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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!

One-Liner Lyrics

Movies are widely quoted in conversations throughout America. It's hard to get away from someone's imitated Arnold's voice saying, "I'll be back" when they leave the room or someone hollering "Run, Forest, Run!" at a baseball game. Movies are quoted all the time. Those little one-liners are hard to resist. Even if all you're doing is making fun of the movie character you still find yourself repeating their words.

Well, today while I was working, I was listening to some music and a line grabbed me. I've heard the line time and time again, but it never gets old. Everyone has at least one in a song somewhere. Those lyrics that are clever or funny or deep, etc. Well, here is a list of some of my favorite lyrics in songs. I can't help but remember them. See if you can figure out what artists and what songs they're from. Then comment with your guesses and your own favorites.

1 - "No time frame for what I need to do today"

2 - "That used to be a library, line up to the mind cemetery now"

3 - "Tell 'em that the house is not for sale. We're still living here. How come nobody can tell?"

4 - "Little gray men are coming our way, taste just like chicken, they say"

5 - "Do you hear Del Shannon's 'Runaway' playing on transistor radio waves"

6 - "Sleeping on the sidewalk with a Burger King crown"

7 - "With fingernails that shine like justice and a voice that is dark like tinted glass"

8 - "Like a game show contestant with a parting gift, I cannot believe my eyes"

School's Out

It's hard to get away from the countless stories and news reports of our failing educational system. I've heard of many different reasons attributing to this and I've seen fingers pointing in every which direction when trying to find a guilty party for this outcome. Amazingly, there are still the occasional reports that come out that try to produce renewed faith in our schools by touting some positive numbers. But the overwhelming amount of negative reports exposing various elements of failure has left the majority of parents worried about their youngster's education.

As far as the blame is concerned, I don't feel that there is really any one culprit that can claim the entire fault. It's a myriad of reasons and causes. I'll name a few of the big hitters, in my opinion, that have considerably contributed to the weakening of our children's education.

First, the parents are to blame. Many parents don't have anything to do with their child's education. Some barely look at their kid's grade cards. According to Jacob's teacher, Jodi and I were the most involved, most concerned parents she had. And, I felt like we hardly did anything. Some of the lack of parental involvement is due to parents following society's lead and becoming busy. Today's busy society (I almost accidentally missed a typo there and left "busty society". Wouldn't that have been funny?) encourages individuals to work longer hours, eat on the go, keep kids occupied with various entertainment mediums, etc. The average amount of family time per week has decreased drastically from decades past. Society tells parents now that kids should be taught individualism and independence. So, parents feel they are doing their children some sort of favor by backing off and letting them learn on their own.

Second, "No Child Left Behind" leaves kids bored and slows them all down. Where did the academic competition go? I'll tell you where. Today's schools expunge competition in fear that if there is a winner then there must be a loser. But, lack of competition is equal to lack of motivation. They fear that having competition doesn't keep things fair and equal for all students. Our government promised equal opportunity for education. It never promised that all children would be at equal educational levels. Furthermore, since standards have dropped to include all the slower learning children in with all the others, the definition of gifted students is subsequently dropping as well. Jacob, who was top of both his class and the other class of kindergarten-ers, was denied enrollment in the gifted program in Springfield Schools. I've since been told that the gifted program fills up too quickly now that standards have dropped, and because schools are now being graded for their student's test scores, they're motivated to keep their top scorers on roll. So, in turn, Jacob's biggest problem is the same as many other student's biggest problem. They're bored. They're offered nothing to keep them engaged so they disengage. This possibility especially threatens boys whose nature is to be physically active. Boys can control this drive as long as they're interested and engaged, but once the interest is gone so is their self control. This is why statistics show us that boys are 8 times more likely to receive discipline in public schools than girls.

Third, speaking of lack of motivation, where might the motivation for schools be to offer the highest education possible over other schools? Schools get money from their state's taxes. The money is divided up by population. The higher attendance of a school, the more money they receive. So, schools are looking for bodies. They have little interest in offering the best education since there is no motivation, but rather they focus on meeting the minimum requirements so that they don't get cut out of the deal.

Fourth, parents have little or no choice in selecting the school that their child goes to. Recently, school systems have begun to allow parents to choose which school their children attend within the same school district in which their taxes are paid. However, there are limits to this choice. Schools must give priority to the students living in the district. So, if the school is full, then sorry your kid has to stick to his/her district. Let's look at the medical field as an example. Doctors and hospitals compete for business. It's generally not location that causes the individual to choose medical treatment but rather it's quality of care, and cost. It's this competition that continues to keep quality of care up and cost down. What, I ask then, might it be like if you had to go to a designated hospital and a designated doctor based on your place of residence? What do you think would happen to cost and quality? Would there be any motivation for these two factors to stay beneficial to the customer?

There are plenty of other contributing factors to our worsening educational system, but this has been a long enough blog already, so I'll end it with my proposal of a solution. Open it up for competition. Allow organizations to compete for the tax dollars. The government can still hand out the money according to attendance, but remove the restriction that keeps government-ran schools the monopoly for the funding. Allow parents to choose whatever school they want to send their child to. The government can even keep the minimum test scores for schools receiving tax dollars. Naturally, the schools will want to hire the best teachers, adopt the best teaching practices because if they don't they run the risk of losing their students and being closed down. Christian schools, Muslim schools, Catholic schools will all have the same chance for this funding. Another positive result will be the all but disbanding of the Department of Education. This government office would only need to police the use of funding and update minimum standards. This cuts out almost all the overhead which could either provide for more funding to qualifying schools or could reduce the amount that people are getting taxed in the first place. Another benefit would be the opening of specialty schools. Some schools would open specializing in teaching students with learning disabilities. This would provide those students with a better learning environment. Instead of tossing all these different students in together, the students could be better taught in schools specializing in their specific learning capacities.

By the way, I can't take credit for this idea. This is a plan of Presidential Candidate Ron Paul's. And, if you think that it could work, then maybe you should look into some of the other plans of his. He has some revolutionary ideas to bring America back to the wonderful country that it has been in the past.

Senior Photos

I'm kind of nervous and excited all at the same time. I have my very first senior photo session booked for this Saturday. I've done one photo session of a friend from church that was sort of like senior photos, but there wasn't any pressure since it was done pro-bono and like I said, we are friends. So, what's the worst that could happen? The photos turned out really nice and I really enjoyed the one on one photo session. It was a nice alternative to the high-pressure wedding and child photography norm. Taking pictures of kids can be a lot of fun, but can prove difficult. Kids rarely stop moving. And just try to get that shy child who has no idea who you are to crack a smile.

Weddings have their own pressures. From the moment you arrive at the location, you're on a time limit. You want to be everywhere to capture it all, but you have to lay out a timed strategy to get all you can. The people have hired you to give them the photos that they've seen on websites from all over the country and they expect nothing less than the equivalent. In the days of film photography, weddings almost always had the traditional poses in the same positions in the same spot that the photography had already light-tested. It was rare to find a photographer that could do anything more. Now, with the rise of digital photography, your average wedding photographer will give you stunning masterpieces that professional photographers of twenty years ago would water at the mouth over. So, since it's so easy to get the traditional shots, there are photographers on every corner that will shoot a wedding for practically nothing. But, who wants traditional photos now? Hardly anyone. Now, everyone wants the magical looking magazine shot. I can't blame them. I want them, too.

So, I've heard many people say over the last couple of years that photography is easy now with the advent of digital cameras. But, it's just not true. It's relatively easy to get photos that turn out at the right exposure, which was a difficult thing to pull off with film. But, the expectations for the quality and artistic vision of the photos have raised considerably.

So, wish me luck for Saturday. I'm sure it'll turn out fine, but I'm still fighting the urge to drive all over town to look for new locations.

3rd Anniversary Dinner

Last night, Jodi and I celebrated our third wedding anniversary by eating out at Haruno. We don't eat sushi as much as we would like, so it's a real treat when we get to go out and order whatever we want. We started out with a seaweed salad and a squid salad. They were delicious and we have to somehow find out the secret recipe. We then ordered four rolls including Jurassic Park, Pink Panther, Shrimp Tempura, and Sex and the City. They were all wonderful and very different.

We then ended the night with the opposite of a nightcap by enjoying some Starbucks mocha coffees while perusing books at Barnes and Noble. It was a fun evening that we've looked forward to since deciding on it last week. It was in no way a disappointment despite its hype all week and I'm sure that it will tempt us to make sushi at home before too long with a new attempt at a seaweed salad that is equivalent to the Haruno's tasty version.

Backing Our Boycott Decision

Dustin told me about today. It's the American Family Association. It's a very interesting site that follows current affairs and the business practices of prominent companies. I don't endorse the site, as I don't agree with everything that they are trying to accomplish, but I do think that they are doing a great service for Christians in America.

One of the things that got my attention was their call for a boycott of McDonald's. Jodi and I have been actively boycotting McDonald's for years now since we watched the documentary Supersize Me. The AFA is calling for a boycott of the restaurant franchise for an entirely different reason, though. McDonald's has been inserting itself in recent years in several homosexual organizations. They've supported them financially, paid for memberships with homosexual groups, and even paid a handsome amount for a seat on the Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. Here is a video of a commercial that they ran promoting their endorsement and sponsoring of the 2007 Gay and Lesbian Pride March.

So, for me, this is just one more reason added to what is becoming a laundry list of reasons not to do business with McDonald's. I am sick and tired of the propaganda that is being thrown in our face by Hollywood, the media, and by some businesses that not only support homosexuality, but practically glorify it. Hollywood has been adding homosexual roles to movies and television shows for years. The character is almost always given a lovable, witty, strong willed role. As if homosexuality is to be some admirable quality. Today, there are far more roles of admirable gay men in television then there is admirable straight men. Today's television man is portrayed as stupid, dishonorable, and terrible at parenting. Look at the countless examples: King of Queens, According to Jim, Two and a Half Men, etc. Not one of these characters portray an honest, hard-working, good parent. The days of moral teaching, stand-up citizens like Andy Griffith and Bill Cosby are gone. They've been replaced with womanizing characters like Charlie Sheen, and hateful, hopeless characters like House.

Furthermore, anyone that speaks out against homosexuality or even casually voices their disapproval is overwhelmingly painted as a hate filled lunatic. Or at least, a non-accepting jerk. But, why should we accept homosexuals as good people who are just being who they are? I accept the person just fine, but I don't have to accept their actions.

To those of you who disagree with me, answer me this: Would you accept a 40-year-old man who has sexual relations with ten-year-old boys? Why not? Is it because it's wrong? Are you sickened by the thought? Why is it wrong? Why is it sick? What if it were "consensual"? Why is it still wrong? Did you know that, statistically speaking, pedophilia is many times more likely prominent in the homosexual community than in the heterosexual one? And that the number of offenses per offender show a staggering 150 per homosexual offender versus 19 for the heterosexual one? These facts support the finding that homosexuality is a perversion of all things natural, a sickness, a result of the lack of conscience, and in all likelihood a mental disorder, an addiction, and quite possibly a "stair-stepping" crime that leads to even more deviant behaviour such as pedophilia. But, go on, Hollywood. Make them the hero in your stories.

McDonald's is gross anyway. So, it was an easy decision to remove it from our list of acceptable eating establishments. Besides, look what Ronald McDonald was caught doing in this video. Apparently, the woman said that she is heterosexual.

Religious Freedom

Today, Steve Helms, Greene County Circuit Clerk, removed the poster that has been the focus of some local controversy. Last week, Gary Wright and his wife, entered the Greene County office and found a small poster hanging on the wall that depicted the Ten Commandments as well as made mention of Jesus. Wright requested that the poster be taken down immediately and Helms refused. Wright threatened to contact the ACLU, write our local judges, and sue the county over the issue. The issue has drawn some heated debate on local blogs and forums. Helms stated today at a press interview that despite his personal views of the intent of The Constitution concerning the issue of church and state, he removed the poster for he couldn’t, in good conscience, cause the county to lose much needed funding over a lawsuit of this kind.

I respect Steve Helms’ decision as it is apparent that he is looking out for the county’s best interests. Our economy’s decline combined with our city leader’s mismanagement of funds in years past has brought our local government to making large scale cost cuts already. Taxpayers need not also be hit with the squandering of tax dollars to easily avoidable legal fees.

But, what about the fight? In the past decade, we’ve seen individuals pop up in many communities that demand changes be made to public places to better suit their lack of religious beliefs. Republic was eventually forced to remake their city’s flag in order to remove the fish symbol that it proudly displayed. Humansville was forced to pay $40,000 to a woman who complained about the hanging of the Ten Commandments in the school’s cafeteria. And now this?

It makes me angry because of the obvious contradictions of it all. These people quote The Constitution to say that it’s not right that these articles are placed in public places, but they forget that The Constitution itself mentions God many times. They say that it is their right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”, but they forget that The Declaration of Independence that gives them this right states that these rights come from God. You cannot tell me that the intent of the writers of these two documents was to remove any mentioning of any religious aspect from any government property. If the writers intended government to be completely void of religion they wouldn’t have so clearly stated that these “unalienable rights” were given to us by “Our Creator.”

The entire foundation of this country was based on building a free society. In its documents it defines this free society. They wanted every citizen to enjoy the freedom OF religion, not the freedom FROM religion. It specifically mentions that a citizen can also choose not to have a religion. However, it never mentions that those that choose to live in the absence of religion will have the right to live a life completely void of its impact. Religious freedom is quite specifically the freedom to have and express your religious views without fear of government persecution. But, when the court judges decide that a fish symbol must be removed or a Ten Commandments plaque must be taken down against the will of the majority it is clearly more detrimental to religious freedom than the presence of these symbols were to the minority individuals who initially demanded their removal.

Let's flip the thing around, though. What if Steve Helms were a Wiccan? And he hung a poster of a witch and "the five commandments of Withcraft" in the Circuit Clerk office? What if Gary Wright were a Christian that complained about it and ordered it to be removed to Helm's refusal? Would a majority of Springfield be backing Wright in this scenario? Probably. So, just as Helms is forced to make his decision despite his views, I, too, must say that the public display of said articles in government-funded establishments should not be tolerated.

But wait. Could context have anything to do with the final decision? Some courts have the Ten Commandments displayed among other documents that the laws of the land were based off of. Isn't it appropriate for a court to display the origins of the laws that it enforces. I think so. I don't like following any rule without questioning its purpose and there's no better way to understanding purpose than to look back at its origins. So, it could be said that displaying the Ten Commandments in the office of the Greene County Circuit Clerk would be completely acceptable. Right?

Makin' Headlines

I made the front page! Sort of. Jodi and Lyric made the front page! Today's News-Leader has this photo on the front page as an enticement to check out the online galleries of photos. When I got the emailed request to use the photo, the editor was hoping that I would call her that day, but I failed to check my e-mail until the following day. I called her and gave her permission to use it, but she sounded like she didn't know if it would be used or not. I had no idea that they'd slap it on the front.

When I was a junior in high school I made the front page of The Headliner, the newspaper for Christian County. I thought that was pretty cool. I had been named many times in it and pictured twice for soccer and tennis. The only times that I've been in the News-Leader was when I was playing guitar and singing at Riad. It listed my "performances" in the Local Music section. I still have clippings from any time I was in a paper. Part of what I like about it so much is that all the stories are preserved at the library in the local history section. I love this city and its history has always interested me, so to know that I have become a part of that history is exciting for me even if it is just an obscure name mention. Afterall, they have it so that you can look up a persons name and it will tell you all the pages that the name appeared. So, even when I'm dead and gone, my great-grandchildren will be able to look me up and find these little snippets.

Shocking Story

A friend of mine made the news yesterday. Unfortunately, it was because he was injured while riding his bicycle. But, he wasn't injured in any way that one might easily suspect. Rather, he was hit in the head by a power line that broke away from the pole overhead. The injury from the blow to the head alone would've probably been enough to land him in the hospital, however his troubles were not nearly over. Immediately after the shock of being hit, he was hit with a shock. He managed to crawl away from the mud puddle in which he landed, but the entire incident remains somewhat of a blur for him.

The video of KY3's coverage of the accident can be seen by clicking here. I just received the email from a friend about it and that was the first I heard of it. I'll go see him later, but say a prayer for him that there's no permanent damage.

The News-Leader also ran a short story covering it, as well, on their online publication. In unrelated news, I also am somewhat featured in the News-Leader. I uploaded three photos from our Independence Day weekend and the editors have posted them in the public gallery and requested by email that they have permission to use them in an upcoming piece. I agreed, so we'll see how that turns out. Those photos can be seen here, here, and here. However, they're three of the four photos seen below in yesterday's blog post, so you can see them there a little easier.

A Very Late Independence Day Post

I hope that everyone had a happy and safe Independence Day this year. We had a good time with some good food and some good fireworks. The kids had a lot of fun. And they were both snoozing like little angels when we got home.

Not so New, but Improved

I love math. I also like the thinking that it takes in order to program functions in Microsoft Excel. I probably would've been a prime candidate to be a programmer, but no college ever received my application. So, here I am. A guy who may not be in the exact profession in which his ASVAB results suggested he would be best suited for, nevertheless, liking what he does anyway.

I worked on my home-built Mortgage Calculator over the weekend, and completed it's renovation. This came about because I decided that it was a little too difficult-looking. I thought that I would dumb it down a bit. Make it look a little more corporate. Give the user less opportunity to screw it up. So, behold! Mortgage Calculator Version 2.3 is now available for free download. You'll find it above in the "Downloads" drop-down menu.  It's much easier to use and understand and it even comes with an introduction that walks you through it step by step.

I invite anyone to download this and try it out. I could use some feedback. Does it work for you? Could it use something else? When you filled it out with your information, did you get formulas returning the dreaded "#N/A"? Let me know.

Famous Names

Today, I was checking out some of the headlines on today's News-Leader Online. Two of the stories that I read contained people whose names brought to mind other famous characters. You might need to click on the photos so that it makes them full size for you to be able to read them.

The first story was about three separate people who are all being charged with arson from non-related fires. According to Springfield's Fire Department, the number of cases of arson in Springfield is on the rise. But, it's a good thing that we have able-bodied people running these investigations such as our very own Fire Marshall Bill.

The second story isn't funny either, as it is about a 30-year-old Battlefield resident who was going to be pulled over yesterday morning at 2:30 am for riding a motorcycle that failed to display a license plate. Instead of pulling over he sped away. It claims that the officer didn't chase him, but the man died anyway when he sped through a red light and crashed after becoming airborne. Later, the News-Leader released the newest investigative information that said the daredevil was traveling at over 100 miles an hour at the time of the accident. Initially, Springfield Police were baffled why the man decided to attempt to flee on what would've been a misdemeanor charge. However, the newest news release included the fact that the motorcycle had been reported stolen earlier this month. So, Curt Russell was most likely knowingly riding a stolen bike and took off to his own unfortunate demise. Like I said, it's not funny, but I have to include it in the blog since his name bears such an obvious resemblance to the famous actor Kurt Russell.

So, this brings me to my question for you blog readers. Have you ever met someone that had the same name as someone famous or maybe just someone whose name was close to someone famous? If so, please comment with the name(s). I'd like to see how big of a list we can make. My list, off the top of my head, is James Dean (or Jimmie Dean which is equally as famous), Mike Myers, Jack Daniels, and Tina Turner. What are yours?

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