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The First in the Deck Series

Our most recent DIY experience through the process.

Out With The Old, In With The New

Gotta love a new beginning, right?

Peppermint Shortage

Just a funny afternoon.

Coffeyville, KS

I loved this experience so much that I had to write about it. Then, through e-mails it spread to Coffeyville itself.

Photo Restoration

I had a lot of fun with this "old school" photo. It turned out too cool to not blog about it.

Kitchen Remodel (part one)

This is the first of a nine-part series documenting the remodel of our 50-year-old kitchen in our 100-year-old home!

Change


As a child, I remember hearing adults talk about political issues and various politicians. I also remember seeing Ronald Reagan give speeches, though I didn't listen to anything he said. I didn't understand anything about politics and had no interest in it. I was a child, after all.

Today, I realize the importance of politics. It isn't difficult for anyone my age to see that life in America today is extremely different than it was when I was a child. This is true for our parents and our grandparents, as well. We live amongst a generation of people who, unfortunately, find it rude to even say the word "politics" much less carry on a conversation about it. And, the effects of generations of Americans turning a deaf ear to the growing entity that controls so many aspects of their lives have taken their toll.

The result of this willfull ignorance has left us with a country that is in debt well past their ears, that has a terribly overpaid and ineffective educational system, that has a "central bank" that steals from us all daily by printing non-gold backed currency that immediately lessens the value of all currency while giving them cash to spend, that has had less and less freedoms every year, etc., etc. I could go on and on, but I'll assume for a moment that maybe all of you already are aware of the problems that this country has.

Change. This word is so easy to say, and so hard to do. It's what every politician promises (except maybe Rudy Gulianni who promises to be "W" all over again). It's what is needed. It's what is wanted. But, it scares the manure out of people. But, why? It is inevitable that a major change in government will happen. It happened all throughout history. Governments that become too large and too powerful over its people eventually make a radical change. It can come in many ways: the people get fed up and take back their government through elections and political movements, the people take back their government by force, the people get overrun and live in an oppressive state long enough for a government like the U.S. to feel sorry for it and come in and bail them out, etc.

The question that remains is: When is it time to do something about our government? Many would agree that the government has already gone too far. Why is it that not very many want to do anything about it? Make a liar out of me. Get informed. Make a difference. Talk to people. Take America back.

Please watch the following videos. They are very short and show some major changes that will definitely give America back to the people.

John Stossel interviewing Ron Paul (part one) click the button below
Ron Paul for President 2008
John Stossel interviewing Ron Paul (part two) click the button below
Ron Paul for President 2008

Thanksgiving Meal in Pill Form


It was the morning of Thanksgiving Day and everyone in our house was watching the Thanksgiving Day Parade in Times Square on television. It seemed like a great family thing to do and it was for the most part. However, it only took a few commercial breaks to pick up on a disturbing pattern. CBS had apparently sold about half of their commercial time to pharmaceutical companies. Every commercial break had at least one lengthy commercial that attempted to convince Americans that they were well within the given statistic of people suffering from one illness or another. All of the commercials are the same with people smiling and feeling great and explaining how their problems have been solved by the regular dosage of this new medication. Of course, it doesn't show any of these people smiling through any of their listed possible side effects.

Speaking of the side effects, one of these commercials was promoting a new medication for people that have leg cramps. Of the listed possible side effects that this medication can have was "gambling and sexual urges". What does this mean? And what in the world did they put into these pills to cause such a reaction? Did the control group that they tested these pills on all wind up playing strip poker? Did they test the drug on dogs first? Is that how they wound up with those silly paintings?

Another listed possible side effect was dying. How does death find its way into a list of side effects? There's nothing "on the side" about dying. That's pretty much the focus of the problem, I would think. The leg cramp sort of becomes a moot point, right? I wonder how many people out there dying wish that all they had was a leg cramp. Not to mention the people out there who are uncontrollably dehydrating from chronic diarrhea and severe vomiting. I'm willing to bet that these people are wishing for a leg cramp, too, and yet people with leg cramps are popping these pills and apparently having these very side effects.

Jodi was appalled at some of things that were said and decided to write CBS a complaint. Ironically, about half-way through writing her message CBS ran a commercial for an upcoming CBS Evening News with Katie Couric. The top story that they were advertising the show with was "Teens Abusing Prescription Medications". Talk about a hypocritical television station. They'll sell all of their commercial space to the top bidders: pharmaceutical companies. And then they'll attempt to get you to watch their news shows by reporting on the very problems that they are helping to create. I'm surprised that these pharmaceutical companies want to advertise on their station, or maybe that's why they want to. Maybe it's similar to a mud-slinging political campaign.

Either way, I find it horrible that CBS would do this. Television is just not good to watch anymore. We actually had to convince Jacob that he didn't need Lunesta. He saw that pretty butterfly on the commercial and turned around to tell us that he has trouble sleeping and needed some of those. I guess , judging by the success of Lunesta's distribution, that a frightening amount of adult Americans are still running around with a seven-year-old's mentality.

Big Plans

December 6th, 2003 was a great day in the life of Levi Felton. It was the day that I met a girl named Jodi who unbeknownst to me at the time would later become my wife and mother to my children. It was also the day that I laid down a mere $850 for the best vehicle I have ever bought. A 1959 Ford F100. Within a couple months it became my daily driver and it has remained that ever since. Until last Saturday...(key ominous music for dramatic feel).

November 11th, 2007 was a not-so-great day in the life of Levi Felton. I worked for seven hours and then left to go to Jacob's basketball game. They lost but it was a really good game. Due to Jodi having a baby shower to attend right up until the game, she showed up in her own vehicle. That worked out quite nicely when upon leaving the parking lot my Ford made the following sounds: running nicely...chugga,chugga,chugga,clank,chugga,clank,chugga,THOOMP...
...silence.

That's right. "Excuse me, waiter. May I have one blown motor with another glass of disappointment? Thank you." For almost four years, the Ford has ran me all over the place. Oh, sure, sometimes it broke down needing a new this or that, but it always was back up and on the road in a limited time. But not this day. This day would mark the end of the Big Bad Ford. Or would it?

Last Thursday, I made a purchase. From a friend's friend, I bought a 1992 Ford E150 Econoline Heavy Duty Cargo Van. The picture here is similar to the one I have, but mine has some damage to the body all along the passenger side when (according to this friend's friend) the previous owner hit a mailbox with it. However, as my friend put it, "Mailbox? More like a Post Office."

The original plan was to take the motor and transmission and possibly the rear end out of the van and put it in my truck. The new plan is to unbolt the van body, roll it off, unbolt the truck body from its frame and set it on the van frame leaving the van's motor and transmission intact.

The challenges: The frame will need to be chopped down about 18 to 20 inches as the van's wheel base is that much longer. The linkage for the steering column, gas pedal, and brake will need to be fabricated. Wiring, wiring, wiring. And, finally, making custom body mounts might prove to be somewhat difficult.

The benefits: It will still look like the Big Bad Ford hasn't changed at first glance or even at second glance. However, much will have changed. It will sport a fuel injected 302 V8 with heavy duty automatic transmission with overdrive. It will have a stronger frame better suited for towing. It will have a wider wheel base with a better suspension package giving it better handling and cornering. It will have power steering, power disk brakes, a working emergency brake, an a/c compressor that I can convert into a self contained on-board air compressor tank, CRUISE CONTROL, and a more powerful engine.

The bottom line is that I'll get to keep the Big Bad Ford looking like it has for the last 48 years, but I will get all the modern advances in technology on board. Previously, I was the only one that could drive it, but with these changes Jodi will be able to handle it with ease. Also, previously, the furthest I'd ever dared to take it was Branson. It was clearly not suited for highway driving and couldn't be trusted that far away from home either. After this project, it will be right at home on the highway. No more granny low gearing ratios.

What do you think? Good modifications VS. keeping it original?

Date Night


Last Friday, Jodi and I went on a date. The theme was dinner and a show, I suppose, since the plan was to go to a new restaurant on Commercial Street and have a nice dinner and then make our way down to the Outland to see a friend's band play.

The evening started out awesome as we showed up just in time to get curbside parking directly in front of Peabody's. We go inside and immediately are greeted by a friend of ours who works there. He seat us up in the V.I.P. room that consists of one table for four that overlooks the entire restaurant. He suggests the Surf & Turf and we accept his suggestion. It was amazing. The cook is a genius. Both the steak and the tuna were cooked to perfection. I have no idea what all he did to them , but he turned two slabs of meat and some vegetables into the most delectably flavorful meal that I have ever had.

There was a beautiful baby grand player piano that was playing Frank Sinatra's hit songs. And, we were told that they have people come in and play some nights. It was a great meal at a great spot. Go check it out.

We finished the evening by going to the Outland and listening to some band that played a lot of Sublime and Sublime-inspired music. They were really good, but we were really hoping that the Beautiful Losers would show up and take their place on stage. We realized after maybe an hour that it was going to be too late when they would show and get started so we left. Lyric had stayed asleep the whole time so our babysitter had it easy. It was a good night.

Remember, remember ...


"Allow me first to apologize…I do, like many of you, appreciate the comforts of the everyday routine, the security of the familiar, the tranquility of repetition. I enjoy them as much as any bloke, but in the spirit of commemoration where by important events of the past usually associated with someone’s death or the end of some awful, bloody struggle are celebrated with a nice holiday. I thought we could mark this November the 5th, a day that is, sadly, no longer remembered, by taking some time out of our daily lives to sit and have a little chat. There are, of course, those who do not want us to speak. Even now, orders are being shouted into telephones and men with guns will soon be on their way. Why, because while the truncheon may be used in lieu of conversation, words will ALWAYS retain their power. Words offer the means to meaning and, for those who will listen, the enunciation of truth, and the truth is, there is something terribly wrong with this country isn’t there? Cruelty, injustice, intolerance and oppression, and where once you had the freedom to object, to think and speak as you saw fit, you now have censors and surveillance coercing your conformity and soliciting submission. How did this happen? Who’s to blame? Certainly there are those who are more responsible than others, and they will be held accountable, but again, truth be told, if you’re looking for the guilty, you need only to look in a mirror. I know why you did it, I know you were afraid, who wouldn’t be? War, terror, disease, there were a myriad of problems, which conspired to corrupt your reason and rob you of your common sense. Fear got the best of you. And in your panic, you turned to the now High Chancellor Adam Sutler. He promised you order, he promised you peace and all he demanded in return was your silent, obedient consent. Last night, I sought to end that silence. Last night, I destroyed the Old Bailey to remind this country of what it has forgotten. More than 400 years ago, a great citizen whish to imbed the 5th of November forever in our memory. His hope was to remind the world that fairness, justice and freedom are more than just words…they are perspectives. So if you’ve seen nothing, if the crimes of this government remain unknown to you, then I would suggest that you allow the 5th of November to pass unmarked, but if you see what I see, if you feel what I feel, and if you would seek as I seek then I ask you to stand beside me, one year from tonight outside the gates of Parliament, and together we shall give them a 5th of November that shall never, ever be forgot."
-V for Vendetta

Let There Be Light


A few weeks ago, Jodi had expressed that she wanted to get some new globes for our dining room chandelier. She wanted to give it a new look. And I had to agree because it really needed a new look. So, we went shopping for new globes and finally found some that we liked at Lowe's. Jodi put it all together and painted the old, ugly brass and it looked awesome.

Then, a terrible thing happened. We turned the light on and the entire room had this yellowed look to it. The white molding looked like smokers had been licking it for years. It was pretty bad and it really screwed up the mood since we were expecting to be in awe of our new light fixture. Instead, we were disgusted by our choice.

I thought that maybe we could put something reflective in the globes to keep the light from going through the globes themselves. The room looked yellow, after all, not from the light bulbs but rather the light that went through the globes and picked up the yellow hue. We tried foil and it looked stupid. I then thought that maybe we could paint the insides with some chrome paint. But, in the end we did one better than that and painted the insides with white spray paint. No more yellow room and no more ugly chandelier.

For a grand total of $32 it was an inexpensive and much needed upgrade to our home.

Relocation Nation

I read a friend's blog recently and... well, he's not really a friend per say. He's a husband of a friend... well, hold on, she and I were friends a long time ago. So are we still friends? I mean we never speak to each other, see each other, or have any other communication come to think of it. I do read her husband's blogs. That is a form of communication, right? Well, let me start over.

I was reading this guy's blog whom I've never met and he asked a great blog question. So, I thought that I would piggyback off him rather than come up with my own interesting blog topic. The question was simple: Where (in the USA) would you live if you could live anywhere? The follow-up question is: If you are not living there already, what keeps you from living there?

My answer to this question is Cedar City, Utah. The town is nestled down in a valley surrounded by Utah's most amazing geological marvels. There are several national parks less than an hour away, 3 of which are within a 30-minute drive. A resident there could go hiking every weekend for the rest of their life staying within a 60 mile radius and not hike the same trail twice. These parks contain so many different types of landscapes that a guy like myself could never get bored.  Mountains, deserts, lakes, rock formations.  Even the non-outdoorsy types would find themselves more sun-tanned than ever if they moved here.

Aside from the national parks aspect, the town is very picture perfect. There are about 22,000 residents. There are enough shopping centers and restaurants to be content with going out. It's big enough to serve most needs and small enough to feel like a real community. St. George is home to about 67,000 residents and contains larger shopping avenues. It sits about 50 miles away which is close enough to drive to for more extravagant shopping opportunities yet far enough away so that Cedar City stays it's own unit and not a suburb of something else. Las Vegas is also only 3 hours away. So, small vacations (if you're into that sort of thing) can be had easily enough with a quite reasonable drive.

The reason that I am not living there now is that I have a career going here and I couldn't just up and move out there and hope to find financial stability with any speed. However, I would definitely be open to considering it if I either found a good job out there or could make a living working for myself.

Where would you move to?




Height Requirements

Jacob is finally old enough to be trusted with a BB gun. Of course, I never let him out of my sight, I'm constantly reminding him of the rules, and I'm standing over him like a drill sergeant, but yeah I trust him.

Last night, I took him out back to our shamefully overgrown backyard and set up a makeshift shooting range for him. It was a lot of fun for him. Who am I kidding? It was a lot of fun for all of us. Jodi and I got in on the action as well. Those tin cans never saw it coming.

I'm not at home or I would use my video editing software to add closed captioning for those who can't make out what Jacob is saying. So, instead, I'll simply add the transcript below.

Video #1 : "See? He left the herd."
Video #2 : "Guess what. I'll get this one right here. He's a little baby."

video

video

"If he lies, make him pay, fifty dollars every day"


Springfield's News-Leader has announced today in their opinion section that their position has changed on the red-light camera issue that has been a controversial one since the idea's first debut in city council discussions. Originally, the News-Leader made statements in their opinion section backing city council's plan on implementing the intersection cameras. However, the reason they have changed their position isn't because their opinion has changed. Rather, it's because city council has demonstrated their ability to lie outright about their intentions to gain approval.

The council stated that their intention with the use of cameras was to make the city's intersections safer. They offered plenty of statistics that suggested that red-light running in Springfield was the biggest contributor to right-angle accidents and then they made claims that the use of these cameras would help save lives and reduce accidents. There is no evidence so far that the one intersection in Springfield that has this camera system has helped in any way. It hasn't been up and running long enough to determine anything. So, I'll make no argument based on its effectiveness.

I'll let the following do the arguing for me. Here is part of the News-Leader's article from this morning:

The red-light cameras were promoted in Springfield by police and other city officials as an attempt to save lives. City officials said over and over again that the cameras would go up at the most dangerous intersections and they would be used to cut down on dangerous, often fatal, right-angle crashes. But since the city installed its first camera at National Avenue and Battlefield Road — which was only the city's 10th most dangerous intersection in 2006 based on number of accidents — the city has changed course.
The revenue from tickets at that intersection isn't keeping up with the cost of the program, more than $4,000 per month per camera approach. The city delayed installation of its next couple of intersections, and now it plans to install the next cameras at another intersection that is nowhere near the worst intersection in the city in terms of number of accidents, rate of accidents or the key statistic, right-angle crashes.
The next camera is set to be installed at Battlefield and Campbell, one of the city's busiest intersections, but not one of its most dangerous. If this program is about safety, the city is ignoring its own facts.
The intersection at Battlefield and Campbell did have the second highest number of crashes in the city in 2006, at 58. But because of its high volume — more than 70,000 cars per day — its crash rate is actually quite low. More important, it doesn't even show up on the radar screen in terms of the most important type of dangerous crashes the city is trying to stop: right-angle crashes. If the city is trying to stop those crashes, and save lives, which was its stated intention from the beginning, then there are numerous other intersections which should be considered first.
Tops on the list should be the intersection of Campbell Avenue and Republic Street. That intersection, which is still very busy at more than 54,000 cars per day, led the city last year with 60 crashes. Its crash rate was much higher than the other intersections being considered for first installation of red-light cameras. And it had 13 right-angle crashes in 2006, fourth highest in the city. Even higher on the right-angle crash chart is the intersection of Kansas Expressway and Republic Street, which had 15 such crashes. That intersection had 49 accidents in 2006, and of the top 25 intersections in the city in terms of number of crashes, it had them at the highest rate. Moreover, its three-year and five-year rate of crashes is also the highest among top crash intersections.
So if the city is concerned with safety, why aren't those intersections getting cameras first?
Why did the first camera go at an intersection that has the lowest crash rate among the top 10 intersections based on number of accidents? Why did the first camera go up at an intersection that was 25th in 2006 in terms of right-angle crashes? Why is the next camera going up at an intersection that isn't even in the top 50 in terms of dangerous right-angle crashes?
The city can say all it wants that this isn't about the money, but actions speak louder than words.
Here's what we said in October 2005 when the red-light cameras were first being discussed: "The Springfield City Council, if it chooses to install red-light cameras, should write safeguards into any lease specifying that the priority will be high-accident intersections with the highest percentage of right-angle wrecks."
Mayor Tom Carlson appeared at the time to agree, saying: "We're sensitive to the issue that red-light cameras can be seen as a revenue source. Doing it for that reason would not be politically smart."
Indeed, the council will look politically dumb if they allow city staff to continue to install cameras at high traffic intersections instead of the more dangerous ones.


The facts don't lie. Springfield City Council does.

Does Not Compute


A little over two years ago I decided that it was time to buy a new computer. At that time I was using a Pentium II, 350 GHz with a 10 Gb hard drive. I had purchased it from a friend in February 2003 for $200. It was a good deal, then. Especially since I was using a pre-Pentium 166 Mhz computer with a whopping 930 Mb hard drive before that. It was running Windows 3.1. That was obviously my first computer.

So, in 2005, I kept the future in mind when shopping for a new computer. I decided to build a computer from parts purchased through TigerDirect.com and put it together myself. I didn't skimp at all, but I did look for the best deals. I put together one heck of a computer for only about $230. I built it knowing that one day soon, I would be getting a digital camcorder and would need a computer advanced enough to do the video editing that I would want it to do.

Well, like I said, I built a great computer. However, it had one flaw that my lack of education missed. The front side bus was only 166 Mhz. Some of you reading this right now are laughing, but most of you are like I was and aren't sure of the significance of the number I just gave you. Let me explain the same way that I've had it explained to me. The front side bus is basically like the highway that all the information going to and from the processor travels on. I had a 166 Mhz front side bus and a 1200 Mhz processor. It's like sending a fleet of 18-wheelers down a dirt road with a one-lane bridge.

In July of 2006, I finally bought the mini-DVD camcorder that I had been wanting since I first heard of its existence. And, I was furious when the video obtained from it would crash my system everytime I went to burn a video to DVD. I could still put mini-DVD disks in my camcorder and shoot video, but there was no way to edit anything. It wasn't until about 2 months ago that I learned what my mistake had been with the front side bus.

The good news is that I bought a new computer last Monday and I have it all up and running. I successfully edited a bunch of video and made a home movie complete with professional looking transitions, titles, credits, etc. Everything worked as expected, so plans are in the works for some fun videos. We have a couple commercial-spoofs planned as well as some family home movies. I'm excited.

Vhistle Vhile You Vork


I have been one busy boy these last few weeks. I was named Materials Manager for a new poject going on at work and it has required a lot of hours from me so far. We're getting everything set up to build 60 engines per day, so naturally there is a lot of things to work out to make that happen. I have broken a couple of my own records. The first one was working a 16 hour shift. Previously, my record was having worked 13 hours in one sitting, so I think that I can safely say that I blew that out of the water with showing up at 5:00 am and leaving at 9:00 pm. The other record was having worked 31.5 hours overtime last week giving me a total of 71.5 hours worked in one week. The previous record for me there was 65 hours.

I have to work this Saturday, but I should have loads of free time Saturday evening in which I plan on writing a blog. I've no idea what it will be about, but one will be written and I will feel normal again even if just for a moment.

On a sidenote, Lyric turns 8 months today. Happy 2/3 birthday, Lyric!

Labor Day


I heard a lot of people this Labor Day weekend wondering what the holiday was all about. I was only generally aware of what it was about so I thought that I'd look it up and share the wealth of knowledge in a nutshell for all the people who enjoyed cheating with crib notes as a teenager. It began back in the 1870's by an Irish immigrant named Peter McGuire.

On a side note: I can't help but think of Spiderman when hearing this name since it's a combination of "Peter Parker" Spiderman's real named character played by Tobey McGuire. See how that makes sense? If you're a total nerd. Like me.

Anyway, he was tired of working his butt off for a meager wage that couldn't support a family and having to work long hours to keep his crappy job. So, he formed the first workers union in Chicago and the concept spread across the country. A few years later the Federal Government declared the first Monday in September as Labor Day. While being celebrated for a few years, it was finally made official. Now most people recognize it as the end of summer and the last chance to hit the beach for a three day weekend. So, the lesson to be learned here is that one person managed to change the entire country by informing people and getting their active support. If Peter McGuire could do it in the 1870's then surely we can do it in an age where mass communication is as easy as pooping. Also, remember, you don't have to be a superhero to make a huge difference.

So, back on the subject of Labor Day, I did a little work around the house with my friend, Mike. We cut out a rotted section of porch and replaced it with a new section leaving a beautifully solid porch that I danced a jig on. The best part was that all the material was free. The tongue and groove boards were pulled off an old porch that was being replaced by a friend of mine named Jake. The 2x6's were salvaged from the unnecessarily raised bathtub platform that I ripped out of our house. The hardwood beam was donated by Jodi's dad, Larry, months ago when he noticed the need for it and took it upon himself to bring it up. I did buy the nails, but come on, it can't be all free.

Frappa-who?


Weeks ago, I had a Starbucks Mocha Frappuccino (Frappuccino meaning frozen cappuccino) with a friend while grocery shopping for the evening's meal. And, I'm not an avid fan of Starbucks since my very first experience with one of their franchises charged me two dollars for a cup of the worst coffee I had ever had up to that point. Sidenote: I've had worse since. But, despite my previous judgement on all things Starbucks, I stood patiently in a line of two, ordered, waited and paid for my Mocha Frappuccino. It was delicious! It was even better than the one that I had at Panera Bread the week prior. And that's saying a lot, because I really liked that one.

Anyway, like most things that I like, I try to find out if I can make them myself. After about 15 minutes of searching the internet, I found what I was looking for. Someone else, through trial and error, was sharing their recipe for what they thought was a close match to Starbuck's Mocha Frappuccino. Why reinvent the wheel, right? Let someone else do the work and then capitalize off their findings. We began making them every other day and they really helped us deal with the heat of summer. Also, it gave us a new way to enjoy our beloved coffee in the summer when normally I have to set aside my addiction until fall. Since then, we have tried it with different flavored coffees and have found that they are equally enjoyable as well as help guard against growing bored of them.

Below is the recipe that we have committed to memory. Try them out. You will not be disappointed.

3/4 cup of Hershey's Chocolate Syrup (I prefer the new dark chocolate flavor)
3/4 cup of sugar
4 cups of milk
3 cups of espresso (making really strong coffee works just as well)
plenty o' ice

First, make your espresso (or painfully thick coffee). Pour it into a 2 qt. pitcher. While this is still hot mix in your sugar and chocolate syrup until both are thoroughly dissolved. Next, add your milk to the mix. Refrigerate until cold. This mix will last in your refrigerator for the same length of time as the milk that you added to it would normally, so you may want to make a note of the milk's expiration date. Although, in my house the mix does not stay around for more than 24 hours. We like our Frappuccinos. When the mix is sufficiently chilled, fill your blender with ice (pellet ice is the easiest to use here which you can pick up at a lot of places, we've nicknamed it Sonic ice because it's the breed of ice that Sonic uses, here's a hint: Sonic will sell you a huge bag of their ice for 99 cents, most people aren't aware of this) but, of course, allow room to be able to put the lid on. Then, pour the mix in so that the mix level is just below the top of the ice. Blend well and serve. If you so desire you can add some whipped cream on top and then drizzle some chocolate syrup on top of the whipped cream. It adds a nice presentation for your guests, although I find it to be an unneccesary extra.

Enjoy!

A Plate Is Not Always A Dish


Friday's the big day. It's the day that my local and state Uncle Sam's get to collect from old Levi. Yup, that's right. It's time to renew some license plate tags. Of course, it's always a little more complicated for me, because I have a tendency to let things slide when it comes to government regulations. It's not that I'm a procrastinator, it's just that I so utterly despise these ridiculous taxes that must be paid in order to enjoy my freedoms.

What I'm talking about is the freedom to drive my vehicle down streets that my taxes pay for. Pretty much one hundred percent of my earned income gets spent locally which means that my local government is collecting roughly $2,100 per year from me just on the amount of sales tax that is charged to me on the purchases that I make. Wouldn't you think that this is enough money to be sucked out of me? Well, the State doesn't think so. Not only do they want me to pay for the roads (and have no say in which ones get fixed) but they also want me to pay outrageous amounts for a license plate and a little sticker every year. I know that sticker doesn't cost $27.50 to make, so why am I being charged that? Why do I have to have plates anyway? Seriously, why? I mean, I know cops use them to identify a vehicle's owner, but other than that why do we have to pay the troll at the DMV a toll to drive on our own streets?

So, because of these requirements, I must do the following on friday:

Acquire a new insurance carrier (since mine has expired this last month)
Have my truck inspected at a shop (they can't take my word for it)
Pay my 2006 property taxes that I haven't paid yet (procrastination here)
And then stand in the DMV line that we're all so fond of to get outrageously priced license plate stickers

I'm gonna need a frappuccino for all this I am sure. Maybe two. Wish me luck.

I Vinyl-ly Got One!


Last week Jodi ran across an advertisement online from someone giving away an old console radio. I called about it, found out that it was still available, got directions, and picked it up. It turned out to be really nice as far as console radios go. It's cabinet is made of nice wood that we are suspecting is mahogany. Everything works on it including the record player. That is why I wanted it. I acquired these old records for an ex-neighbor years ago, and never got around to getting a record player for them. I know that sounds a little backwards, but I always thought that I'd have no trouble picking up a record player for cheap or free from all the people that don't want them anymore. Well, I found out that everyone who doesn't want them anymore got rid of them years ago. Now, it's a little difficult to get a hold of one without spending enough to be able to buy an mp3 player.

So, we got it home and plugged it up and broke out the records and spent an evening with Blondie, Men at Work, Pink Floyd. Eric Clapton, and the Eagles playing in the background. I even put on ABBA for a few seconds just for laughs. Hey. I just noticed something. You put a "in" a CD. You put "on" a record. Hmm.

Anyway, listening to digitally recorded music is great. The sound is clear and clean and perfect. On the other hand, when listening to Jim Croce melodically play his guitar while telling a story in song I find that it just seems right to have the background clicks and pops of a needle finding the imperfections of a pressed vinyl album. The sound matches the date in which the music was made, and that's what gives it the authenticity that leaves me feeling all nostalgic.

It was a great addition to the house and the best part about it was that it was free. The only thing better than a dumpster-dive find is a pre-dumpster-bound catch.

Entertainment Zone


We all have one. Some are in some form of a puzzle, some are full of bloody action, some are cartoon like, some are simulation oriented, and even some are like playing dress-up. No matter what kind it is, everyone has a favorite video game. I've heard people say that they hate video games, and then watched them get a big kick out of Galaga or something at another time. Video games have been around for about 30 years and have advanced from a bouncing ball on a 5 inch wide oscilliscope screen to a wide variety of games including ones that have such beautifully rendered graphics that one might actually have trouble picking out the video game screenshot amongst a group of real life photos. Today there are girls that have set aside their doll playing to create a "Sims" world in which they can accessorize their Sims' clothes as well as their houses. Boys don't know who G.I. Joe is, but they do know that the M1938 Mosin-Nagant Carbine has a smaller muzzle flash than the German MP-40.

There are people that think that video games are all bad and others that see nothing wrong with them. My personal opinion is that they are both wrong. I think that there are lots of pros about them, but of course there are also a lot of cons. I know when it comes to children, it's very important to limit the amount of time that they are allowed to play them as well as censor the games that they are playing. Most video games out on the market are designed for adults. It used to be for children, but now those children have grown up and they're the ones buying all the new merchandise. So, the games have been designed and published to meet their expectations. In turn, there are many games that I find inappropriate for myself much less my child. Also, video games can be a big time waster. They're fine to play once in a while, but when you're letting your life pile up with things that need to be done and you're sitting in front of a screen for hours something is wrong.

However, assuming that we are all smart enough to handle the challenge that video games bring into our lives, what are some of your favorites?

My all-time favorite has been Call of Duty. It's a World War 2 re-enactment that takes you through all the major battles throughout the war including landing on the beaches at Normandy, taking back Red Square from the Germans, amongst others. The best part of the game is the multi-player part. With an internet connection you can get into a multitude of different games with other online players. There is Capture the Flag, Team Deathmatch, Search and Destroy, etc. You can play on several huge maps and there are some people out there that have made up their own maps.

I really enjoy the game. However, I'm always behind the times when it comes to video games. I can't bring myself to pay more than 10 or 15 dollars for a video game and so I'm usually behind what most people are playing. For instance, Call of Duty 4 recently came out and I'm still playing the first one. One of these days, though, I'll be able to buy Call of Duty 4 on eBay or something for around 10 bucks. I can't wait either. It's called "Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare" Unlike it's beginnings it takes place in a modern day environment complete with plenty of urban warfare. Check out some of the screenshots below.

What is your favorite video game?

Favorites

I was thinking this morning about some of my favorite things and I thought that I'd share what they were with you. I definitely needed something to write about. I guess the heat has sucked the will to write right out of me, because it's almost been a month since I wrote anything at all.

Anyway, my favorite cereal just changed this morning. Until this morning I would've answered "Cracklin' Oat Bran" to the question of what my favorite cereal is. However, I bought a single serving package of Raisin Bran Crunch about an hour ago and it has changed me forever. It's sweet. It's crunchy. It's chewy. And, although, I added no milk to it I did receive the impression that it could go a week floating in milk before being suitable For the Soggy Bottom Boys.

My favorite music has teetered back and forth between two artists for quite some time. They are Ryan Adams and Elliott Smith. It does sort of bother me that my friend Shawn introduced me to both of them. I do so like finding great music on my own. One was an intentional introduction and the other an accidental one. He added a couple Ryan Adams songs to a compilation CD he sent me from Washington. After buying one of his CDs I was hooked. The accidental introduction took place when he left his Elliott Smith CD along with a pair of shoes and a shirt over at my house when he was in town for a week about 5 years ago. I listened to the CD for about a week before I mailed it all back to him. After another week I went searching for the CD and before long it had taken its place among the ranks of my "Must-Have-Albums."

Ryan Adams takes first place between the two out of default. Elliott Smith died and unlike Tupac Shakur no more music is being released by him posthumously. Ryan Adams, on the other hand, just came out with a new album. I like it, but it hasn't grown on me completely yet. I shouldn't say that he wins by default. I think he would've won anyway. Much of Ryan Adams' music just gives me a great feeling. You know the feeling when everything in your life is right, your feeling healthy, your bills are paid, you're driving to somewhere fun on a cool summer morning with the windows down. You're not hot; you're not cold. You're with the people that you enjoy being around the most. They're feeling great. Everyone's laughing and making jokes. His music reminds me and gives me the reminiscing feeling of times just like this.

Now, I can't wait until the next day that Jodi, the kids, and I get to eat breakfast (Raisin Bran Crunch), make coffee, drive to a flea market while listening to Ryan Adams on a cool summer morning with the windows down, and of course, leave the flea market only to go eat Chinese for lunch. That sounds fun.

Open for Business

Most of you know already that I've been doing photography this summer for various events and people, but what you might not know is that I have officially launched a website that will help me with answering all the questions that people have about what I do. It took me a while to put it all together and I'm still tweaking aspects of it as well as adding sections as I find out they're needed. However, for the most part Studio Living Room's website is up and out there. Click on this button to go check it out! Studio Living Room

Tip of the Iceberg


Yesterday, Jodi and I ate at Mexican Villa and we had a waitress that did a great job. She filled our chip basket without asking, took our order quickly and flawlessly, and made herself very available if we needed anything. We ate, paid, tipped well, and left. However, the tipping part stayed on my mind for a while. This is why. I left three dollars on the table as that was all the cash that I had on me. When I used my debit card to pay for the meal (at the checkout counter) I added another $2.54 tip to the slip I signed to bring the total amount of the debited amount to an even $30. I hadn't done the math in my head to find out the percentage of tip I left, so I turned to Jodi and kind of quickly told her what I left to see if she approved. She did and so I was okay with that. I did, however, see a look cross the guy's face who was running the register. I hadn't noticed that the guy was sort of scowling at the $2.54 tip I left on a $27.46 meal until his countenance changed ever so slightly upon my incedental unveiling of the fact that I also left $3 on the table bringing the total tip amount to $5.54. This amount was apparently acceptable to him and so he therefore replaced his almost imperceptible scowl with an equally difficult to notice "oh, I guess I had this guy pegged all wrong" look. I did the math later to find out that my tip worked out to just over 20% which according to society is a good tip, so I should feel good about it, right? How come I don't feel good about it?

I have a problem with the way that someone can open up a restaurant, charge a small fortune for food and drink, and then hire a bunch of people for $2.15 an hour. As if the restuarant can't afford to pay their employees, so the customer should have to. They're not the customer's employees are they? And yet the everage customer pays them more out of their pocket per hour than the employer does.

Tipping's understood rules are pretty difficult to understand when examined. The average tip that I received for pizza delivery was about $1.50. Most of these orders exceeded $20. But, in the pizza delivery business, $2 is a perfectly acceptable tip. Not great, but good. Why then should the waiter back at the pizza restaurant get tipped $4. What did he do? He showed them a table they could've found on their own, took their order, refilled their drinks, and asked them a couple times if he could get them anything else. The pizza delivery driver drives his own car all the way to the customer's house no matter what the weather is doing (note: people tend to order delivery more in bad weather since it's not as safe to drive for them; nevermind the delivery kid behind the wheel with their food in their passenger seat). The driver risks life and limb, risks wear and tear to his vehicle, and risks getting traffic tickets. All of these things ON TOP OF the fact that he got the order put together, made the drinks if there were any, and collected packs of condiments with the order. Doesn't make much sense does it?

Before writing this blog I looked at a suggested gratuity list online. This list and some others like it that I found suggested that even upon bad service one should still tip their waiter/waitress at least 10% and inform the manager of the bad service. The word gratuity means "gift of appreciation" so why would I want to give one to waiter/waitress that I didn't appreciate? I saw a list of hotel employees and what is expected of people to tip them. Let me tell you, if you go to a nice hotel, you'll be completely surrounded by people looking for a handout. It's like being harrassed by bums and panhandlers. And then they turn around and call their hotels upscale. It's no wonder why richer people feel separated from the rest of society and look down on lesser fortunate folks. They're tired of the bums prodding them for a buck at all the restaurants and hotels they go to.

I think that this whole tipping thing needs re-evaluation. I know I'm not the only one that has an opinion on this subject. What's yours?

Politics?! Oh, no! RUN!


I try not to get too political in my blogs. The result is that you are more likely to read a blog about how I came to search for and find the recipe to Starbucks' Mocha Frappuccino rather than read one about how I think this or that about this or that. However, when someone brings out the trump card in a conversation and mentions some political view I am the first to jump in and nurture the oncoming debate. It's not the debate that I enjoy, despite the smile on my face that might suggest otherwise. It's the opportunity to educate that excites me.

There is a quote that I recently read that is very true and should be seriously thought about before dismissing it. I haven't the slightest idea who said it, but don't let that take away from it's importance. The quote is as follows. “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, they want something which never has or never will be.”

The ignorance that this person speaks of is not lack of general education or low I.Q. levels. The word "ignorant" obviously stems from the same word that "ignore" does. And the majority of people that I talk to about politics don't want to talk about them. They use all types of excuses to try to avoid the conversation. They see the President on television giving a speech and they quickly change the channel. They're more likely caught reading the comics in the newspaper than a story about a bill that's going to be voted on by congress and the effects that is will have on their life.

This is willful ignorance. Plain and simple. I'm sure that you all remember from school that our govenment was setup with different branches to create a system of checks and balances. These checks and balances help to keep our government from doing whatever they want and getting away with it. However, this quote says it quite plainly that if the American people choose to be ignorant that they will lose their freedom. It's time to stop choosing to avoid politics and start educating ourselves so that we can make informed decisions.

One more thing. Both Republicans and Democrats are running with about a 12% approval rating. This next presidential election will be completely different from what we have previously experienced. There are lots of presidential candidates. Not two! Educate yourselves and vote wisely. You are our goverment's check and balance.

Must Have Albums


Music has always been a staple in my life, much like bread or milk. Music has the ability to sink into the deepest parts of our emotions. Music is used to relax people, to inspire people, for comfort, for pleasure, etc. It's even sometimes used to annoy. I have yet to find a person that does not like some kind of music. No matter who you are, you enjoy some form of music. Even those emotionally disturbed kids who "hate the world" and completely isolate themselves listen to music.

I was mentally running through my rolodex of music this weekend while driving home from West Plains and I started to think about the albums that I enjoy listening to the most. Out of the many albums of music that I own there are only a handful that have stood the test of time with me. These albums are my must-have's. I never get tired of them. I know all the words, and I always sing along. There are hundreds of songs that I love and don't get old, but there just aren't that many full length albums that I can honestly say I don't get tired of.

What I find interesting is that I don't necessarily like other works from the same artist (or band). I also wondered what this list of "must-have" albums must say about the person who places them into this category. See, someone can like a single song from an artist like "Another One Bites The Dust" by Queen. No one thinks very much of that, after all it's a classic that most people like. However, beware of those men that have the entire Queen collection. Along the same lines, you would be hard pressed to find a 25 to 35 year old NOT singing along to Poison's "Every Rose Has It's Thorn", but run the other direction if you find yourself at a Halloween party where there are four guys who thought it would be funny to cross-dress just like them.

Anyway, here is my sort list of must-have albums in no particular order:

Toad the Wet Sprocket - Dulcinea
Coldplay - Rush of Blood to the Head
Barenaked Ladies - Stunt
Blind Melon - self titled
clutch - self titled
Weezer - self titled
Jars of Clay - self titled
Ryan Adams - Love is Hell
Dave Matthews Band - Crash
Elliott Smith - XO
Presidents of the United States of America - self titled
Trail of Altars - Cry of a Generation
Mad Season - Above
Radiohead - Ok Computer
Temple of the Dog - self titled

The funny part about Jars of Clay's first album making the list is that they are one of only two bands listed here that I actually got to see perform live. And they were horrible! The album is great, but they sucked it up. Since, I have heard from people that they were good live, but they were rank at the first Dare to Care concert at the Shrine. The other band I saw was Clutch and they put on a good show at the Juke Joint. I haven't really liked anything else they've ever put out there, though. Their first album had an awesome flow from one song to the next and had a central theme. Everything now is just hard and raunchy and thrown together (in my opinion).

If I had to self-psycho-analyze myself based on this list alone I would say that I am not so complex. I have different moods to my personality, but fewer than most. I'm easy going (Blind Melon, Dave Matthews Band). I have a good sense of humor (Barenaked Ladies, Clutch, Weezer, Presidents...). I'm morbidly depressed (Elliott Smith). There goes my sense of humor. Over all, I'm very laid back and I get along with others who are, too.

There is a lot more music that I like, but not really any that is contained in a single album that is equally enjoyable from beginning to end.

What's your list and what does it say about you?

Dream Car

I was browsing the internet last night looking around at old cars and I asked myself "If I could have any car what one would I pick?". Well, the general response to this question is the most expensive car that one can think of. Then, they say, "I would sell it and get...". I gave the question a twist and added the following clause: You can't ever sell it, trade it, or otherwise dispose of it. This new clause made me put a lot of thought into my final answer.

For many years my favorite automobile of all time has been the 1936 Packard V12 Boattail Speedster. It has class that modern automobiles will never know. Today, if you purchase a top-of-the-line car, you get a bunch of plastic and a steel body that is so thin that it dents if you spit on it. The old Packards had the most plush materials found on the market at the time. It had trim made of the finest hardwoods that were sanded and stained to perfection. It had a frame that was sturdier than most modern work trucks and body panels that were practically bullet proof.

Some people don't like this car at first glance, but imagine yourself driving one and your opinion may start to change. Despite my love for this classic, my answer to my own question was not yet answered. As much as I would love to have one, the fact that it is only a two-seater brought me to the conclusion that this wouldn't be for me.

I'm a family man and I like my family, so therefore I would be in need of more space. After careful consideration and a very detailed thought process I came to find my answer: a 1959 Ford Thunderbird. Some call it the "Square-bird" because it was during Ford's brief square cab design on the Thunderbird. I love it, though.
It's a muscle car with tons of accentuated lines of flair. I could easily see myself driving around town with the whole family enjoying it's awesome interior. And if any young punk in his "Fast and Furious" style piece of crap decided to scoff, I would hammer down the accelerator and let the 460 under the hood blow his doors off, just temporarily risking the lives of the Felton clan for the sake of proving the worth of a carbureated vehicle.

So, I ask you. What would your vehicle be if you could have anything ever made? But, keep in mind that whatever you choose you would be stuck with for life.

Head Injury


Most of my friends have at one time or another heard this story (or compilation of stories) so I apologize if this is old news to you. Wait a minute. I don't apologize. I take that back. If you don't want to read this you can simply stop reading it. No apologies necessary.

I have been hospitalized four times for head injuries. The first was at a mere few weeks old when I rolled over for the first time. You parents out there are thinking, "rolled over at a few weeks old? no way!" Well, I did and my mom wasn't expecting it either. She was changing my diaper. That's funny. I used to wear diapers. Ha ha. (head injuries: bare with me) Anyway, she turned around to grab a clean diaper and turned back around to see me rolling right off the counter and falling to the not-yet-tiled-cement-floor. Not that tile would've been any softer. Anyway, after freaking out and taking me to the hospital to be checked out all I needed was a butterfly patch to stop the bleeding.

The second head injury took place at the age of four or was it five? (head injuries: bare with me) Anyway, I was unfortunate enough to be under the fireplace mantle at my grandparents house when a clock fell off and landed on my head. It was like the one pictured here but was in the shape of a maple leaf. It's not very light and it took many stitches to close the hole it left me with.

The third happened the summer I turned fifteen. Dustin and I were riding our bikes in the middle of the night down a hill in Ozark. I tried to make a turn that I missed and wound up rocketing off the curb at about 30 miles an hour. My bike and I crossed one of those ten-foot-deep, cement-lined drainage ditches in mid-air. I smacked the other side of it head first and fell down into it. I would've probably died that night, but Dustin was smarter than I was and wouldn't let me get up after I regained consciousness. (Note to Dustin: don't get too full of yourself. It's not difficult to be smarter than a guy who was dropped on his head as a baby) A three-day stint in ICU and one half an ear sewn back on later I got to go home again. Blood clots suck.

The fourth, and the last one hopefully, was when I was eighteen and I spun out in the snow while delivering a pizza (ironically on the same highway about a mile from my third head injury site) and spun 270 degrees around to get broadsided by a Bronco going the other direction. My head went through the driver's side window and I wound up with a chunk of "safety-glass" that broke through my skull still inside my head. They found it with an x-ray and pulled it out with a pair of large surgical tweezers. A couple more stitches later I was as good as new.

The reason I write this blog is because last night my son, Jacob, got his first hospitalization due to a head injury. He's in Arkansas with his mother for the summer and apparently a horse kicked him in the head. It was "one of the new ponies" and I'm told that it just grazed him more that hitting him square. She rushed him to the hospital despite appearing to be okay after the inital shock. The hospital gave him a CAT scan which ruled out any injury. So, he was left with just a scratch down his face where the hoof caught him. I'm still more shaken up by the phone call than he is from the horse. Hopefully I haven't started a new Felton traditon.

My reply to St. Petersburg Times article

I wrote the author of this article an e-mail and the following is the e-mail that I sent him:

You may not even remember this article since it dates back to 2003. However, I thought that since you generously spread your opinion and apparently continue to do so as the article can still be found hanging out on your employer's servers, that I would reply to you with my own opinion.

First, I enjoyed your opinionated writing style. I always enjoy reading a piece that playfully takes pot-shots at the intended target. However, I happen to be one of those intended targets. Naturally, this article isn’t wrong as it is entirely opinion. On the other hand, it clearly demonstrates the backwards thoughtless thinking of Americans today. The problem is that so many Americans today are conditioned to believe that they owe federal income taxes. And as you said, you just sign the dotted line. By signing that dotted line you agree that “under penalty of perjury” you owe taxes even though I’m willing to bet that you have never read through Article 26 of the congressional statues. If you were capable of letting go of all your pre-conceived “knowledge” and just read through Article 26 along with the corresponding regulations and, of course, the Constitution that gives Congress the power to even write the statutes in the first place, then I’m sure that you could find out the truth.

However, like the majority of Americans, you will most likely dismiss what I am saying to you since it does not agree with what you have always believed. In all probability, your pride will cause you to either refuse to research it yourself or will jump on the first finding that agrees with what you have always thought to be the truth. In doing this, you will feel good knowing that I haven’t a clue what I speak of and that your superior knowledge of the subject has won you another victory in which you can bask in all your wondrous glory.

Unfortunately, for you and all Americans, this scenario will reluctantly leave you to continue believing “common knowledge” over actual research. I could fully write out the explanation as to how it is interpreted that most Americans don’t owe any federal income tax, but it is not an easy road. Congress has made sure of the difficulty of finding the truth over the years. So, rather than lose you with the long drawn out evidence, I will instead leave you with a simple question and a link to a video that will lay out all the evidence in front of you so that you can come up with your own informed and educated opinion as opposed to your previous uninformed, uneducated one.

The link is http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=7521758492370018023&q=theft+by+deception . The question is “If it is not unconstitutional (allowed by the Constitution) for Congress to pass laws requiring that American citizens pay federal income taxes on the income that they earn exclusively from within the United States, then why isn’t there a law stating this clearly and precise?” Because, the fact of the matter is that in Article 26 it states that one’s “taxable income” is simply their “gross income” minus “allowable deductions”. Well that was simple, right? However, let’s not assume that we know what they mean when they use these phrases. Legal wording is not always defined the same by the legal document as it may be defined by common knowledge. “Gross income”, it turns out is defined as “income from whatever sources derived within the United States ”. Once again it sounds simple. Surely, that means wherever your money comes from inside the U.S. , right? One would think, but let’s see what they say about ”sources from within the Untied States.” This is defined by the section that you are referred to (Section 861) as non-resident aliens who have income inside the U.S., U.S. citizens that have income from outside the U.S., and those who have income from investments in U.S. territories (such as Guam, Puerto Rico, etc.). This is the extent of the list of types of income that would be considered to be “gross income” as defined by the official tax code. They don’t want you to know that since the U.S. Constitution only empowered Congress SPECIFIC abilities and that taxing domestic income wasn’t listed as one of them, they have no right to pass a law requiring such a tax. Therefore, the only way that they could tax domestic transactions was to word the tax for foreign affairs in such a way that it appeared to be for ALL income domestic and foreign. The IRS has never officially answered the thousands of letters asking this exact question. And they never will as long as people keep mindlessly handing over huge portions of their earnings.

As far as your article is concerned, it saddens me that someone, such as yourself, would openly admit to not knowing anything about taxes or how to prepare a return properly and turn around and insult those who refuse to accept a belief simply because uninformed people, such as yourself, will cowardly believe it never asking for a shred of evidence of why they must pay it. Patriots fought to build this country, men who wouldn’t accept the tyrannical oppression of the elite. Today, that same oppressive force comes from new faces that threaten to take away our possessions, our families, and even our freedom if we don’t submit to their unjust reign. Patriots will not accept this. Men who just sign the dotted line know nothing of heroism.

St. Petersburg Times article



Theft by Deception


Last night I watched a video on google Video that was an hour and a half long. Wait, let me back up. I was told about a year or so ago that the money that I earn isn't taxable by our federal government. I had heard rumors about his sort of thing. Maybe you have, too? I heard statements like "It's unconstitutional to charge taxes on every American citizen" and "Did you know that we were never to be taxed on the money we make?". Well, because of these statements I started beleiving that indeed my earnings shouldn't be taxed by the federal government. I just never knew why.

The majority of Americans also don't know why. They don't know why they pay taxes. They think they do, but they don't really know. To the question "why do you pay taxes?" most Americans will say something like "I have to", "so that our government will have money for programs like public education", "so that the IRS won't arrest me", and so forth. But, despite everything they may know about taxes and how they are calcualted, they have no knowledge whatsoever of the laws that make them think they have to pay taxes.

I'm going to do something awesome for my blog readers. I'm going to give you a 90 minute educational video in a nutshell. However, I strongly suggest watching this video if you have the time. It explains in much greater detail what I am going to attempt to make clear in a much shorter description.

To begin, you must first understand the process in which the tax law is derived. The Constitution authorizes Congress to pass laws regarding certain specific issues. Congress then enacts laws relating to these matters which are then encoded into the Statutes of the United States code. The code is divided into 50 titles. Title 26 is the federal tax title. Laws passed by Congress may add new sections, delete old sections, or change the wording of existing sections of the code however the basic scope of the income tax laws have mostly remained the same. It's important to know that the Statutes are not the end of the law. Congress is merely the Legislative branch. They only make the law according to the power given to them by the Constitution. It's up to the Executive branch to enforce the law. So, the Executive branch has written the Regulations as the official notice to the public for what is required of them. The Regulations were written to mirror the applicable Statute. Much of the wording is exactly the same, however the Regulations tend to expand into greater detail the specifics that the Statutes only generalize. All federal power of the law must go through these motions: The Constitution grants power to Congress to write a Statute in which a Regulation is written by the Executive branch to enforce this statute. Looking at this backwards, there can be no regulation requiring the public to do something without a statute that requires it. And, there can be no statute requiring something that the Constitution does not specifically authorize Congress to write.

Have I lost you yet? I hope not. I'll get to the point and just save any further confusion. On the surface it would appear that the Statutes and applicable Regulations do authorize all income derived from within the United States to be taxable income. However, the problem with the language of the law (or legaleze) is that it uses words and phrases that most people assume they know the definitions to. But, if you look further into these Statutes and Regulations you will find that they have definitions for them. In these definitions one can find that the only revenue that should be being taxed is income dealing with foreign matters. For example, a non-resident alien making money from inside the U.S. or a U.S. company or individual making money by selling products outside the U.S. These were and still are the intentions of these Statutes and Regulations. Why then do we pay taxes? The answer: mass ignorance of the law. We aren't the only ones, though. IRS employees most likely haven't read the law. Or if they have, they haven't completely understood it for the same reason we don't understand it. It has been changed over the years in minor ways that make it more difficult to find the true intent of the law. Some may ask if Congress has changed the law so that it IS the law to pay federal income tax now despite it's original intent. This is not so. Congress can never pass a law making a statute directly requiring people to pay income taxes on income made domestically because the Constitution does not specifically grant them the power to do so. Congress has, however, over the years omitted certain statements in the Statutes that made the original intent more obvious. Now it is much more difficult to find the true meaning of the law, but is very easily found if you first study the history of that law. It can still be found today, however since most Americans assume we owe taxes they tend to disregard statements that contradict this. They think that they must have read it incorrectly when in reality they have stumbled upon the truth. Congress wants the people to believe that they owe taxes, and have made it quite a maze to find out the truth. It's extremely important to realize that this is not some loophole I speak of. This isn't trickery with the legal language. This is clear truth that our government has worked dilligently to hide. They have succeeded in creating a society where the people want to hand over their possessions. The IRS uses threats of imprisonment and the people never second guess the law. They just agree to pay taxes they don't owe. When we sign the bottom of our tax return forms we don't read what it says there. However, what you are agreeing to by signing it is that "under penalty of perjury" you state that you owe income taxes. They never say you owe them. You tell them by signing that you owe them. We're doing it to ourselves. We do it over and over again every year, because we've been conditioned to think that we owe them when in truth we do not owe them anything unless we had income coming in from investments in foreighn countries.

I cannot explain in such a short time exactly how it has come to be that the majority of Americans thoughtlessly hand over a huge portion of their income. So, I stress to you to watch this video and find out for yourself the how and why of it all. I will continue to do my own research for I want to be prepared with the knowledge of my right not to pay federal income taxes unjustly. The video can be found by going to www.video.google.com and searching "Theft by Deception".

I Made it!


Well, back in the day of my late teens and early twenties I took part in many a conversation that was about "Club 27". In case you haven't heard anything about this morbid subject then let me put it in a nutshell for you. Over the years there have been many famous musicians and even more not-so famous musicians die at the age of 27. The list that I've heard and possibly helped to spread includes many who died at various other ages, but the official list of the most widely known is as follows:

Brian Jones (Rolling Stones) - drowned in his own swimming pool
Jimi Hendrix (The Jimi Hendrix Experience) - drowned in his own vomit (after having overdosed on sleeping pills)
Janis Joplin (The Kosmic Blues band) - heroin overdose (said to have misjudged it's purity)
Jim Morrison (The Doors) - heart failure (of course, there is a certain mystery as to how his heart failed, most likely drugs or alcohol or both)
Kurt Cobain - (Nirvana) - suicide

I was reading through some of the not-so-famous Club 27 members and surprisingly saw Kristen Pfaff's name on the list. This drew a dramatic raised eyebrow from me (dramatic because of my disproportionately huge eyebrows) because this was the bass guitarist for the band called Hole in which the scary-looking Courtney Love is the frontman for. Or is it frontwoman? I don't know. Anyway, Wikipedia said she died of a heroin overdose. Oddly enough, heroin was also Kurt Cobain's drug of choice. Do you suppose Courtney Love is peddling heroin to everyone that she knows which happenned to result in the untimely deaths of both her bass guitarist and her husband? You don't? Yeah, neither do I. I was just playing. Or was I?

Anyway... I turned 28 today. So, I can officially say, "Olly-Olly-Ox-And-Free." I wonder if that's what Shannon Hoon, lead singer of Blind Melon, said on his 28th birthday which also became his last. Hmm...

Retrospecting


I struggle to remember what life was like at the ripe old age of 18. Next week I will turn 28 and although it seems like ten years have flown by I also realize that 18 was such a different era that was eons ago. I have so few memories from back then. For example, I moved out of my mom's house at 17 and had an apartment with this loser whose name I will purposefully omit. It seems like I have a handful of memories in that place, but I spent the better part of a year living there. Shouldn't I have lots and lots of memories? In the picture above, I'm sitting outside my fourth apartment. You know what's going through my mind? Nothing. I was cruising. My whole life was spent in neutral just rolling around. I had no direction and didn't want any.

If I really think hard, I can remember what my days were like then. I woke up around 11:00 or so. I got around and ready to leave by noon or 1:00 and headed to China House where I picked up an order of chicken fried rice. This was my breakfast/lunch meal. Then, I would piddle around with whoever else was around to hang out with and then I went to work about 4:00 and worked until 10:00 or 11:00. I was absolutely rich because I made about $40 to $50 cash on a normal day in tips and I made about $1000 a month in salary on my paychecks. I only had about $500 in bills every month so after bills were paid I had anywhere from $1200 to $1600 a month to blow. And boy did I know how to blow it. After all, these were the days when filling up at the gas station only cost $10. Chew on that for a while.


Ten years have gone by and I like who I turned out to be. I had no idea I would wind up who I am now and I had no way to fathom being 28, but I'm very satisfied with how it all turned out. I just hope that the next ten years are slower than the last. I was always looking forward to something before. Now I'm content where I am, so maybe I won't wish my life away this next ten.

Big Bad Ford

Yet again the story of the Big Bad Ford being temporarily out of service must come to a close. On the upside, to those who like hearing tales of it's breaking down, the end of this saga is less like a "the end" and more like a "to be continued." After all, the hero in this series is a 1959 and is bound to come across all types of villians. For example, it has faced and defeated the evil Parts Discontinuer who has been steadily removing parts from the distributors re-order lists. It has also doubtedly seen the last of The Piece-of-crap Replacement Part-eers who continue to wield their crappy new stuff that doesn't hold up to the standards that the older, better, wiser part makers used. And, of course, let's not forget our hero's nemesis...Father Time. It would seem that there will be no end to The 59's strength and endurance, but Father Time is one patient old fart. I just want to smack that smirk off his smug face! But, our hero will win, I am confident. Good always wins over evil.

So, as always, with a little elbow grease and a few new gaskets, the Big Bad Ford is back on the road again terrorizing the average driver and intimidating all the others. Last weekend we managed to fill the bed with treasure. I felt like a Pirate boat Captain as we sailed the stormy seas of Springfield's streets. We would pull up next to a dumpster and practically toss our grappeling hooks over as we pillaged and plundered. There was much loot and bounty. Arr! We take and take and give nuthin' back! Ha ha!

In all seriousness, we really did have a good time getting a lot of free stuff during the yearly dumpster-diver fest. The Ford handled beautifully despite having only been back in running condition for less than an hour. So, all things are back to normal and the Valiant can go back to feeling neglected.

The Sweet Smell of Garbage

Well, it's that time again. Spring is here. The flowers are blooming. The air is warming up. And the dumpsters are filling up. That's right. MSU has been a gold mine for me year after year as these young college brats toss out everything their parents bought for their dorm rooms 9 months prior. See, today's average college student owns a lot of clothes and a large percentage of these students drive small cars. So, it's everything they can do just to make sure and leave for the summer with all their clothes. Everything else gets left in the dorm to be thrown out by those whose job it is to clean them or gets tossed by the students themselves. Either way, the dumpsters are filled up with some great household items that you didn't know you needed until they became available for free. I've yet to come across anything that's worth a lot of money, but that's not the point. I have many cherished posessions that came to be in my possession by finding them needlessly discarded amongst real garbage.

I was a little upset this morning when I found out that all three items that I intended to buy at Autozone today were not in stock. I called the store and the guy assured me that if I ordered them on my lunch break they could be delivered the day after tomorrow. I hope this is true, because the Big Bad Ford is down with it's head removed. Yes, you may have read the blog about three blogs ago, I think, that explained the problem with it. Well, I just got paid today so I need to pick up a head gasket, intake/exhaust manifold combination gasket, and valve cover gasket so that I can put the thing back together. Friday night is the graduation commencement ceremony and while some will leave directly afterwards others will drag their butts out of bed tomorrow and hustle out of town pretty quickly. So, Saturday marks the first and best day to load up. If the truck is not ready by Saturday, then we will be stuck driving a car. Cars aren't that great for dumpster diving. The Ford can park right next to a dumpster and all the good finds can be tossed over the edge without looking. It's pretty hard to miss a true 8 foot long bed.


So, here's a picture of the dismantled 223. If you blow this picture up by clicking on it then look at cylinder #6, which is on the far left, you can see a couple of pieces of what was left of the nut that fell down into the cylinder. The nut broke into at least three pieces and dinged the crap out of the piston head. It was great, though, to see that the piston was only cosmetically injured. There aren't any cracks and all the damage was easily ground down to be made flat again. The three pieces of the nut were embedded into the head of the piston. Two pieces popped right out when I levered them with the screwdriver, but one I had to cut a grove into to give the screwdriver a ledge to grip before it let go. Anyway, just another story for the old boy and another test of it's awesomeness!

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