Saturday, June 27, 2009

Product Review - Griffin iTrip Auto Universal

J and I recently took a road trip. We enjoy listening to our MP3 players over the vehicle audio system, but the car we drove didn't have a cassette player with which we could use the adapter we already have. I'd looked into an FM transmitter before, but thought them too cumbersome for regular use. For a road trip, though, one might work out quite well.

We selected the Griffin iTrip Universal, mainly because of two features: the SmartScan and PowerJolt.

Pressing the SmartScan button allows the unit to search for an empty frequency in the FM broadcast band and automatically set itself to use it. The display shows where to tune your radio to hear your MP3 player.

I found one weakness in this system, though. Because the unit is inside the vehicle, it doesn't always find a channel which is empty when you tune your radio - the antenna for which is outside. I found it was better to find an empty frequency on the vehicle's radio and manually set the iTrip to use it.

PowerJolt is a simple USB connector which allows you to power and/or charge the MP3 player while it's being used. This is a great feature and came in quite handy.

Overall I found the Griffin iTrip to be a good value and worth the purchase price. The sound quality was better than I expected when there was no interference by a broadcast station. While traveling from town to town we did have to change frequencies often, but if you stay in one area that shouldn't be a problem.

Financial Peace University - Postscript

My wife and I helped facilitate a Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University class which wrapped up a few weeks ago. It was an excellent time of learning as well as doing something positive to help others. (Here's a post I did about Dave earlier this year: What's Up With Dave Ramsey?)

Financial Peace University (FPU) is a series of 13 classes where an hour-long talk by Dave is played on DVD to the group and then a discussion takes place among the participants. We also provided dinner to those who came, which added a very nice social dimension to the experience.

I wrote in the post linked above that J and I have gotten a lot out of my experience with Dave's teaching. What was even better was hearing that we weren't alone. One couple in particular came to me on the last day of the class to tell me how their life has improved. They told me they fought about money constantly, and just learning how to put a budget together made a huge difference in their relationship. Now that they plan where their money goes there's no fighting and their money goes a whole lot further every month. The smiles on their faces told the rest of the story.

If you're at the end of your financial rope, I highly recommend getting involved in either FPU and/or reading "The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness". It's made a huge impact on my life, the lives of people I know and it can positively impact your life, too.

I'm already looking forward to facilitating our next FPU at the beginning of August.

UPDATE: October 19, 2010 - I can't believe the terrible typos I had in this piece. I apologize for the mess. I think I got them all.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Progressive Insurance Keeps Changing My Rates

I have 2 autos and a motorcycle insured through Progressive Insurance. In the 5 or so years I've had my insurance with them I've been very happy with their service. Whether doing business on-line or over the phone they've always done well in my opinion. (Here's a piece I wrote about their claims service)

There is one thing they do which puzzles me, though. They keep changing my rates. I'm not complaining, mind you, because they keep lowering my monthly payments.

Every year, a couple months before renewal time, I've gotten a letter from Progressive explaining they are going to raise my rates. The letters are apologetic and explain in great detail how they come up with the amount they want me to pay. It's never been more than a couple dollars a month, so I've not had reason to complain.

But, it never fails that after a couple of months they start lowering my payments. A few cents here and a few cents there and pretty soon I'm close to or below what I was paying before they raised my rates at renewal time.

I'm not saying you will have the same experience with them - you're mileage may vary. But, I have to recommend Progressive for your vehicle insurance needs. This type of attention to an individual customer is fantastic. Combined with their excellent customer and claims service, this type of attention makes Progressive a great company to do business with.

Disclaimer: I was not compensated in any way for this post. I'm just a satisfied Progressive Insurance customer.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Our Trip to Tony Packo's in Toledo

My wife has mentioned several times since I've known her that she wanted to one day visit Tony Packo's in Toledo, Ohio. We had our chance this past week - and we were not disappointed.

I rather expected a touristy-type place. What I found instead was a fun neighborhood restaurant with great people inside. To be sure there was a gift shop, but other than that and the three parking lots it was all about the food.

And the food was very good. The chili, hot dogs and friend pickles were very tasty.

We also enjoyed walking around and looking at the hot dog buns autographed by celebrities ranging from Jamie Farr (Klinger on MASH, who probably did more to make Tony Packo's famous than anyone else) to President Obama.

I don't recommend making a trip to Toledo just for Tony Packo's, but if you happen to be passing within 100 miles or so, it's definitely worth stopping in. We happened in on a Sunday and it was not crowded at all, but with three parking lots I have to assume they do have busy times.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Book Review: "It Happened In Italy" by Elizabeth Bettina

Cover Shot of It Happened in Italy by Elizabeth Bettina
Was Fascist Italy a safe haven for Jews during World War II? It turns out the answer to this question is "yes." Although not widely known, thousands of Jews survived the holocaust because of the Italian people.

Elizabeth Bettina was a lady who spent many of her childhood summers in the small town of Campagna located in South-eastern Italy. Her ancestral home, Campagna held a secret she only learned of as an adult back at home in the United States: During World War II an internment camp housing Jews was located a stone's throw from her great-grandmother's home.

She learned of the history of the Jews in Campagna though a series of fascinating coincidences which led her on a quest to learn the stories of those Jews who were spared the horror of the Holocaust because of many Italians, both ordinary people as well as government officials.

This book is the history of her quest for the true story of Jews in Italy. Interwoven within her story are the stories of those who survived this terrible time in history because of the graciousness and compassion of the Italians they came in contact with.

The book is written in a conversational style and contains many pictures and copies of documentation which makes it handy for the real history buff.

Disclaimer: I am a member of Thomas Nelson's Book Review Blogger program. Although Thomas Nelson Publishing provided the book at no cost to me, this review is my honest opinion of the work.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Someone's Detroit Memory

We had dinner this evening with friends at the local Cracker Barrel. Just above my seat on the wall was this poster:

Poster for a DAV Dance in 1947On the corner of Van Dyke and Republic 3 blocks north of Nine Mile Road. That can only be in the Detroit area. Here's where it is on Google Maps:

View Larger Map

That particular chapter of the Disabled American Veterans is now known as the Biebuyck-Romano Chapter 127 and still meets in Warren.

If anyone attended this dance or remembers it, I'd love to hear about it. Leave your story in the comments.