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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!

"Something Different" - God

This blog is more for the books than it is for notifying anyone of my current situation, but I also realize that there will be some who read this news and it will be the first they've heard of it. So, bearing that in mind, I'll write this as if addressing those people even though my main purpose for this entry is to have a written record of what was going on during this time and the process that has led me to my recent decisions.

After today, Friday, December 19th, I will go on "Layoff" status at SRC. A couple weeks ago, SRC Corporate concluded that with the current economic downturns and the resulting effects that it has had on our sales numbers that we as a Corporation are over-staffed by roughly 100 people. SRC is an amazing company, though. After seeing big layoffs and plant closings making the headlines of our local newspapers at an alarming increase in frequency, it's just plain amazing to watch a company that could easily choose to take a similar route but instead stick with the high road rarely taken.

SRC blazed the trail of this high road and has since paved it with hard work, dedication, and humility in the corporate world. Being built 25 years ago by a group of people who just lost their jobs, they've sworn to make comprehensive plans that allow the company to avoid unexpected layoffs at virtually all costs. And, it's very costly for a corporation to hold job security in such high regard. But, the end result of such efforts have built a company full of men and women with a true owner-mentality.

I'm extremely proud of SRC. They have stood up and done exactly what they've always said they would do if times got tough. And times are tough. So, SRC, in avoiding a pick and choose layoff, has offered a Volunteer Layoff Incentive Program. For those who volunteer for a layoff under certain terms will receive an incentive package that should keep most of the people who take it financially secure for months on end. During a three month period, the company can call these people back to work and it will be as if they were just on vacation. If not called back, then they are officially terminated at the end of the period. They are free to find another job at any time during this period and don't have to inform SRC of any job they may take.

Ultimately, it's a way to financially stabilize the company while financially stabilizing the volunteers for a long enough period of time that they should be able to find another job. Even if it takes longer than three months for SRC to bounce back, when they do, they will start calling the volunteers to offer job openings before ever looking at a new applicants information.

I volunteered for the layoff, and after some deliberation on whether or not to allow me to do it, the ball was basically thrown back into my court and they let me make the final decision. I still decided to take it. They respected my decision.

Upon initially hearing the news that they were offering such a package, I must admit that I was somewhat intrigued by the offer but gave it no real consideration. When telling my wife about it, she seemed to think that I should consider it for she immediately saw most of the benefits if I were to be accepted for it. We briefly discussed these benefits and how they could stand to be in line with our long term goals. She then left me to consider the issue telling me that it was a decision that only I should make. So, I prayed about it. I was racked with the feeling of fear that comes with the thoughts of leaving or losing a job. But, immediately as I began to pray about it, I was hit with reassurances of my own wide array of abilities. I prayed more at several different times and was always immediately hit with comforting words, reminders, as well as new thoughts of new benefits that I had not even yet realized. The answer was clear and I knew that I must apply for the program. SRC had written a clause in the program, though, to protect itself which allowed them to choose who would and would not be approved for the program. They needed this clause so that they would not be forced to allow someone to leave whose vacancy would have a significant negative impact on the company. I figured that whatever SRC chose, for whatever reason, God was wanting me to throw my name in the hat. Later, when I asked what I would be doing in the months to come, I heard "something different". But, it had a positive spin, an excited tone, if you will.

Now, to explain what I will be doing in the meantime, for the next several months, I intend to transform my home making it appear to be a spread in Better Homes and Gardens. That will be my job. Without the interference of a full-time job, I can get major renovations done around the house and have it ready for re-appraisal and then re-financing. With the equity that we've built, we intend to purchase another home here in town and renovate it. With the housing market so low, it's the people that have money who stand to make money. Investors can buy homes now and see a significant rise in market value by doing nothing but sitting on it until the market comes back. We intend, though, to do a renovation and turn the house for a profit. Yes, that's right, flip it.

I have many friends who flip houses or who have in the past and I have learned a lot from their advice, shared secrets, and shared mistakes. Also, I have spent much time reading about the profitability of house-flipping and the factors that can help and hurt the possible financial gain. And, SRC invested hundreds of hours in me over the years sending me to classes turning me into a business person who lets the numbers speak for themselves.

Some of the simpler secrets to making money by flipping houses that most people don't want to do are as follows. First, buy with as much cash as possible and with as little credit as possible. Credit puts you on a time line as well as raises your personal financial risk. Credit will make your profitability decrease with every month you pay interest pressuring you to sell sooner possibly at a lower cost. When you buy using credit, you must make payments that you didn't have before which takes up more of your personal budget. If something should suddenly come up that puts you in a bind financially, you stand to lose much more if you find that you cannot make payments. Second, keep a regular job to fund your personal budget. This is a big one. Your bills should be paid for by a regular job not from your profits from your house flipping business. Some people will make money doing this, but it can be hard, very risky and this tends to be the largest reason why people are unsuccessful in going into house flipping. For this also puts you on a time line. If you are living off savings while waiting for a house to sell or get finished in order to sell, you are motivated to take significantly less for it to sell it quicker as your own savings begin to dwindle.

These two secrets are the biggest ones because not following them contributes to negative motivation. If you can buy a home with cash and fix it up with cash, then it doesn't matter how long you sit on it. The only thing you pay in the meantime is taxes and insurance. You aren't motivated to sell too quickly and you can wait for market changes, a motivated buyer, or even decide to rent the property out if the market proves to need significant time to improve. If you might recall, that's how Donald Trump made his fortune. He bought up parts of lower Manhattan during the economic recession in the early eighties, properties that made millions upon millions when the market turned around only a couple of years later.

The third secret is not so secret, but I'll include it anyway. Do most of the work yourself. Contractors will work in a profit to do a job. So for every job that you hire out, you in essence share your profit with them. Contract every job out and you'll quickly find that you might just break even or possibly even lose money. One thing I haven't mentioned yet is that both of the first two secrets will motivate the owner to contract out services to get the job completed faster. But, as I just said, contractors take a cut of your profit. This is another reason that they lead to negative motivation.

To recap, buy a house preferably with cash and preferably while the housing market is down, fix it up preferably with cash, keep a job doing something else to pay for your personal bills, and do as much of the work as you can by yourself. No, this isn't easy to do. But making big profits in a short amount of time isn't easy to do and that's why so few people will do it. You may also ask, "But I don't have cash to buy a house, who does?!" Some people do. I don't, but I have been investing in my own property so much and for so long that I have built enough equity up to use a portion of it to do just this.

So, to explain why I, personally, stand to benefit from this volunteer layoff, I can use this time of financial stability and joblessness to get my house to a point in which I can effectively obtain a high appraisal and a refinanced home loan in which I can take a portion of the equity out. With the interest rates down and the housing market down, I can both get a better home loan at a lower interest rate and take the equity out only slightly raising my monthly payment. I can then go back to work for SRC if they call or I can get another job somewhere else while working on our project house that we own free and clear. I'm not going to count on SRC calling me up to bring me back on at a convenient time for me. I realize that this scenario is not likely to come about.

Sure, there is a measured risk involved, but I am confident that I'm being led down this road. After many answered prayers, I cannot deny that we are being looked after during this economic down-turn. God has blessed us immensely and we've been responsible with what He has entrusted unto us. And, I have faith that He will continue to bless us and provide a path for our every step.

P.S. Just before I was about to post this blog, Jodi called me to tell me about the house across the street. About 4 months ago the house was purchased by a woman who house flips. Her and her boyfriend spent the last few months sprucing it up inside and out. Some of the work was structural like moving a couple doorways, but most of it was simple cosmetic improvements. The woman bought the house at auction and no doubt got it pretty cheap. They said that they were going to list it at $89,900 and it went on the market about two weeks ago. It apparently sold already because people are moving in right now. Pretty encouraging, I'd say.

Strike 3, but NOT out

Everyone knows that times are tough. The economy seems to be rocketing towards disaster at a pace never seen before. And it is for people my age. I don't know first-hand how bad it was back in 1982 when the economy was attempting to recover from another steep recession like this, but I was there. At three years old, I didn't even notice the crisis, but throughout my employment at SRC I've been reminded of it over and over.

SRC was founded in 1983 and we celebrated our 25 years in business in a big way earlier this year with lots of food, Three Dog Night, and The Doobie Brothers at the Shrine Mosque. SRC only became a company because International was desperately closing down plants to stay alive. The International corporation survived, but not before abruptly closing it's Springfield plant. I'll skip the history lesson since most of you have heard me tell it before and because that's not what I intended to write about anyway.

The last three days of headlines for manufacturing in Southwest Missouri have been a serious blow to worker's confidence. It started with Aaron's Automotive announcing their intentions last Tuesday to close their Springfield plant starting in February and finally closing the doors for the last time in June effectively putting 184 people out of work. Then, Wednesday came and went and informed us that Fasco will be closing their plant in Eldon, Missouri utilizing the same time frame as Aaron's which will add another 390 names to the list of people looking for a job. Then, strike three if you will, yesterday's News-Leader boasted the headline, "Rail-car shop closing, leaving 228 jobless." TrinityRail announced to its Springfield employees that they, too, would be closing their shop effective February 2.

A quick search on the Internet brought me to another article that was reporting the numbers of jobless claims on a federal level. Apparently the numbers spiked for this week well over what Wall Street was expecting. The number of people filing claims for unemployment has now surpassed the amount of people who were filing for the same in 1982. A saturated job market is going to be the result as more and more companies are beginning to throw in the towel and settle in for a long, hard recovery with minimal staff and few hopes of expansion.

I remember the recession that followed 9-11 and remember wondering what would become of us, as a country, then. I'm not worrying this time, though.

In retrospect, every part of my life seems to have been gearing me for survival in tough times. I was raised by a mother who worked hard and provided for us in every way. Of all the things that she taught us over the years, spend-happy flightiness was not one of them. We learned how to make the most of everything we had. We "garage-sailed", and frequented flea markets, and thrift stores. Don't get me wrong, we weren't poor. I had more growing up then a lot of kids had and I had opportunities to go virtually any route with life I wanted to. I simply chose where I am today and I enjoy it. I take more pride in what I can make or fix than the objects I buy new. Everybody likes saving money, but for me its a game. A game that I really enjoy winning.

I was reminded once again of this game last night when I repaired my laptop. Their was a problem with it where it would shut down abruptly from even the slightest movement while running. I bought it dirt cheap for this reason. The previous owner couldn't figure it out. I figured that it was a loose connection somewhere and formatted the hard drive and reinstalled a fresh operating system. I checked all the connections to the main components and found nothing irregular. I put it all back together and the problem was solved somehow. I just assumed that maybe someone had messed with the system BIOS settings and that by reinstalling all the drivers for the hardware I fixed it by having the BIOS return to the default settings. I was wrong, though. The problem started occurring again.

Last night I was determined to pinpoint the precise cause for the instability of the machine and after many pokes and prods and the resulting shut-downs I determined that one side of a small cover on the bottom was to blame. I removed the cover, turned the computer on, and sure enough, I couldn't get it to shut down again. Upon close inspection I found that it was a design flaw in the case and cover. The cover had two guide tabs on the sides and when securely fastened to the case, one of the guide tabs was pressing against the mother board. Mother boards don't like pressure on them while they are running. I broke off the tabs. Problem solved.

My point is that I do this with everything. I'm not always successful, but Jodi and I both are two resourceful, resilient, and creative people. No matter what the future may hold, we'll be sure to find a way.

Getting Opinionated Again

Warning: The following is a representation of my opinion. If you don't like it when people make their opinions public then I suggest you stop reading now and go on with your day. Also, this may be my longest blog ever. So, if you don't like to read then may I suggest playing a video game or building something out of Popsicle sticks. If, however, you think that you can make it through then you will have done a great thing and should feel proud of yourself for making such an accomplishment. Leave a comment and I may even send you a trophy.

I wrote this blog over the span of several days, so bear with me as it is lengthy and covers two issues that can both be summed up as bigotry. I felt compelled to write this as I feel that those who do not agree with the liberal left generally will keep their mouths shut in fear that they will be viewed as bigots or worse. Minorities (no reference here to race, just minorities in general) will so often play the accusation card that few people will voice their opposition to an issue being argued. A perfect example of this was a couple months ago after one of Jacob's football games. We were leaving as were many others and upon entering the parking lot there was a woman who was angrily shouting obscenities while telling her family about somebody who did something very inconsequential. I let it go the first couple times, but upon realizing no end, I spoke up by saying "Hey. Hey. Do you mind keeping it G-rated? There's children everywhere." I said this and kept walking still attempting to hold Jacob's ears. After a couple seconds of silence which apparently was from the family trying to process what just happened (they probably don't get asked to keep it down by white people very often) here came the words. The husband started mouthing saying all kinds of things mostly accusing us of saying worse around our kids at home, being "country" and "racists", and about how his father owns the police. Yeah, I don't get that last part either but he sure was talking a lot about it. He wouldn't stop his rant, but refused also to look me in the face while doing it. He clearly didn't want any real trouble, just an opportunity to look like he was defending his dirty-mouthed spouse.

I also didn't want any real trouble but wouldn't have hesitated to physically shut him up had he actually opposed a visible threat or even spouted off a verbal one under his breath. He ran his mouth, yes, but was obviously being very careful as to choose his words and body language in such a way that I wouldn't have cause to take any further action. He just wanted to cause a scene and announce to anyone within earshot that I was a racist. I am not a racist. Far from it. I, however, will not fear being accused of being one. Do I naturally have that feeling like every other white person that compels them to restrain themselves in situations that they normally wouldn't if the person involved was white? Yes, I do. I feel it. And I hate it. It's social conditioning, not racism. My generation has been reminded of the racist atrocities of past generations so often that there is an understandable fear in the minds of white people that they might be associated with the racists of history simply because of their skin color. It's the same fear that resides in racial minorities. Many Americans of Arabic decent deal with looks from people and they, too, fear that they will be associated with those few that have hurt so many.

It's unfair and a clear injustice when anyone makes statements or acts in such a way that is based off another person's skin color. I highly doubt that the man at the football field parking lot would've called me what he did if I had been virtually any other race other than white. While some may argue that his actions were racist or not racist, we can be sure of one thing: Racism has been kept alive and well by people who will not let it go. This goes for every race.

As an avid reader of the News-Leader, I've run across many articles in the Voices section that I agree with and many that I have not. As far as I can tell, the NL is somewhat fair with the quantity of liberal articles versus the conservative ones, but I have noticed an imbalance in the effectiveness of those articles. It seems to me that many of the conservative articles are not as well-written as the liberal ones. I highly doubt that this is because liberals are just naturally better writers. Rather, I suppose that the powers that be at the NL have a tendency to sympathize with the left and purposefully choose the letters from the right so that they are not as convincing. In all fairness, the numbers may be about the same, but the letters are carefully chosen as to what may see print and what may not.

One of these letters was recently written by Paul Harris, a homosexual originally from California who recently relocated to Eureka Springs, AR. Despite his pride and love for his home state he felt forced to leave it for conflicting ideals. More specifically, the recent Proposition 8 passing that amended California's State Constitution to include the words "only between a man and a woman" when discussing marriage was why Mr. Harris felt that he no longer could stay in CA. So, he moved to Eureka Springs, AR. This is ironic since Arkansas was one of the first states to do what Proposition 8 did for CA back in 2004 when Massachusetts started allowing homosexual marriages. Not only did Arkansas restrict marriage to being only between a man and a woman but they also banned any same-sex civil unions, a step further from what many other states did. So, just into the introduction of Mr. Harris' letter, I'm already failing to see any logic applied to his decisions.

The rest of the letter is basically an attempt at humanizing himself so as to gain sympathy from the reader while claiming many injustices done to him over his lifetime done by "religious extremists" among others. He uses words like "equality" and "civil rights" and expects the reader to feel sorry for him and all gays everywhere for the terrible injustices that they must endure, specifically being denied "the equal right to marry."

Let's look at this, though, shall we? Since when has marriage been a right? I know what it has been throughout history and all around the world: a spiritual and religious union between a man and a woman. Study the practice of marriage in all cultures and you will find two very repetitious themes. The first, that the two involved make up one of each gender. Second, that the ceremony is always done as part of a spiritual ritual. The rituals vary from culture to culture, but the central theme is the same. A man and woman come together to spend their lives with one another as one unit blessed and approved by their god. Jews do it. Muslims do it. Hindus do it. Christians do it. Catholics do it. Buddhists do it. The list goes on and on.

The pattern can not be dismissed. While I agree that gays should not be discriminated against, we seriously differ on our ideas of discrimination. Leave marriage what it is and always has been. Leave family what it is and always has been. Not all things are rights. The height restriction for a roller coaster is not age discrimination against children. Social Security benefits is not age discrimination against the non-elderly. Restricting a high school girl to the girls soccer team rather than the boys team is not gender discrimination. Restricting men from using the women's bathroom is not gender discrimination. Being denied financing for purchasing a Lexus while working at a minimum wage job is not financial discrimination.

Many resources define marriage as a social, spiritual, or religious union that is recognized by either the state, society as a whole, or a religious organization. This definition isn't perfect and by using words as a means to construct the definition someone somewhere will always attempt to interpret it differently. But it pretty much makes as clear as it can that marriage is a religious institution that is recognized by a religious organization, government, or society. Society here in the U.S. voted and determined that they didn't recognize homosexual unions to be marriage. The overwhelming majority throughout the world shows that they don't recognize them as marriage. Most governments including ours does not recognize them. And the majority of religious organizations don't recognize them.

Homosexual relationships can not, therefore, be recognized as a legal marriage. Since society collectively views marriage as a religious, spiritual act between people that is more than just a contract, it is no more a person's right to marry, than it is their right to be holy. Likewise, on whether homosexual couples should have the right to equally adopt children, it is no more a person's right to be a parent, than it is their right to be able to physically birth a child. No one has the right to be a parent. Many people live and die and never have children in their home and it was not because they were stripped of their rights.


Many people in my generation have seen the popularizing of coffee drinks over their lifetime from just that drink that was offered to our parents after dinner at a restaurant to the "coffee shop on every corner" present. And it's true that coffee has been popularized in recent years in ways that it hasn't been in the past. Most coffee is served darker than it once was. With Starbucks and coffee chains like it advertising dark brews the tendency of many is to look for the darkest brews that they can. Several TV shows and movies have also done their part in popularizing the drink. The WB's Gilmore Girls were almost constantly drinking coffee in every episode. Movies like Reality Bites integrated a ritual of "coffee and conversation" into the romance between the two main characters. Hollywood is always bringing coffee onto the silver screen.

It would seem that the use of coffee in popular culture is mostly an American thing, but it couldn't be any further from the truth. Coffee was actually discovered in Ethiopia. It was the Arab nations that first turned it into a popular drink. The stimulating effects of coffee were even beneficial for their religious culture. With being called to pray five times daily, they found that the drink helped keep them awake during prayer times. The use of coffee as a popular drink eventually took in Europe when they, too, enjoyed both the taste and the stimulating effects. Soon, with more of the world drinking coffee, demand went up and supply was not as plentiful to Arabs. It was during this time that coffee shops began to open serving only coffee on the menu. With the busy schedules of the Arabic culture, the business of served coffee took off with much success. With coffee shops being frequented by so many people, socialization happened and eventually coffee shops became equally about socialization as they were about serving coffee. Because of all the conversations and debates that would stem from this social interaction, coffee became viewed as a drink for intellectuals.

Today's modern coffee shop was born. Not in Seattle. Not in the United States. And not even remotely close to this century. Coffee shops have been around for a long time, and the people that hang out at them have for just as long felt that they were intellectually superior to those who didn't.

Many coffee drinkers have found a need for the drink to even properly function throughout the day. As humorously depicted in this Dilbert comic, some people feel like they have replaced their blood with coffee and constantly need to replenish their tanks with fresh cups. I'm definitely nowhere near this group, but I do find that more days than not I will have coffee at some point in the day. Caffeine doesn't really affect me like it does others and I've been known to say that I can drink a pot of coffee and then go right to sleep. And, I've done it plenty of times. The bonus of this tolerance is that I can drink coffee whenever I feel like it and I don't have to worry that I'll be punished with restless sleep for it. The con, however, is that it also fails to wake me up like it does for most people. I can't use it as a tool to help me drive at night, or get around quicker in the morning, or any other popular and tangible use.

Even with the ineffectiveness of its stimulating properties, I still enjoy coffee a lot. It's how it makes me feel when I drink it. Somehow, I feel better with a cup of it. I feel cozy wherever I might be. I feel a little happy even if I have reason to feel something else. Work seems more enjoyable while drinking it. Fun seems more fun. I eagerly look forward to that cup when I know that I'll be getting some soon. There is a reason why a good host or hostess will offer coffee to their guests. It just makes most people happy. I prefer to view the world through my coffee goggles.

Google Sketchup 7

It's my lunch break and I just threw together a plan on Google Sketchup 7 for the desk that I'm going to build tonight. If you haven't ever used Google Sketchup then you should definitely check it out. It's a whole lot of fun and can be easily learned. I picked it up in about an hour (months ago) after going through all of the tutorials that came with it. The tutorials are especially easy because they're hands on. It shows you something and then they have you do it before you can go on to the next thing. It's pretty cool.

Another amazing thing they have is the 3D Warehouse. While in the program (as long as you have an Internet connection) you can import 3D models directly into your model. These models are free to download because they're built by people like me who waste their lunch period playing around with a computer program. Anyone can upload a model they built and so there is a huge amount of models just hanging out there. There are extravagant ones that are highly detailed like house plans, antique cars, and skyscrapers as well as simple ones like stick figures, soccer balls, and flowers.

It can really prove to be quite useful, actually, if you want to build something complex. I plan on doing it for the deck plans that I have drawn up already. My drawn plans are pretty accurate, but my 3D version will cover EVERYTHING. I'll be able to measure every board. My material list can be extremely accurate. With this program, I can even have it count the number of screws that I place in the model. How cool is that? It can also be useful with the simple things, too, like this desk, for instance. I didn't necessarily need to create a 3D model of this desk in order to build it, but I did need to figure out the design of it in my head and I do a lot better when I can actually see it come together BEFORE I start cutting boards. Once a board is cut, it's cut. I've learned this all too well over the years and kick myself every time I find I've cut something too short. So, this is a way that I can put something together and have it for sure be right. I like drafting plans for projects. I always have. But nothing beats being able to draft a 3-dimensional project in 3 dimensions.

Well, my lunch is over, so I gotta go. But, I uploaded two plans to the warehouse. My plans for the desk and the one I drew up months ago for the house. I included a material list for the desk so that maybe it will help someone out there looking for a quick, cheap desk they can build themselves.

Once again, this is a free program available for download for anyone to use. Click here to download the program. Click here to see my house plans on Google or here to see my desk plans on Google. Happy building!

GIMP 2.6

I've been promoting GIMP for years now and have told countless people about it. Usually, this is accompanied by an explanation in laymen's terms what "open source" software is, so that the person on the receiving end might just understand why the program is free to use. It's funny that during this time, I've spoken with lots of people and they all seem to have roughly the same attitude towards GIMP. They're interested to find out that as a photographer I don't use Photoshop. They are still interested to find out that I use GIMP. Their interest is still hanging on when I explain that GIMP is just an acronym for GNU Image Manipulation Program. But, then their interest falls off the second I say that it's free.

When someone says "free" while I'm within earshot, they have my attention. They may also receive a single raised eyebrow from me, but regardless of the position of my eye-hair, they do have my attention. However, some people do just the opposite when it comes to computer software. Has consumerism completely saturated our brains with the marinade of materialistic prestige? Some things just aren't better because they're more expensive, but many are fooled into thinking this way. People go out and buy the biggest, most expensive laptop on the market so that they can play solitaire away from home. People own PDA's and only use them for the phone function. People buy Photoshop and never figure out how to use it.

I once was talking with a forklift driver who once worked for Ocean-Spray. He said that after every production run of Ocean-Spray juice they would switch to filling up the off-brand bottles. There was a quota to hit and then the rest would be packaged as Always-Save or Best Choice. The company, like most companies, knew that they could sell to both markets: the name-brand buyers and the off-brand buyers. But, it was the same stuff!
Don't think that electronic manufacturers don't do it as well, because they do. The best DVD player that I've ever owned was one of the least expensive that have ever hit the market. $30 and it would play anything! CD, VCD, DVD, Picture CD, AVI, MPG, MP3, etc. It played everything. The name-brand models got more and more expensive with each extra format that they could play and people would buy them. I even would up with a couple of them. They're terrible. One very expensive brand wouldn't even play a burned DVD in DVD format. Most of these electronics use the same hardware built in India or Japan or China and then they package them up in a different looking box and slap their insignia on the front. Then, they add software that tells the DVD player what NOT to play. The ones that have the fewest restrictions are made into their most expensive models. Yet, under the hood, it's the same engine.

GIMP is an amazing program that can do just as much as Photoshop can and it's free. It's constantly being updated with fixes and new and better tools. And when a better version is produced, you don't have to pay for the upgrade. You simply download it and go. And, as always, if you want to check it out, click on the link on the right of this page. I updated the link to download it directly from my hotlinkfile account rather than send you to It can be somewhat confusing on what exactly to download to get GIMP using their site if you've never done it before. However, note that the version I have linked up is for Windows. If you are running another operating system, you'll have to just figure it out at Sorry.

Lyric's Famous!

My baby is famous! If you've kept up with my blogs, you know that a couple months ago I took some pictures for Battlefield Lanes here in Springfield. Of the photos I took, several wound up being used for various advertisements including their website, ten-second blocks on their in-house screens, and billboards.

I know that everyone has seen billboard photos on the Internet and surely some of them are fake, but I assure that this one is not. My friend in the billboard business has sent me a little work and this is one of the benefits of that work. I'll have to swing down there and take a better photo of the billboard, but here is the one that he sent me. The workers who actually put the sign up take pictures of the finished product to record that it's actually up.

This will be really cool for Lyric to have when he's older. I'm so proud! I had to go see it last night. Even though it was dark, I was able to leave my shutter open for a full 30 seconds on the lowest ISO setting so that I could get a nice night-time shot and still maintain some quality. Click on the photo to see it larger.

Holiday Rivalry

With Thanksgiving looming right around the corner, many are getting ready for their holiday plans. Many still are already discussing another holiday, though. Christmas. Of course, you don't need me to tell you which holiday is the focus of so many. You've probably already complained to yourself or a friend about the annoying premature appearance of Christmas decor or advertising. Or maybe you've already found yourself humming along to the "elevator music" style Christmas song playing in a public place.

"Why?" is the question that many are asking. What is the reason for the push of Christmas right in the face of Thanksgiving? I realize that holidays aren't people and that it doesn't make a lot of sense to personify them but, but Thanksgiving should be really offended right now. Jodi and I were driving through town and were noticing that many things were going straight from Halloween to Christmas. Where did November go? The City of Springfield has already started illuminating the snowflakes on streetlight posts downtown and possibly elsewhere. Christmas lights are starting to light up more and more homes as the day to give thanks nears. Jodi even spotted a Christmas tree in one home while we were sitting at a stoplight a few blocks from our house.

I've heard a theory on a friend's blog that I have to say makes a lot of sense. Many people think that businesses are advertising Christmas early for the sole purpose of getting people to buy more earlier so that they'll buy more in the long run. While this does make sense and is no doubt one of the bigger reasons for the early push, this theory suggests that it is not the main reason. It suggests that the biggest reason is to purposefully distract from the holiday of Thanksgiving and, in turn, secure the materialistic thoughts in the minds of the consumers.

The whole premise of Thanksgiving is a chance for family and friends to get together and acknowledge all that they have to be thankful for. This very idea undermines everything that Corporate America has worked so hard to build over the last century in the minds of Americans. If we truly get the idea of Thanksgiving, most of us would realize that we have too much and that our friends and family have too much, as well. These feelings would resonate into December and we would suggest ways to get around the materialistic trap of Christmas' gone by. We would place value on what matters, spend less, stress less, and maybe even enjoy the Christmas holiday in ways we never knew we could.

All the big money-makers over the Christmas season would take a measured blow to their forecasted sales bubble. So, how do they fight back and prevail over this possible nation-wide contentment? They help you forget about Thanksgiving. They get you so focused on Christmas that families just wind up using Thanksgiving as a meeting to decide on what everyone wants for Christmas. Out with "Thanks" and in with "Please". No one asks, "What do you need for Christmas?", they ask what you WANT.

I'm not immune to the materialism that I speak of. I, too, have wants. But, I am very content with what I have. I recognize that what I do have was not awarded to me because of my deserving accomplishments for many people who deserve much more have much less, but rather I have been blessed with what I have and will continue to be very thankful for it. After all, the possessions that I value the most can never be purchased at a department store nor lost in a catastrophe.

Headlines Misinforming Concerning Square Debate

This morning, I found this headline in bold across the top of the front page in today's News-Leader: "More crime on Square after 11" This bothers me because yesterday I saw in the headlines that City Council was to be discussing the possibility of entering in an ordinance that would make it a crime to be anywhere in Park Central Square after 11:00 pm. Not only would it be a crime but one punishable by 180 days in jail or $1000 fine or BOTH! In the News-Leader article the author questioned the call for such an ordinance. He asked for numbers and instances that would justify the city removing access to such a highly used public space. And, I thought, "Yeah!" Where is the evidence that deems it necessary for such an erroneous law that undermines civil liberty?

Well, today's article was an obvious answer to that request. And the News-Leader printed it, and apparently they are satisfied with the answer given to them. But, I am not. Here's why. The only numbers reported to justify this claim of increased crime after 11:00 is this:

Since Jan. 1, about 29 percent of all police events logged at the square occurred during the six-hour period from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. according to data released by the department Wednesday.

Does anyone else see the flawed thinking in these reported numbers? First of all, 29 percent of all police events logged is not at all extreme given that the time period in which this percentage stems from is a 6-hour period which equals 25 percent of a day. So, naturally we would expect around 25 percent of police events to take place.

Second, what constitutes a "police event"? Since Jan 1, I've only congregated with friends at the square one time. I saw families, children, plenty of teens, library-goers, coffee shop frequenters, and lots of church groups. I enjoyed the night as did my wife and my 1 1/2 year old (at the time) son. I only saw one "police event" that evening and it was a cop who "pulled over" a pedestrian for walking on the grass. The pedestrian was detained for about 15 minutes while he was ticketed for this offense. I'll restrain my comments on the blatant stupidity of making walking on grass a crime in a park, but surely I conveyed my feelings effectively with just these words. Since walking on grass became a crime this year, and police officers are showing no hesitation in issuing tickets which are logged, and the time period in which there are the most pedestrians and police officers in the area of the square is between these hours, wouldn't it then stand to be reasonable that the percentage of all logged police events would be higher during the time period of 11 to 5?

Third, I refuse to name names but there was a small populace in our group that was uncomfortable with a certain group of teenage boys standing nearby. I was disappointed in these unnamed friends of mine in that they were clearly misjudging the youths. They were doing what almost all teenage boys do. They were over-dramatacizing a conversation about what someone said and they were puffing up their chests and dramatically saying what they were going to do about it. It was really only one or two guys performing the drama and the rest were simply following them around to see if they would get a free show. Of course, nothing came of it. It was very similar to how I've seen wild horses act on PBS. It's all for show; a demonstration of the Male's power; a rite of passage. I seriously thought nothing of it, until I saw that the show was making some of my fellow stallions uneasy. It wasn't directed at us or anyone else on the Square for that matter. And if the party in which was being talked about had been present the voicer would not have been so vocal. My point for telling this story is that some somewhat sheltered people I knew were viewing this as something that the police should be interested in. Someone on the Square may have even called them about these boys. It's these teenagers (half adult/half children) that are being viewed as nuisances and are the driving force of the voice that is supporting the new proposed ordinance.

Fourth and last, isn't it safe to say that around bars' closing times that police activity goes through the roof? I'm willing to bet that the largest amount of "police events" are around closing time and the people who cause the event are from the bars, NOT from the ones hanging out on the Square. I'm also willing to bet that the bulk of the reported 29 percent is this group, NOT the people hanging out on the Square.

I think that with all four of these reasons coming together it stands to create a perceived increase in the amount of crime on the square for this late time period. In my opinion, this new ordinance, if passed, will not improve the City of Springfield in any way. In fact, it will only counter the effort that Square improvements are trying to do: Make the Square a more welcoming public place.

More Gun Control or Control Gun Control?

Guns. It's a hot topic in the Ozarks right now. People who do or desire to own them are defending their right to own them while many are vocalizing their disdain for them and expressing their own fear in people walking around with them criminal or not. I have read many of the comments on and it projects quite an argument, but I also have noticed that the people who log in to the website and comment on articles are usually the same little handful of people. You'll see their name and picture all over every article it seems where an opinion can stir up some argument. This proves that you can't accurately understand how the general public feels about guns or anything else for that matter just by these comments sections. I wanted to take it to my blog to ask everyone what their thoughts were. I'm not interested in starting a debate on this and will refuse to debate with anyone on this issue. This blog is simply a chance for me to express my current opinion and for you to do the same. Since our stances on issues do change over time due to changes in our society, I wonder if some day I will feel differently about this. In which case, I would like to have a record of my current belief and maybe even yours if you will contribute it in a comment.

The reason for gun ownership being a hot topic around here lately is for several reasons. First, a two-year-old was killed Sunday morning in Stone County when the child found a handgun in the home and accidentally shot itself. I say "it" because I can't remember if the article I read about it in revealed the gender of the child. This is obviously a terrible tragedy. Unfortunately, some people are cold and heartless and those people decided to jump on the article and start typing up comments that berated the parents of the child for their negligence. Maybe I'm putting to much faith in the goodness of people, but I can't imagine that ANYONE (especially the parents) needs to be told that there was negligence involved. I think everyone would agree that if a two-year-old was able to get to the weapon and find it loaded, that there was some obvious parental negligence involved. So apparent, in fact, that no one needs to have it spelled out to them least of all the parents who must be completely destroyed by the loss of a child by their own mistake. I can't imagine and don't want to try.

To make matters worse, the father is not your average citizen. He is a Stone County Sheriff's Deputy. However, the weapon that was found by the child was not the father's issued weapon, but rather a personal weapon. There are enough people already who have a tendency to abhor law enforcement officers, so it never helps when one of those officers finds their name in a headline involving an innocent death regardless of the circumstances. I really feel terrible for this family. There will most likely be a charge of involuntary manslaughter given to the parent directly responsible for the weapon's accessibility. As long as the investigators find no reason to believe that any other negligence was responsible, the sentence will probably be suspended. But, imagine losing a child, carrying the guilt of that child's death, and having a court of law officially announce that it was your fault. Marriages commonly don't survive a child's death. Other children in the home suffer from the loss of a sibling as well as the loss of their parents' emotional stability. It's tragic for years to come.

The second reason for the local debate is our new President-Elect and Vice President-elect. Both are viewed as "pro-gun-control" politicians, which in and of itself makes me snicker because aren't all politicians for gun control of some kind? But these two have voted for strong gun control that could even result in a ban on assault rifles, handguns in "inner-cities", and huge restrictions being added to the purchasing of any firearm. My problem with Obama's stance concerning gun ownership is that much of what he has said was said with vague language that could do much more to prohibit gun ownership for people everywhere than what the language appears to do on the surface. For example, he wants to ban handguns in "inner-cities". But, what is an inner city? And why can't people who live there own a gun? Will the ban remove handguns from everyone in the inner city or will it only remove them from the responsible people who register them leaving handguns in the hands of the criminals and irresponsible gun owners? Gun sellers have reported a bubble in gun sales since November 4th and it's because people are wanting to get these bought while there is still an opportunity for them to do so.

Lastly, the conceal and carry law is still relatively new around here. When it went into effect, there was an overwhelmingly amount of people applying for the permit. The local police said that they were surprised at the number of people applying and were somewhat not prepared to deal with all of them in a timely manner. They had to shuffle around some manpower to handle the load. Many people around here don't know what to think about citizens walking around possibly carrying a handgun legally concealed.

Here comes my opinion: I don't think that that any U.S. Government local, state, or federal could ever keep guns out of the hands of the criminal element and simultaneously keep a free society. In order to enforce a gun control policy effectively that would keep only responsible citizens owning weapons would require a serious breach in our right to privacy. There would need to be a "Gestapo" style policing of people's homes and businesses that never ceased to invade people unannounced. And even with this, there would still be plenty of guns in the wrong hands that would never be found. So, governments should stop trying to fight this through regulation and restriction. Also, punishments are pretty strict when using a firearm in a crime. Yet, that hasn't helped reduce the number of instances when they were used in crimes, so stiffer penalties may not be the answer either. The answer, then? Put guns into the hands of normal citizens. The facts and statistics speak for themselves. Washington D.c. banned handguns in 1976 and a 200% rise in homicides was the result compared to the national rise of 14%. In contrast, Florida adopted a right-to-carry law in 1987 and enjoyed many large scale drops in their homicide rates compared to rises in the National averages. Florida's homicide rate dropped 36%, firearm homicide rate dropped 37%, and handgun homicide rate dropped 41%. Stiffer gun control laws are not the answer in my opinion. Adopting Right To Carry laws are. In 2008, 40 states now have Right To Carry laws compared to only 9 in 1986 and violent crime has not been as low as it is now since 1972.

One more reason that I think that guns should be available to the public and not restricted from is because it helps to keep our government balanced. You've probably heard the phrase, "The people should not fear their government, but rather government should fear its people." Throughout history, societies that allowed their leadership to be the only ones that could carry weapons found themselves subject to the will of that leadership and justice eventually took a backseat to greed. England was a good example of this, people were "tried" by a jury of the King's Royal Court and not of their peers. Hundreds of innocent people were slaughtered with every King and Queen. Where do you think Alice in Wonderland's quote of, "Off with her head!" came from? Queen Mary, later called "Bloody Mary", had 300 "religious dissenters" burned at the stake. Their crime: they were caught reading or simply known to have read Holy Scripture which was only to be done by the Roman Catholic Church's Papal Authority. The Declaration of Independence states that it is our right and duty to alter or to abolish any government that becomes destructive to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, the equality of people, or who overstep its bounds and is no longer operating under the consent of the governed. How, then, might I ask, we do this if the citizens are not armed against a government that is overwhelmingly armed? Most "assault rifles" look like sticks and stones when compared to our government's military weapons.

This is my opinion. As I said, I will refuse any request to debate, but I would love to hear some more opinions whether you agree with me or not. I do, however, ask that any comment left be polite. We should all be able to express ourselves without our emotions getting in the way. Thanks for reading. I hope to hear from you.

Rock the Vote or Boat

It's November 6th and I've considered many times since the evening of the 4th to write a blog talking about many different things. I could write about my thoughts for the country for the next four years, my relief that Bush will soon be out, or maybe my anger towards the Republican party for choosing who they did for the Republican Presidential Candidate, about the huge voter turnout, or maybe I could just expand more on the light bulb topic of my last blog since it wasn't very lengthy (obvious sarcasm intended). Most of you know that I'm a Ron Paul supporter. I have been ever since my brother turned me on to him years ago. He sent me a link to a simple website that had updated writings of Dr. Paul's and for the first time in my life I realized that there are people in government that resist the temptation to "go with the flow" and actually take a stand against "the flow" that threatens present and future liberties.

With all the hype of this election, the cacophony got me thinking about patriotism and what that word means to me. Growing up, I always understood that patriotism is loving one's own country. And I'm willing to bet that most everyone would define it this way. But, I wonder, what defines the word "country". Is my country the trees, grass, lakes, mountains, and shores? Is my country the people on my street, the people living in these trees, grass, mountains, etc.? Is my country the company I work for, the companies that we sell to, the companies that keep Americans working and prosperous? Is my country the local government, state government, or federal government? Surely, it can't just be one of these things. Likewise, there's no way that it can be all of them. Right?

I'm reminded of the common phrase, "Love it or leave it." I've heard this phrase used and seen it pop up in the comments sections of many blogs and articles on news sites. My question is, "What constitutes, NOT loving your country?" The word "patriotic" simply means to be like a patriot. What is a patriot in modern times, though? We know what one was back in the Revolutionary War days: a person who loved America, the freedom it stood for, and was willing to sacrifice in order to see that the country and all it stood for would prevail against any powers that threatened those freedoms. In many ways, it could be said that it wasn't the grass that the patriots of yesterday were sacrificing for. Nor was it the government that they risked their lives for since it didn't yet exist. It would be safe to say that the patriots were fighting for freedom. Freedom from government over-stepping their bounds. Freedom for themselves as well as freedom for their children. One might even go as far to say that patriotism could therefore be defined as "a love and willingness to sacrifice for establishing or maintaining an established country in which freedoms are upheld."

I like that definition a little better. Could the argument of freedom be taken too far, though? For example, during the Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1860 for Governor of Illinois, the main topic was slavery. Lincoln, the Republican candidate, was against slavery and argued that the Declaration of Independence was for all men and women and not just for white ones. Douglas, the Democratic Candidate, argued that it was Lincoln's right to not agree with slavery and therefore he didn't have to own any, but that it was also others rights to own them if they so chose. Douglas maintained that people should have the right to own slaves and he eventually won the Governor's seat. One thing Lincoln said summing up Douglas' theory on slave ownership was, "No one should have the right to choose to do wrong."

I like that quote, but to be fair while it almost always stands to be true it can't always be applied in a free country. Because, the definition of what is wrong is based off of society's vote on what is morally right and wrong and I'm not convinced that society really gets morality. For example, abortion is wrong. No doubt about it. Yet people will vote for people who support it and will directly vote to allow people to choose. But, like Lincoln said, "No one should have the right to choose to do wrong." And, since this blog has turned me into a betting man, I'm again willing to bet that over ninety-five percent of people who voted directly or indirectly for "the right to choose" would do anything in their ability to avoid being forced to actually assist first-hand in an abortion clinic. Let that one sink in for a minute. Get out your moral calculator and type away when you're ready.

People are willing to say that something wrong is right as long as they're not the ones that actually have to do the wrong deed. Like I said before, I don't think that society really gets morality. Or maybe it's just the election process that they don't get. See, our votes have to reflect our morals otherwise we send the message to Washington, the world, our children, and God, too, that we are immoral people. And that we prefer a society that is immoral, as well.

I believe that people need to wake up and smell the garbage. And I think that some people have somewhat roused, hence the huge voter turnout. But, I also think that while there was a record number of voters showing up at the polls the number of voters that showed up completely uninformed was most likely breaking records, as well. It seemed to me that everyone I spoke to about the candidates had their minds made up already long ago, but couldn't tell me more than one policy change that their chosen candidate was planning on making to make things better. As a matter of fact, most couldn't even tell me one, yet their minds were made up. I dislike the "Rock the Vote" campaign and others like it because they push people to vote but spend no time encouraging people to research the candidates or issues. I recently saw another short video campaign put on by a group of celebrities that was encouraging people to vote and went as far to say that "you should vote if you care about" the war, gay rights, abortion rights, the economy, taxes, etc., etc. Of course people care about these issues. Everyone has an opinion. That's the problem. Everyone has an opinion, many are willing to vote based off that opinion, but very few understand what those votes will affect. It's easy to vote for and feel good about women's rights, but not when babies are violently slaughtered as an effect. It's easy to vote for and feel good about slashing taxes on the middle class and raising them on the upper class, but not when it hurts local businesses which are still collaboratively the largest employer in the U.S. Who do you think work for them? The upper class? All taxes on corporations are passed down to the people. It's easy to vote for and feel good about helping the lower class financially, but not when the financial burden on everyone drags millions more into the lower class bracket.

It's not our privilege to vote, it's our duty. But, it's also our duty to be informed voters, not popularity contest judges. In the information age, no one has an excuse. My personal opinion: Senator Barack Obama was elected to be our next President of the United States because people were tired of the Republicans screwing it up for us and the word "change" wouldn't stop echoing off the walls where Obama made his speeches. It sure would be easy to vote for and feel good about voting for a real change for the good. I guess, we'll see what we get, though. Won't we?

Green or Mean?

The U.S. is going green and I have mixed feelings about it. In recent years, I've heard so much about "green" this and "green" that and I can't help but wonder what all the agendas are packed away behind these movements. Of course, I know that reducing energy consumption is a good thing, so don't jump to conclusions yet about me. I simply have a habit of reading between the lines because I've found that the lines are usually packed with interesting information between them almost in every cause.

Take Al Gore's hypocrisy for example. I won't get into all the details since many of you already know about this controversy, so I'll keep it brief. He's become some poster boy for "going green" but owns large stocks in an oil company that has been known to drill in ecologically sensitive areas. He isn't signed up for the renewable energy usage programs in any one of his three homes despite those programs being readily available by the utility companies in all three areas. And his homes total over 18,000 square feet and we all know that there's no way that this amount of space can be energy efficient in any form. USA Today reported on these facts among many others supporting the belief that he doesn't practice what he preaches. I wouldn't come down so hard on him, but he talks about our energy usage as if the sky is falling. He uses such phrases as "cataclysmic catastrophe", "ticking time bomb", and "uncontrollable tailspin."

No, Al Gore's rhetoric isn't new to anyone and to me it just seems like he jumped on an obvious bandwagon to promote himself and to make some easy money. So, then why the blog topic, you ask? And I'm glad you did. It's Walmart. A couple weeks ago, Jodi went to Walmart to pick up some things. Among the list was light bulbs. But, when she got to the light bulb aisle she was shocked. No, she wasn't electrocuted. She found empty shelves where the incandescent light bulbs used to be. The only light bulbs left available for purchase were CFLs. She called me and we briefly discussed it and we decided that she should just not purchase any bulbs and that we'd get them at a later date.

This last week, I found that another Walmart also was missing the incandescents. This confirmed what we thought to be the case which is that Walmart has removed incandescent light bulbs from their store shelves. But Why? Well, I did some research and found that two years ago at the end of 2006 Walmart announced that they were setting a goal to sell 100 million CFL bulbs a year starting in 2007. This made headlines just as it was designed to do. Walmart wants to also jump on the bandwagon with ol' Al and get their name associated with trying to help reduce energy consumption as well as appear to be trying to save their customers' money.

Walmart's move came just after Oprah touted the bulbs on her TV show and sales started to rise accordingly. Oprah apparently has a lot of little Oprah-brain-washed followers that will buy any book she talks about, love anyone she loves, and believe anything she says. I'm sure that you are picking up that I don't like Oprah. Just for the record, I also don't like Barack Obama. (GASP!) Call me what you will, I can take it. I never have liked Oprah. She doesn't really listen to anyone, she just jumps in to ask questions, but doesn't care at all about the answers. She leads people down a religious path in which there is nothing to back her views other than her own disorganized and contradictory statements. And she knows that she has this influence on people and rather than humbly using it for good she uses it for her own gain. I really don't like her. Her endorsement of the CFL bulbs alone make me want to go stock pile incandescents and start searching out CFLs in use and replacing them with incandescents completely undetected like a ninja. Mmm. "Incandescent Ninja" I LIKE that.

I couldn't find anything on the Internet that was discussing Walmart's announcement that they were removing incandescents from their shelves. I only found articles talking about stores doing it in the UK. This leads me to believe that Walmart didn't announce it. Why wouldn't they announce it? In 2007, Walmart reportedly hit their goal of 100 million light bulbs sold in early October. But, maybe all those people who purchased these bulbs last year from all the hype on the pros realized all the cons as they were put to use. I fell into that category. If you've ever used these bulbs, you probably do, too.

"Did that new CFL bulb on the porch burn out already?!", I asked as I was walking towards the front door. I got there and looked through the window directly at the bulb and saw that it was indeed on, but I hadn't been able to tell from just a few feet away. "It's on, but where's the light?" Sound familiar? The manufacturers of these bulbs whose packages claim that they are the equivalent of a 100-watt incandescent clearly don't fully comprehend the definition of the word "equivalent". That's like saying that just because Fat Albert can walk a mile eventually and Carl Lewis can run a mile in under 6 minutes that they must be equal. What's next? Energy efficient garbage disposals? Flip the switch, come back in three or four minutes when the blades have picked up some momentum and then start inserting your unwanted food particles one particle at a time because a few too many uneaten peas at once can stop the rotation of the blades. We bought a total of 12 of these CFL bulbs and are down to 3 or 4 of them. Because they've burnt out. It seems to me that their lifespan has been seriously exaggerated. I highly doubt that I've saved enough from their so-called efficiency to even offset the increased cost that I paid for them. Furthermore, we limited their usage to certain areas because of the nature of their dimness. Sure, they eventually get to be as bright as incandescents after a long while, but what good does that do for a closet light? When you open the closet to get something you turn the light on. You find the item in the small room with the aid of the light and then you turn the light off. CFL's won't help you find the item you're looking for unless you have the foresight or time to turn the light on minutes before you intend to actually look for the item. But, by then you've used all that extra electricity and probably used more energy than you would have otherwise. This argument also kept us from using them in bedrooms for the same reason. The kitchen wasn't a very good place for them since you need all the light you can get in there. The bathrooms weren't an ideal CFL bulb location since it's mostly boys in the house and you don't want boys to pee in the dark. Trust me on that one. As a matter of fact, when it came down to it, there were only two places in the house that we gave in and used the CFL bulbs: the front porch and the basement. And, we could only get away with using them in those areas because we tend to leave those lights on all the time.

Sorry, CFLs, but you suck. And now, so does Walmart for putting such a huge effort towards the sale of these little useless bulbs culminating in a removal of any choice for the consumer. What I find most interesting in all my research is that these bulbs contain mercury. You are not supposed to throw them in the trash because they can pollute the soil and eventually the groundwater, lakes, and streams. The consumer is supposed to recycle them, but there's no recycling centers that take them. Currently, only IKEA will take them from customers to recycle them. Ironically, Walmart has thus far refused to set up any sort of recycling avenues for their customers. And this is doubly ironic since Walmart's recent lofty goal and push for the sale of these bulbs has pushed them into the number one seller of CFL bulbs in the Unites States. I guess that energy conservation is more important to Walmart than environmental preservation. This is probably true because an incoming dollar amount can be affixed to the former while an obvious expense is attached to the latter. Without easy accessibility to a recycling method for these bulbs, you can count on the fact that consumers will put these bulbs in the trash.

Walmart probably doesn't want to implement a recycling method for similar reasons as other companies. There is a high risk for mercury exposure in dealing with these discarded bulbs. First, how do you keep them from breaking? Because, once they're broken the exposure is imminent. To recycle these would require a quarantined area, packing them in something similar to egg crates and having the handlers wear those orange jumpsuits with the gas masks that we so often see in movies. It's no wonder why Walmart hasn't set up a way to recycle them. But, then why do they keep pushing them to be sold?

I am obviously questioning the bulb's green-ness. What do you think? Do you use them? Do you like them? Do you think that the aliens invented them? Let me know.

So, it's W's fault.

Months ago, Jodi and I were having a lot of frustration with our cell phones. The cause of this frustration: they couldn't agree on what time it was. What's more is that neither could a lot of other clocks we have around the house. We were baffled and confused and still unsure as to what time it was even after calling Time & Temperature. The problem eventually worked itself out and we forgot about all the problems it caused until yesterday.

Yesterday morning was looked forward to by both Jodi and me for a week at least. Most Sunday mornings we have to wake up before 7:00 and start getting ready for church as quietly as possible so that we don't wake up the boys. We get ready and then Aunt Ginger graciously shows up to take over with the boys so that we can go to worship practice at 8:30. We practice until 10:00 when church starts and we lead worship until about 11:00. So, we're pretty busy from the moment we wake up at 6:45. Yesterday was to be different, though. Our team switched with the Saturday night team for the weekend, so we played Saturday night and were able to get a chance to sleep in on Sunday for once.

We didn't even set an alarm since we knew we'd wake up with plenty of time. Which we did. But, here's where our morning could have been a lot better. Jodi woke and checked her cell phone for the time which read 7:35. So, she was relieved to have about another hour to sleep and enjoy the morning. But George W. Bush came in our bedroom and stole that hour from us. Okay, he didn't come in our bedroom but his influence did. My phone read 8:35. My phone is set to be automatically updated by the cell towers. So, if I change time zones (like when we went to Michigan) my phone automatically changes the time for me. My phone tells me what time the network says it is. Jodi's phone, on the other hand, is not set up in that way. Like all cell phones, it has internal software. The software was programmed years ago to allow for Daylight Savings Time and had the exact dates that these changes occurred on figured into the equation. And that's where we point a finger at the Pres.

George signed into law an energy bill in 2005 that included a measure to extend Daylight Savings Time starting in 2007. DST would start 3 weeks earlier and end 1 week later than normal. The pros to this change included the savings of 100,000 barrels of oil daily somehow, people would turn their interior and exterior lights on later in the day using less electricity, people would have an extra hour of daylight for activities, theme parks could run later, and part-time farmers would have more time after work to work their crops. The cons included children having to wait for the bus in pitch dark, the airline industry claimed millions of dollars lost to adjust schedules, and many electronic devices automatically adjust to DST on what will no longer be the correct dates including VCR's, computers, some microwaves, and apparently Jodi's cell phone.

Her cell phone will show the incorrect time all this week and will finally be back on track next Sunday at 2:00 am. I think that we tried to fix the problem last spring, but her cell phone's software doesn't have a way to fix the problem.

So, what do you think about Daylight Savings Time? Do you like it? Do you hate it? Do you have a better solution to utilizing all of God's given daylight?

A Wild Weekend's Worries and Wonders

I'm pretty sure that everyone who reads my blog also was notified about Jacob's injury this past weekend. So, in addition to retelling the story of what happened using as few words as I can manage, I'll add a fresh and interesting part to the story that vaguely has anything to do with Jacob but is related enough for me to get away with adding it. So, whether you've heard the news or not you must keep reading. You simply must.

Jacob was climbing on the outside of a spiral tube slide. It was totally tubular (spoken like Keanu Reeves in Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure). Without anything to really grip, he fell off once reaching the top and landed flat on his back on the ground 10 feet below. He showed no signs of external injury, but was in a lot of pain. To make a long story short, he cracked his spleen. He spent the night in the ICU, was moved to a normal room on Sunday and was released Monday afternoon. Bed rest for 2 weeks and no sports, bike riding, trampoline jumping, wrestling around, etc. for 6 months. But, the good news is that he is not bleeding internally and as long as he gives his body ample time to heal with these restrictions he should be back to his normal self by the end of the given time frame.

The semi-related content that I previously promised to keep your interest is as follows. Jacob, having just finished his Mighty Mites Football season last week, has begun to enjoy watching football on television much to the delight of Jodi and me who don't enjoy even the thought of watching the sport if we aren't directly related to a member on the team. In both the Trauma room of the ER and the ICU room he was moved to he managed to find a game on the television hanging on the wall. It was college football, LSU and South Carolina to be more specific. In the game, a strange thing happened. One of the referees tackled the South Carolina Quarterback. They showed it a couple times and it looked like an intentional shoulder tackle, but then the possibility arose in my mind that he could have been just trying to get out of the way and simultaneously protecting himself by tucking his arm like he did. I had too much going on, with Jacob in the ICU, to give it much thought so I just settled for the latter explanation.

Today, however, I saw it again on YouTube. Now I'm in a position to watch it over and over again and to see all the details of the collision. And, I'm left with my former suspicions as the only explanation to it. The video is attached below. Watch it and see what you think for yourself. Initially, I thought that when the QB changed his direction the referee was merely reacting to the QB's new intended course and protecting himself. But, if you watch very closely, the referee's feet prepare to push off in the direction of the QB BEFORE the QB actually changes direction. AND, the referee was not running, jogging, or doing anything else that would build any momentum keeping him from quickly changing course. He was side-stepping very small steps just like a defensive back who is trying to read the movements of the offensive runner. He could easily have jumped back to his left and created a wide gap between himself and the QB, but rather chose to step straight back to push off going the opposite way: forward. Forward was the wrong direction to go any way you look at it. As a former soccer referee, I can tell you that he should have squared his shoulders with the obvious path the ball was traveling in order to keep an eye on the play. By moving his right shoulder forward he would've lost track of the play regardless of whether he collided with the QB or not.

The South Carolina Head Coach Steve Spurrier said in a statement after the game that it was not a tackle and was simply the ref attempting to avoid the QB, but I disagree. The ref was cleared of any wrong doing, by everyone, but should he be? You be the judge.

Jack O' Lanterns

Earlier this week I was on the News-Leader's online publication scanning the headlines and I saw a link that sparked my interest given the time of year. Halloween is only a couple weeks away and the family and I are going to a costume party. I won't reveal our costumes yet as I don't know if I'm allowed to make it public knowledge. But, this link was for political pumpkin carving. It was put together by the Associated Press and, of course, it only included pumpkin carving plans for the two Presidential nominees' faces, the two Vice Presidential nominees' faces, and various donkey and elephant logos. So, feeling left out, I made one for Ron Paul.

And as far as my search for Jack o' Lantern photos went on the internet, my favorite that I found was this one of Yoda. I'm not a fan of the Star Wars movies, but the skill that went into this pumpkin carving is amazing, fan or not. My second favorite was this one of Boo, the little animated girl in the movie Monsters, Inc. They really captured a toddler's personality in that movie. Anyone who watched that movie fell in love with Boo. And finally, my third favorite is this house. I don't have much to say about it, I just like it.

What are your favorites?

To be healthy, or not to be, that is the question

A few weeks ago I was pushed into having a Health Risk Assessment performed on me. At SRC (where I work, to those of you who haven't been paying attention) we take health very seriously. There have been many studies done and all of them have come to roughly the same conclusion: Businesses should encourage their workforce to create and maintain healthy living habits because healthier employees are less of a financial risk. A company takes a measured risk when they hire someone. They invest time, energy, money, equipment, and many other investments in order to have someone come in and perform a function. The initial investment is the largest when the recently hired employee is still learning the ropes. The employee's output is low and training takes up another employee's time which takes away from their output. In time, there becomes a standard cost for that employee which includes the utilities they require to do their job (water, electricity, etc), their salary, their expected overtime, bonuses or profit sharing if applicable, and the amount that the company kicks in for the employee's insurance.

The investment goes far beyond just the paycheck. So when an employee works for a long period of time and knows all of the ins and outs of the business and can perform multiple functions with a high rate of efficiency that employee is one to hold on to. What if the employee dies of a heart attack, though? Oops. The company just lost that huge investment and great asset. Now they have to do it all over again. Let's tone down the severity a little bit and ask what if the employee gets sick for a day? Then the company doesn't have that asset for a day. This all adds up and it's been found in these studies that healthy people tend to miss less work than their less healthy coworkers. Therefore making the healthier employees a greater asset.

SRC has bought into this line of thinking and established a Health Committee long ago. We have a nice workout room, an outdoor running track, and an on-staff nurse and health technician. They are constantly having walks for various causes, free classes teaching healthy habits, and even competitions. There is always an incentive. For every event that you join in you acquire 1 or 2 health points depending on the event. At the end of the year they throw your name in a hat for every point that you've acquired and you can win things like a home gym, iPods, LCD TVs, gift cards, etc.

Well, all the points you acquired for the year are void if you don't do the Health Risk Assessment. So, they signed me up. They took my blood and my measurements and my height and weight and then let me get back to work. Well, this week I got back the results. I'm not happy with them. Hence the blog. I write blogs bragging about many things, but I wouldn't go around bragging about my health. That just seems like an inevitable random lightning strike victim waiting to happen.

I think I'll start with my good results and then slowly rise to anger with the others. I have a healthy amount of the good cholesterol, total cholesterol, cholesterol ratio, triglycerides, and blood sugar. My heart rate of 78 and blood pressure at 116/68 were "very good" according to the woman who took them. Now comes the bad news: my BMI (Body Mass Index) is 29.48. And according to their little decoder ring that puts me in the overweight category just under obesity. What!? That's right. I'm one Krispy Kreme away from being obese according to their scale. So let's look at their scale, shall we? BMI is a measure used to determine obesity. BMI is simply weight in kilograms divided by height in meters squared. First of all, the use of the metric system tells me that this measurement was created by someone outside the U.S. and probably set the category limitations with Americans in mind thinking that we're all overprivileged fat and lazy Big Mac munchers. Second, the only factors that play a role in determining this number is height and weight. But, that can't be accurate. There are plenty of people I know who are my same height and weight, but don't have the build. Some are all muscle, some are seriously lacking muscle, but according to this measurement they are all overweight and almost obese. What a joke.

But, what about definitions? We all think that we know what words mean, but for the sake of argument let's look them up. The Free Dictionary defines obese as "extremely fat, grossly overweight". Wesbter's is significantly nicer about it with their definition "having excessive body fat". Or maybe they're not being nice since that includes EVERYBODY. Excessive is defined as "more than what is necessary." Everyone has more body fat than what is necessary unless they're anorexic or something. Fat is defined as "notable for having an unusual amount of body fat."

So, to wrap up the differing definitions let me conclude the following. Webster's calls you obese if you have more body fat than what is necessary for your body to properly function. The Free Dictionary calls only those who are extremely notable for having unusual amounts of body fat and who are way beyond even being overweight obese. So, did this help you to decide who to look for the meaning of words from? It did for me.

In case this post has made you curious about what your own BMI is, I've kindly inserted the following link to a BMI Calculator so that you, too, can feel good about yourself. Use with caution, you may not like the results. In case you are reading this and don't have a way to check the link, then here is the formula: Multiply your weight in pounds by 703 and then divide that number by your height in inches squared. Then the cutoffs are listed in the chart.

We Gotta Take The Power Back... dannah, dannah, dannooooww Come on, COME ON!

You may be wondering what was wrong with me when I typed the title to this blog, but I assure you that nothing new is wrong with me that hasn't always been wrong with me. It's simply some lyrics out of a RATM (Rage Against The Machine) song. And those words that aren't found in Webster's were my air guitar version of Tom Morello's amazing guitar manipulations. I say manipulations because Tom Morello doesn't play guitar, he manipulates one.

Anyway, air guitar and explanations aside, I wanted to say something in light of what is going on in Washington. I also would like to admit some incorrect thinking and make good on what I've previously talked about in the last blog (Bailout Bombed). I made it pretty clear that the financial institutions are the ones to blame for this need of a financial bailout. I pointed out that "their mistakes" of irresponsible lending are now costing us money if our government decides to give them our money. Now I sort of think that I was wrong. Sort of. Rather than go into my own words, I will simply insert a paragraph that I read on Here it is.

It seems there were many forces and organizations pressuring the financial institutions to make housing loans to folks who clearly would not qualify for them. Goes back to the turn of the century. The ruse was "affordable" housing, and the slogan was "everyone has a right to own a home". (Not according to the Constitution). It was a well thought out project. It was calculated that a bailout would be needed. Congressional members supported it. A few resisted, even those resistors knew what would happen. The pressure was heavy and many-fronted. The financial institutions must lend to unqualified borrowers. Ultimately, the scheme would lead to having the citizens buy houses for the low income earners that couldn't qualify. This is clear socialism. More than that, it was calculated, premeditated, theft. It is against the U. S. Constitution for the U. S. Federal Government to do this.

The author of this paragraph is Gene Simmons. No, he's not the guy from Kiss who sticks out his tongue, but the founder of the National Debt Awareness Campaign (NDAC) who willfully bares the burden of informing individuals like me and you the truth behind the government's decisions that affect the economy and also unfortunately bares the burden of having the same name as an infamous goober. You all should make some time to read through this highly informative website that isn't flashy by design but is clearly devoted to teaching the American public the problems with our economic system. However, unlike so many other sites I have found, this one also offers solutions beyond a mere suggestion as to who to vote for. So you are aware, the NDAC does not support or endorse any political party.

I wonder now if Jodi and I didn't benefit from this pressure on the financial institutions in some way. We got approved for our home loan in January of last year after a long road of fixing our (when I say "our" I mean "my") bad credit and building up good credit. I wonder if we would have qualified under normal circumstances. However, I would hardly put us into a category alongside all these people who are foreclosing on their homes. Most of these cases are with people who couldn't afford the home that they were buying in the first place. Some people just shouldn't be able to buy a home if they don't have the income to warrant it. We had the income and the career longevity and job security and the low debt-to-income ratio. We just had a poor credit score since we had a severe lack of credit hits. I always thought that it was good to buy things outright in cash and that it was responsible to turn down credit card offers. However, it turns out that if you ever do want to borrow money, you'll need to show a history of doing just that. Which makes sense, but then the problem of getting that first lender to lend you money arises.

I've strayed here a bit, but I wanted to let it be known that the NDAC has done a lot more research than I have concerning the subject of today's financial crisis. Therefore, I'm inclined to believe now that maybe our government has planned all along to take this money from us and to give it to the financial institutions so that it allows the financial institutions to keep funneling money everywhere. And why not? Every time that money changes hands in the US, the government takes a piece. And when no one is buying and no one is selling, the government feels it necessary that they intervene to get things moving again so that they can go back to collecting. I'll end this with two more quotes.

For society as a whole, nothing comes as a 'right' to which we are 'entitled'. Even bare substance has to be produced.... The only way anyone can have a right to something that has to be produced is to force someone else to produce it... The more things are provided as rights, the less the recipients have to work and the more the providers have to carry the load. -Thomas Sowell (quoted in Forbes and Reader's Digest

A politician cannot spend one dime on any spending project without first taking that dime from the person who earned it. So, when a politician votes for a spending bill he is saying that he believes the government should spend that particular dollar rather than the individual who worked for it. -Neil Boortz

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