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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!

Wall Weekend Revisited

I usually underestimate the time that it will take to do anything. I'll start a home improvement project thinking that it'll be done in a weekend and it will wind up taking two weeks. I'll give myself a two hour window to edit the photographs from a portrait session and five accumulated hours later I'll finally finish the last one. I'll even leave the house ten minutes before an appointment just to find myself sitting at a stoplight when the clock ticks over to the time that I'm supposed to already be there.

I do this all the time. It's especially not easy to predetermine the length of time needed to finish a home improvement project. And this is why I don't do home improvement for a living. I'd be out of business in a month from underbidding everything.

Well, the wall that I wrote about last week is no exception. To clear out the space where the wall will be going I had to remove the fence and gate that were there and all the plants that called that area home. There were a total of 4 fence posts and all of them were sunk 3 feet in the ground and filled in with concrete creating a 12" diameter, 3 foot long cement block. As if digging these out wasn't hard enough, the plants that I mentioned were like small trees. They had grown into the fence and made the removal of each item that much harder.

I did finally get the whole length cleared out, but not without sweating buckets. I dug a 12" deep trench and filled it in with concrete last night to make my footing for the wall. I'm now ready to start laying blocks. It will be a lot of work, but the good news is that it should be fun since I'll be able to see the wall coming together. wish me luck.

Taxes for the Axis

A couple years ago, I bought Jacob some $1 DVD's as an impulse buy near the cash registers at Wal-Mart. They were compilations of old cartoons. They were cheap so I could buy a bunch of them and it just made his day. I also thought that it might be cool for him to have some cartoons from another time. I thought of all the old Road Runner, Tweety Bird, and Elmer Fudd cartoons and thought that I even might like to watch some of them with him.

Well, to my astonishment, one of the cartoons on one of these DVD's was complete war propaganda. The cartoon stars Donald Duck as an average American worker who gets paid and then is shown having only two choices of what to do with his hard earned cash. He can either spend it and support the Nazis or he can save it and make his tax payments. Once discovering this video, the DVD was taken away from Jacob and he hasn't seen it since, by the way.

The video is about 5 minutes long, but you should seriously watch it. There are several things that I find funny about it that I think you should bear in mind while watching it. They are:

#1 - The cartoon duck that convinces Donald to give his money to the government ironically resembles Scrooge McDuck. How appropriate is it that Scrooge should represent the American government?
#2 - The "Scrooge" character tells Donald "it's YOUR war." Polls show today that the vast majority of Americans think that we should bring our troops home. Yet, the majority of Presidential candidates think the opposite.
#3 - The narrator proclaims that all Americans "should proudly pay their taxes" while the video is showing the only alternative as being a Nazi.
#4 - Notice when Donald goes to pay his taxes, he holds back a single coin that he hides under his hat. Scrooge lifts Donald's hat and flicks the coin to the collector. Donald is now broke.
#5 - The video widely proclaims that the taxes pay for "Guns, GUNS, and MORE GUNS!!" and the like. However, if you were to do any study on where our income taxes go you would find that 100% of our income taxes go to pay off the interest to the national debt. Just the interest.
#6 - Last, but certainly not least, this is a cartoon. Who watches cartoons? If you answered "children" then you are right. Our government sure does condition them young, don't they?

Wall Weekend

At my work we recently took out another wall that was keeping us from hitting our goals. This wall was both figurative and quite literal. We're going to a single production line in time. Right now we have several production lines for our many different products. Similar products for the same family of engines of course are together on a line, but that is where it ends. Soon we will have a single line where all the parts are available to build any one of the many different engines we have. While setting this up will be difficult, the end product will be a much more efficient shop floor and a better flow for material in and out.

Anyway, the point I am making has nothing really to do with my work. I simply got off on a tangent there. The cinder block wall that was taken out was going to be disposed of. I saw this material and asked around until I found this out. I asked for and received permission to take it home. It saves SRC from having to pay to have someone haul it off and it saves me from having to buy them. I got 61 total usable cinder blocks out of the deal. At a $1.18 each at Lowe's, that calculates to $71.98 worth of free cinder blocks. Of course I have to break off all the mortar since they are used, but it is a lot easier than it sounds to do it.

The project that I am wanting to start this weekend is building the wall between the house and the garage. I'll use cinder block to build it and then completely cover it with a thinset mortar to hide the fact that it's cinder block and to give it some really cool texture so that once it's painted and stained it will have a really cool old world look to it. I'm going for the look of the wall pictured here. I'll leave a 32 inch wide, 7 foot tall doorway in which I will put in our custom made old world style door. I'll be making the door, too, but I don't have the material for it yet. I haven't decided if I'll use aged barn wood or new pressure treated wood. If I use new, then I'll be beating it to death with chains to give it a certain used look.

Also, the rebar that I'll need to go under the top of the open door frame I have from when I bought my van. The guy had several pieces of rebar in it when I bought it and he didn't want to mess with getting it out. So, more free material! And, the solid flat blocks needed to make the foundation for the wall were all along our back fence row. The previous owners used them to keep a dog in where it dug a way under the fence. More free material! To finish the wall, I'll need to pick up a couple bags of mortar and roughly 25 more cinder blocks (only 17 if I put in a cool old world style window, too).

I really need to post some "before and after" pics on here. We've done too much to only type about it. Maybe, that'll be my next blog. So, stay tuned.

Unfortunate Tragedy

Just yesterday around 5:00 pm tragedy struck the home of Steven Curtis Chapman and his family. In a terrible accident, one of the teenage sons was backing his SUV out of the garage and failed to see little Maria, the youngest family member, who was playing in the driveway. Even worse, the accident was witnessed by several members of the family who were outside at the time playing in the yard. Maria was flown by LifeFlight to the hospital, but succumbed to her injuries there. She is pictured here in Steven's lap.

Maria is one of three daughters of the Chapman family who was adopted from China. The Chapman's have endorsed international adoption and even founded the Shaohannah's Hope Ministry after bringing their first adopted daughter, Shaohannah, home from China. This ministry helps to alleviate the cost associated with international adoption for adopting families.

Steven Curtis Chapman is a very well known Christian music writer and performer. With his first album appearing on store shelves just over twenty years ago, he is still out there writing new hit songs year after year. He has received 51 Dove awards for his song-writing, the most ever received by a single musician in history.

I personally was taken aback when I heard this story on the radio this morning. As a teenager, I had a bad dream that I backed over the neighbor kid, Josh. In the dream, he was in our driveway and I could not see him over the back of my car. I remember waking up and still feeling the hysterical anguish over the incident. Of course, I was relieved to find that it was just a dream, but still today I meticulously check behind my vehicle before backing anywhere. I'll never forget the horrible feeling I had in my dream and it was just a dream. I cannot imagine and never want to know what kind of anguish that family is now dealing with. That boy will always have to live with that mistake that in all likelihood couldn't have been avoided.

So, include the Chapmans in your prayers.

Some Quotes I Like

"The world is a parade of fools, and I'm at the front of it, twirling a baton." -Odd Thomas (Dean Koontz' character in Brother Odd)

"Now they show you how detergents take out bloodstains, a pretty violent image there. I think if you've got a T-shirt with a bloodstain all over it, maybe laundry isn't your biggest problem. Maybe you should get rid of the body before you do the wash." -Jerry Seinfeld

"If it weren't for the killings, Washington would have one of the lowest crime rates in the country." -Marion Barry, Mayor

"According to a new survey, women say they feel more comfortable undressing in front of men than they do undressing in front of other women. They say that women are too judgmental, where, of course, men are just grateful." -Robert DeNiro

"If your parents never had children, chances are you won't either." -Dick Cavett

"Some people say that I must be a horrible person, but that's not true. I have the heart of a young boy -- in a jar on my desk." -Stephen King

"Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society." -Mark Twain

"If you cannot read this, please ask the flight attendant for assistance." -United Airlines Flight Safety Brochure

"Did you ever walk in a room and forget why you walked in? I think that's how dogs spend their lives." -Sue Murphy

A Conversation with Captain Obvious

(Capt. O) - Your blog page looks different.
(Levi) - Yeah, I updated it with a new template and then I customized the header.
(Capt. O) - I like how it looks manly. But, that would make since after all, you're a man.
(Levi) - Thanks, I guess. I wasn't really going for manly. I just wanted to get a newer look to keep things interesting.
(Capt. O) - I noticed you have this blog page through a website. Did you know that they put it on the internet for anyone to see?
(Levi) - Well, yeah, I knew that.
(Capt. O) - Did you know that millions of people have internet access?
(Levi) - Yes.
(Capt. O) - That means millions of people will be able to read whatever you put on this page.
(Levi) - Yeah, I know and I get it.
(Capt. O) - You really don't have to tell me that you know all these things just to impress me, Levi. Your bewildered surprise look won't scare me. I'm impervious to those looks. Trust me. I get them all the time.
(Levi) - I bet you do. So, what are you doing in Springfield anyway?
(Capt. O) - I'm helping the police solve crimes. I hate to have to be the one to tell you this, but crimes happen in Springfield, too.
(Levi) - Is that sarcasm or are you really like this?
(Capt. O) - Of course, I'm not being sarcastic. It's the truth. Crimes really do happen in Springfield.
(Levi) - I'll tell you what, just forget I mentioned it. Is it true that your secret identity is Mr. Obvious?
(Capt. O) - No. (nudge, nudge, wink, wink) The only reason people assume that is because we both have the same last name.
(Levi) - But, it's been said that just before you arrive somewhere Mr. Obvious just so happens to step out saying quite loudly, "I'm leaving now, but not to do anything interesting! I'm certainly not switching to my superhero identity, which of course, I do not have, as most people do not!"
(Capt. O) - But, I wouldn't choose "Mr. Obvious" as my secret identity. That would just be obvious.
(Levi) - That's exactly my point.
(Capt. O) - What is?
(Levi) - That it would be obvious and therefore it's true.
(Capt. O) - Listen. You're not making any sense and it's time for me to go save the world.
(Levi) - From what?
(Capt. O) - From accidents where people cannot save themselves.
(Levi) - Like what?
(Capt. O) - Like, the Titanic for example.
(Levi) - You were there?
(Capt. O) - Yes. And if it weren't for me thousands more would possibly have lost there lives.
(Levi) - You weren't there. You couldn't possibly be that old.
(Capt. O) - I'm a superhero. We live much longer than you common folk. Besides, I have this photo proving I was there.

Cool Header!

I love this so much that I have to write a blog about it. I have a real love for Springfield. Most of you know that. I get excited about the new things that are happening downtown and all the renovations that are being made in the historic areas of town.

I grew up and lived in Galloway until I was 6 years old. (for those of you who don't know Galloway was a very small train stop and it's own town a long time ago. Now, most people know it as South Lone Pine around Sequiota Park.) We moved a little further north but still in Galloway until I was 8 years old. I then moved to the downtown area when my mom remarried. We lived in an awesome two story house that was built in the 1880's. 408 S. Main was just south of Walnut. We moved again when I was 10 years old when my mom divorced again, however we only moved one street over and down a couple blocks to Market and State. I lived there until I was eleven and a half.

It's funny because, all in all, I only lived in downtown Springfield for a small portion of my life and yet I claim and pretty much always have claimed to be from there. When in truth, of the three areas that I grew up, when looking at the time spent in each area, the downtown area comes in a shameful last place. To illustrate the proportions of the locations in which my childhood took place and also to throw up a big dork flag, refer to the pie graph below.

The reason I love the downtown area so much is that it is full of history. With all the renovating, the historic aspects are being preserved. And what's better than that is that the entire area is free from chain restaurants, big-box stores, and "The Man". It's all locally owned businesses. The golden arches don't pollute this city scape. There's no Wal-Mart, no restaurants with enormous children play areas out front, no Taco Bell plastic bags floating down the street, etc. It's just a great place to go to do something unique, see something unique, and enjoy being part of this town.

Well, when I saw the header for "The Front Porch"'s website, I immediately recognized it as buildings in Springfield. And, I thought, "Crap! Why didn't I come up with that?" I love the idea and it makes for a very creative web page header.

So, I ask you. Is it time that I create a new blog page header? I like the look of my page, but is it time for a change? A renovation? Comment and let me know what you think.


I have a question. I have an opinion on this as well, but I'm curious as to what others think. Is proper use of grammar, correct spelling, and appropriate punctuation that important today in the electronic age?

It seems like it all started with chat rooms that were so popular for a few months in the mid-nineties. Now you really don't hear anything about them, but there was a time when they were part of all the hot-button topics. With hurried typing being the only form of communication in those settings, speed mattered more than accuracy. If you took too long answering a question or rebutting an argument than it was assumed that you didn't know the answer or you lost the argument. So, accurate word spelling and usage took a backseat to speed.

Matters only became worse with instant messaging. All of a sudden, you were no longer in a room full of really bored people. You were one on one with someone. That person translated your every pause in ways unknown to you. Shortened statements into a mere few letters became the norm. If you weren't aware of what "lol" and "brb" meant than you were bound to be the laughing stock. You would question the definition of these new words and you would only get more: "lmbo". That was the nicer version of the more popular ones where the "b" was substituted with an "a" or sometimes the downright crude "fa".

Then with the advent of the affordable cell phone with text messaging, things really got stupid. So stupid, in fact, that commercials started making fun of this new language.

So, what do you think? Is improper grammar ever appropriate? Does a paragraph with no letters capitalized make you angry? Do you like the little sideways smiley faces that people type to add an emotion to a sentence. :)

Here are a couple blogs I ran across that are dedicated to the pointing out of improper grammar. The first one is about improper grammar in general and is somewhat entertaining, but the second one is really good. If you only check out one of these sites make it the second one. It's dedicated to the improper use of quotation marks specifically. It's really funny. If you go to it, scroll down a bit and check out their "Greatest Hits" section. As a matter of fact, I think I'll only list the good one. The other one almost gets angry about people misspelling words. Enjoy!

Why do I do it?

I haven't blogged in a week and I definitely feel like I should. The only problem is that I have no subject that strikes me as blog-worthy. I could follow up on the last blog and write about how James' Bachelor Party at the Buffalo River turned out, but despite having a lot of fun and really enjoying the time we all spent hanging out, exploring, throwing rocks, and eating the camp-food essentials, I still feel like I don't have a whole blog there. I could follow up on a recent blog about getting gutters for our house. But I feel like this would be the whole blog: We got gutters for our house. They look nice. They work well.

I suppose that I could give an update on my weight-loss goals for the competition we're having at my work. At the mid-point, I had lost 9 pounds, 1.25 inches on my waist, and 1.75 inches at my hips. However, with next week being the final weigh-ins, I've gained back 4 pounds. I don't know about the inches. So, I've got a specific diet that I'm doing until next week. But, see? Now I'm done with that and that was hardly an interesting blog. I could write about Art Fest last weekend. We went to that. But, what's to say about it?

The lack of meat to write about and the drive to write makes me wonder why I want to write at all. Why do I write blogs? Why does anybody read them? Aha! I have a blog.

My Top Ten Reasons for Writing Blogs:

#10 - A few weeks ago I re-released a fixed version of my Home Mortgage Early Payoff Calculator. A few days later, I got a simple message from a guy saying, "Thank you for sharing this tool." I looked at the guy's blog and it turns out that he is in the business of providing home mortgages to people. So, for reason #10, business professionals gain useful information from reading my blogs and the economy is a little healthier because of it.

#9 - By using large words and perfect grammar, I can prove to the world that I am not just a pretty face.

#8 - By writing my thoughts, concerns, and dreams down and broadcasting them to anyone who will read them, I stay sane. And sanity is a fine payment for the troubles of blogging.

#7 - I've always been a bit of a show off. I never did the whole Saturday Night Live Stewart skit thing, "Hey. Look what I can do."(followed by a silly jump-kick-spin combination), but I do like to display my accomplishments. And blogs are a perfect outlet for that.

#6 - I use open-source software like GIMP and Firefox. And I feel a little guilty for using these great products and not giving back anything. I can't write code so I can't help them there and I don't make so much money that I can donate to their cause either. So, by having a blog I can easily put up colorful buttons on it that help to spread the software and get it in the hands of people who will donate time, ideas, and possibly money.

#5 - I'm terrible at keeping in touch with people. And, while it's not a great substitute for actually contacting all your old friends, it does help to tide them over a bit until you can actually speak with them.

#4 - It's come in handy a couple of times when I needed to know a specific date that something happened. I've said, "Hey! I wrote a blog about it. I'll just look it up to find the date." And the mystery is solved.

#3 - I'm very opinionated. It irritates me when magazines and newspapers write these stories or report on something and take an obvious bias. They'll make strong statements supporting something that is completely wrong in my opinion. And thousands of people read it and are ever-so-slightly influenced. Thousands may not read my blogs but if I can sway the opinion of one person to my side than I have done my job as Levi's Opinion Recruiting Officer.

#2 - I love seeing pictures and reading letters and notes that my parents wrote when they were younger. I better understand them from these glimpses of the past. My kids will have hundreds of thousands of photos to look at, but I want to leave more than just pictures of my good looks behind. I want them to know who I am and what I stand for. These blogs will accurately describe my sense of humor, my opinions on many things, and my hobbies. Wouldn't you find it interesting to find a journal complete with pictures documenting the life of your mom or dad?

#1 - I'm not a terribly funny guy, but I know that my blogs make my wife laugh pretty often and little else makes me feel better than making my wife laugh.

Buffalo is a funny word

Tomorrow is the day. It's the day that I get to leave work early, pick up Jacob, and head down to the Buffalo River in Arkansas for some fun with the guys. The occasion? It's James' bachelor party. The man is gonna be all tied up next weekend and this will be his last weekend of true freedom. From here on out it's nothing but, "Yes, dear", "Sorry, dear", and the favorite "Of course I will, dear." But, look at the bright side, James. You don't have to make any more difficult decisions. You don't have to make any easy decisions either. See? It's all been decided already. As a matter of fact, you couldn't make any decisions at all even if you wanted to, because you relinquish that right with two little words.

Ha ha! Just kidding! (not really, run) Marriage can be the best thing to happen to man. (run, RUN) This sort of life fulfillment can come from nowhere else. (RUUUN!) You'll be thankful every day that you have her in your life. (why are you still here?! Move It!)

Seriously, though. I can only joke around about the subject because my wife knows how much I adore her. Anyway, we're going to celebrate with James in the somewhat traditional manner and have a "last blast". I'm very excited about. It's the first camping trip of the season. Jacob will really love it because he'll have a friend there. I'm gonna enjoy the scenery and the little time away from things to do. Even when I'm not doing the things that I need to do, I still have that feeling like there are things to get done, but not when you're at the river.

So, to James and Amber! May they get hitched without a hitch! And may their photographer show up on time!

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