spend the rest of the following year. If that’s the case, I’m in pretty good shape for 2010.

On Thursday, I took the Acela from Boston to Washington, DC. The Acela is a great ride, even if the whole length makes for a long trip. Still, with recent events in Detroit, I really didn’t want to deal with airport security at Logan’s International Terminal E.

Once I arrived at Washington’s Union Station, I took the Metro to Will’s place on the southwest waterfront. Thursday night, we went to see some of his friends for a New Year’s Eve party. It was a lot of fun, and the food was fantastic. Anderson Cooper must have been paid a lot of money in order to put up with Kathy Griffin. Sure, she’s funny, but she is incredibly annoying at times.

Friday, we did a whole lot of nothing. At one point, we did make our way to Pentagon City Mall where I picked up my new iPhone 3GS. This is a 16 GB model in White. My current 3G is having some pixel problems and I just came up for renewal. So I’m replacing the 3G and will send it back to be fixed. This is why I bought Apple Care on the phone.

Friday night, we met some more of his friends for drinks and then we headed up to Laurel, MD for game night with our friends Marc and Jason. They have this game called Killer Bunnies that is a lot of fun. We ended up being there way too late and just crashed for the night.

Come Saturday, the only thing we did was go out for dinner. We had plans to attend an event at my friend’s bar, but we both decided that we were too tired. On top of that, I had an early flight Sunday morning back to Boston.

When Will dropped me off at BWI this morning, I was met with a bit of a surprise–the lines. Southwest had thousands of people waiting to check in for their flights. In typical Southwest fashion, they moved that line incredibly well. I waited no more than 20 minutes to check in and check my bag. After that, airport security was a breeze.

I really only have one complaint, and that’s my own fault. I didn’t get Southwest’s Early Bird Check-in like I normally do. This left me with a B boarding pass. I’m used to getting a boarding pass in the low Still, I was fortunate to get a pretty good seat without having to play the MS card. I only do that when I’m having dizzy spells and don’t want to stumble while throwing my bag in the overhead. In this case, I only had my messenger bag that goes under the seat, so I was fine.

Remembering Phil
Nov 30th, 2009 by Mike

Yesterday, we said farewell to one of my oldest friends. Phil Murphy was killed in an accident last week.

Phil Murphy

Last week, I was starting my Christmas card list and came across Phil and Randy’s address on last year’s list. I made a note to call and check in. It had been too long. I never got the chance. The next day, a mutual friend sent me a message on facebook saying that he’d been killed in an accident.

I have this jumble of thoughts and memories of Phil that I want to share, but honestly, I just can’t summon the words right now. He was a good guy who would give you the shirt off his back.

Phil’s funeral reminded me about something in his life, that he was able to bring together a diverse group of people and make them come together and laugh. That was the Phil we knew, and that was the Phil we loved.  One of the speakers at his funeral said that heaven is a much richer place now and Earth is much poorer. I couldn’t agree more.

Oct 27th, 2009 by Mike

I’ve been on the Weight Watchers program for the past six weeks. This week, I hit both my 5% and 10 pound goals!


This is pretty exciting for me. My short-term goal is to hit 165. Ultimately, I’d love to get back down to 150, but that’s a longer-term goal.

My Chicken “Gravy”
Oct 11th, 2009 by Mike

Being on Weight Watchers, I’m trying to eat some of my favorite foods, only in a more healthy way. I’m teaching myself to cook all over again.

Today, I tackled my chicken “base” that I use for chicken pot pie, chicken and biscuits, etc. After about two hours in the kitchen this morning, I think we can call this recipe a success.

Wedding Day
Sep 27th, 2009 by Mike

My friend Sam got married yesterday. It was a short (yet lovely) ceremony with a pretty low-key reception. I’m honored that Sam and Jeff asked me to be in the wedding.

I got to meet quite a few people who read my blog. At first, it was a little unsettling, and then I realized that Sam has me linked. It makes a little more sense.

It’s been a long couple of days, and I’m going to crash at home tonight. I need to do some cooking for the week before curling up and watching some TV tonight.

Oh, and I’m horrified at the number of weight watchers points I blew through yesterday.

New Look and Feel
Sep 25th, 2009 by Mike

I’ve just moved my blog from Expression Engine to Word Press. This was more difficult than the migration from Movable Type a few years ago.  This post made my work a little easier.

While I’m at it, I should probably write about what’s going on.  My friends Sam and Jeff are getting married this weekend. I’m in the wedding, and by the time most of you read this, I will be on the road to Hartford for the wedding tommorow.

I was in Washington, DC a few weeks ago. An old friend of mine owns a bar down there. Bill and I haven’t seen each other in years. I contacted his partner via Facebook and arranged a little surprise for him. Bill was behind the bar with his back to me. I tapped on his shoulder. He turned around to look at me. It took about five seconds for him to make the connection. He was absolutely stunned. Mission accomplished.

While I was down there, I met up with someone I’ve been chatting with online for quite some time. We ended up spending the entire weekend together. We’re going to see where this goes. He’s coming up here in a couple of weeks for my chorus retreat. I’m going back down two weeks later. That’s all the details you get for now.

This week, I started Weight Watchers at work. It’s been interesting so far. I’m seeing that by cutting a lot of the crap and alcohol out of my diet, I’m seeing that it gives me a lot of opportunity for real food.

The Cranky DBA
Sep 8th, 2009 by Mike

I manage databases and database applications for a living. There is a community of SQL Server bloggers out there, and I’ve started doing some writing myself. I’m now publishing at The Cranky DBA.

That site won’t be connected to mikehillwig.com. It’s running different blogging software. It’s using Word Press while I use Expression Engine for this site.

Today, I became the latest syndicated author for SQLServerPedia.com. That’s pretty exciting for me. It’s a great way to network with other DBAs as well as gain some great exposure for job prospects, should I be looking for them in the future.

Aug 26th, 2009 by Mike

Originally uploaded by mikehillwig

If you follow me on Facebook, Flickr or Twitter, you may know that I’ve been pondering a move back to the city. I love my condo, but living in Salem has become invconvenient. Between doctors and chorus obligations, I’m in the city pretty frequently.

If you look at my moving history, a 2BR in Pittsburgh, 2BR in Providence, 1BR in Boston, and a 2BR in Salem, I have a lot of stuff. My second bedroom in Salem has effectively become a big closet. Enough is enough. I’m purging a lot of crap I just don’t need anymore.

This project has been incredibly refreshing. I’m throwing away stuff I haven’t seen/used/touched/needed for ages. This includes clothes. I have a ton of clothes that just don’t need to be kept. As I’m doing laundry, anything that isn’t worth keeping gets discarded. (I’d rather replace than fold clothes, anyway.) Last night, I tried on three suits that were in the closet. Not one of them fit. They’re going to Goodwill. An entire box of magazines has been discarded.

I used to keep every boarding pass from every flight I’ve ever taken. Those are history as well. If it wasn’t made or owned by a grandparent, it’s not sacred and up for purging.

Last night, I threw out six huge trash bags of stuff. There are two more that aren’t in this picture.

On Healthcare
Aug 16th, 2009 by Mike

It seems like one can’t turn on a news program these days without somebody blathering on about healthcare. It probably won’t surprise my readers to know that I have some very strong opinions on the matter. As someone who is a consumer of a great number of healthcare resources, I like to think I’m pretty well aware of the current system, its flaws, its benefits, and how to navigate the system.

Let me start by stating a bias. As a conservative, I don’t like government getting its hands into things it shouldn’t.  Government also created this mess. In the world war 2 era, salary caps forced businesses to offer health insurance as a perk to employees. Since they couldn’t pay more, they offered something else of value. That’s capitalism at its best, creating a solution to a problem. In recent years, government made the situation worse by giving tax benefits to employers instead of employees.

Today, the AP has an article saying that the White House may be willing to give up on the so-called public option. This makes me want to jump up and down, cheering all the way.  Again, I don’t think the government should be running a healthcare system. Disagree with me? That’s fine. You’re perfectly entitled to your opinion. But ask a senior how well they like medicare. It’s a broken system, too. Oh, and if you really want an example of how our government runs healthcare, ask a veteran how well the VA runs healthcare. That’s not just broken, it’s a travesty. If that’s how we treat our war heros, imagine how somebody like me will get treated. No, thank you.

Let me start with the big myth that everybody needs a high-end health insurance. Most Americans don’t. If you have a healthy family who has minimal healthcare needs, high-deductible plans could be a serious option, saving a ton of money. Couple that with a flexible spending account, and most people would be well-served. Speaking of flexible spending accounts, eliminating the year-to-year expiration of plans would be a huge benefit. Right now, if I don’t use all of the money in my FSA by the end of the year, that money expires. Why not let it roll over so I can use it the following year? FSAs are one of the best things we’ve ever done for healthcare. I put back close to three thousand dollars every year for my out of pocket expenses, and it’s all pre-tax money. You can’t beat it.

As I mentioned earlier, the current tax laws favor employers who pay for healthcare benefits. Why not open the market so that everyone can shop around for the insurance that suits their needs? Having insurance paid for by employers isn’t the only option.

And why aren’t we talking about community clinics? Companies like Walmart and CVS were setting up clinics in their stores where people could spend a little bit of money to see a nurse or nurse practitioner. It’s a brilliant idea that has been squelched by many government organizations, including the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. If someone could spend $20 to see a nurse before waiting for an issue to spiral out of control, forcing a trip to an emergency room, it would take a lot of pressure off our hospitals.

One of the big things we could do to reduce healthcare costs in this country is to end frivolous lawsuits. Defensive medicine is ridiculously expensive, and I’ve recently seen it in action. Before going on Tysabri, I had to have a whole battery of unnecessary tests required by the drug company. Why? Because a few people have died of a rare condition called PML and they’ve been sued. Keep in mind that this is why the drug was still experimental. Now, I have to have several expensive tests just to minimize the chance of the drug company being sued.

The CEO of Whole Foods, John Mackey has been under fire by the far left, including a group on Facebook, because he wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal with some of his opinions. The funny thing is that I agree with him on many points. I don’t agree with everything he says, but a lot of what he says makes sense.

Yes, healthcare in this country is broken and needs to be fixed. But lets not make it worse. Lets enact change, but lets fix the low-hanging fruit first. Sweeping change to a system that touches every segment of our economy could be a disaster in the making. I’d rather have it right instead of right now.

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