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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.

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