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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!

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?

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