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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!

Hitting the Pause Button

It's been brought to my attention that my wife and I are full of great ideas and good intentions, but that all too often the ideas that we do have are not getting carried out. It's true that my wife and I have carried out a good number of our ideas, many of them becoming successfully competed projects. Our home improvement projects have been successful ones, for example. However, it seems with every good idea that we went forward with there are three more that only stayed in the idea stage and never had any effort applied to them.

Jodi got a revelation last week that led to us committing to stop saying the word "need." It must be extracted from our vocabulary. We've said it hundreds of times. "We really need to (fill in the blank with a great idea)." We would say it over and over again, yet no one ever acted on the declaration.

Saying that you need to do something does a couple of things, neither of them beneficial. For one, it takes the joy out of the proposed action that is being talked about. No one wants to do something that needs to be done. All of a sudden that idea's follow through became a task. We have enough of those. We don't want any more.

The other negative outcome from saying "need" is that it automatically and inherently gives you an excuse not to do what you are "needing to do." The word 'need' implies that it is something that must be done, of course. However, in America, our basic needs are generally met with overflowing abundance. Therefore, when we use the term 'need' we are generally referring to a large list of back-burner tasks that we can start and stop at our leisure. When we say, "I need to go to the DMV and renew my tags," we're really saying, "At some point, maybe even the last minute or even after they have expired, I'm going to find a time that is most convenient for me and I'll renew my tags. And, if I get a ticket in the meantime, I'll complain to everyone I know about how I was wrongfully ticketed since, unlike everyone else, I didn't have time."

Farley Lewis gave the message on Sunday morning and confirmed this change of vocabulary. The sermon was about our time, what we choose to do with it, and how we will be judged on those activities. An analogy was used that really put it into perspective for everyone. Farley and his daughter went to Incredible Pizza, a pizza buffet that has an elaborate arcade room in the back. Money was spent, tickets were acquired, and time was spent deciding on what to "buy" with the acquired tickets. In the end, the daughter was able to trade her tickets for an old-fashioned child's helicopter. It was the kind that is just a wooden stick with a plastic propeller that you spin in your hands and it flies. I didn't catch what exactly was wrong with the helicopter, but it didn't work. Maybe it broke, I'm not sure. Anyway, it doesn't matter. The point is that all this time and money was spent to acquire this worthless piece of garbage.

Farley likened the tickets to our time. If a day were a ticket, we are trading it in for something. But, what is that something? Are we "buying" something with our tickets (time) that in the end will be worthless? It was a great and challenging message, one in which I have taken to heart.

One of the ideas that we have is huge and will take a lot of time, creativity, and mental dedication. So, in order to actually take this idea and turn it into the amazing thing that it should be, I'm going to have to rein in my time spent on other activities, including this blog. I really enjoy writing blogs, but I'll also really enjoy writing for this new project. One holds me back from the other, so I'm choosing the one in which I feel I'm supposed to be dedicated.

I'll still blog every now and again, but they'll be less wordy, less time consuming, less creativity-zapping, less thoughtful, ... less of me.

Civil War Weekend

Last weekend, I was transported back 150 years in the past to witness the first major battle of the Civil War at Wilson's Creek. From Thursday evening through Sunday afternoon, it was nothing but muskets and cannons for me.

The Battle of Wilson's Creek was an interesting one, to say the least. So many stories and keepsakes have been preserved from this battle and those who fought in it. Even the actual site of the battle has been kept virtually untouched. This August marked the 150th anniversary to that battle.

To commemorate the event and those involved in it, Wilson's Creek Publishing is working on the release of a 144-page coffee table book that will be full of the artistic photography of six local photographers. This book will be published and sold in various markets.

I was honored to be chosen to be one of the six photographers that has contributed to the book. I'm very excited about having my work published. How cool is that? I've had my photography used for some things, but never in a published book to be sold.

I also put the website together that it would be sold on for the reenactors. KY3, one of our local news stations, picked up on it and wrote a short article about the book. They even grabbed a photo I had made of the book for the website and used it in their online article, though they have recently taken that down probably due to someone realizing that you can't just grab someone's artwork. Though, of course, I didn't mind.

The other photographers were, in no particular order, Jeremy Russell, Jenn Russell, Gail Irwin, Shannon Alexander, and Gina Beamish. They all did great and were a lot of fun to work with. I hope book sales go well!

Motorcyles: Enjoyment vs. Risk

Dustin won the 5 Years & 300 Blogs game that I had on the last post. Congratulations, Dustin! And, happy birthday, too! For his prize of choosing my next blog topic, he sent the following:
How much more dangerous is it to ride a motorcycle than drive a car? Since I ride a lot now, I am constantly getting told, basically, that I am waiting to die. Well, am I? Or is speed, alcohol, and other variables more of a factor?
It's interesting that he chose this topic. Only twelve days ago I attended my step-brother's funeral. Michael died when his motorcycle left a rural highway, struck an embankment, and landed in a field. There were a couple days in between the last time anyone had any contact with him and when he was found. It had to be a closed-casket service. He was only 30.

Michael's funeral was the third funeral that I have attended in my lifetime that was from a motorcycle accident. So, I am familiar with the subject of the dangers of riding motorcycles, though I will do my best to remain unbiased for the remainder of this.

First, let's look at some statistics you may not know. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has lots of reports out there that offer all kinds of statistics. This report shows that 45% of all motorcycle crash fatalities are single-vehicle crashes, meaning no other vehicle was involved. This number seems high to me, though Edgar Snyder reports that of all fatal accidents nationwide (including all forms of motor vehicles) 61% were single-vehicle crashes. I can't conclude anything from these stats, but found them interesting, nonetheless. I figured that most crashes occur when two or more vehicles collide. Apparently, I was wrong. Again, these stats don't answer anything. I just found them particularly curious.

Where the rubber meets the road in this particular debate, that Dustin brings up, is found in Report # DOT HS 811 159 released by the NHTSA. On page 3 of the report, it has a graph directly comparing the fatality rates between motorcycles and passenger vehicles per miles traveled. That "per miles traveled" is important because fatality rates alone don't tell you anything. A whole lot more people die in passenger vehicle crashes every year compared to the same with motorcycles, but that's not comparing apples to apples. Motorcycles make up only 3% of all registered vehicles in the U.S. And, they only account for .4% of all miles traveled by registered vehicles in the U.S. So, in order to compare correctly, you have to add in the "per miles traveled" factor.

This graph shows that per vehicle mile traveled in 2007, motorcyclists were about 37 times more likely than passenger car occupants to die in a motor vehicle traffic crash and 9 times more likely to be injured. This answers Dustin's first question. I'll answer his second question without the aid of statistics: No, he's not basically waiting to die. People shouldn't speak curses over him. It would serve him well to break them off of himself. The curses, not the people. I personally told Dustan Hobbs, more than once, that he was "going to die on that thing." I would follow this spoken curse with the usual warnings to be careful and all, and of course, it was said in a jokingly manner. But, regardless, I will forever regret that those words escaped my lips just months before his death at 20 years old. And, I would impress on people not to make the same mistake.

To answer the third and final question, those factors are indeed causes of motorcycle accidents, but they are also factors in passenger vehicle accidents as well. For example, this same report shows that 35% of fatalities from motorcycle accidents involved the motorcycle speeding, but cars had 23% in which to compare. Likewise, the percentages for vehicle riders involved in fatal crashes who had a blood alcohol level above the legal limit were 29% for motorcycles and 23% for cars.

So, while you can say that your likelihood of dying in a crash on your motorcycle significantly decreases if you refrain from drinking alcohol, speeding, etc., dying in a car crash also decreases significantly from these practices. So, the fatality rate comparison of sober, speed limit aware drivers/riders is still similar to the total fatality rate comparison that shows that motorcyclists are 37 times more likely than passenger car occupants to die in a motor vehicle traffic crash and 9 times more likely to be injured.

In conclusion, a motorcycle may be exhilarating to ride and more fuel efficient among other benefits. However, it unfortunately also has a greater measured risk than most of the alternatives in transportation. And, it ultimately comes down to whether or not the owner or potential owner wants to take that risk. I, for one, love motorcycles. I know the feeling that riding one produces. But, I choose to drive around two tons of steel instead. To each their own.

5 Years & 300 Blogs

I actually started blogging on MySpace back when MySpace was all the rage. But, in August of 2006, I decided to go pro and get an actual blog site rather than continue to use the blogging option on my social networking page. Not long after that I decided to scrap my MySpace page altogether. I was growing increasingly bored with it.

So, now it's been five years since I moved to Blogger. And, this is the 300th Blogger blog that I've written. I feel like maybe I should celebrate in some way, but I'm not sure what to do. I could give away "the words" T-Shirts to the first 50 people that comment on this blog, but I don't have any "the words" T-Shirts to give away. They don't even exist. I just GIMPed this together.

I'd like to play a blog game of some sort. I did that for my birthday last year. It was a Celebrity Guessing Game full of celebrities who were all my age. You had to name them all just from their head shots. It was sort of fun to make. My brother-in-law, Chris Steward, won that one. I did another just like it a couple years before that when I was turning 29. I used a different set of celebrities that time. My beautiful wife won that game.

So, what game can we play? I've done celebrities twice so it's time for something new. How about the first person to decode some Mad Gab phrases?! That should be fun. If you don't know how to play Mad Gab, don't worry. It's easy. Just read the phrase and decide what phrase it really sounds like. For example: "Sit Jerk Lock" is really "Set Your Clock" and "Shack Each Anne" is really "Jackie Chan." Get it? Let the games begin!

The first person to type all the answers into a comment wins the opportunity to choose my next blog topic. But, don't play unless you will actually pick a blog topic for me. :)

  1. Dawned Hutch Debt Aisle
  2. Arrow Man Tick Calm Eddy
  3. Pen Silly Raise Her
  4. Thug Yet His Burger Dress
  5. Bah Kin These Addle Ache Ken
  6. Shake Key Low Kneel
  7. Lie Fizz Booty Fell
  8. Wheel Fair El
  9. Sent Tom Hanukah
  10. Mike Lion Tis Inner Scent

$5 Lesson & Repurposed Technology

Last week, I was able to stop in for a few minutes at one of my favorite places to shop, STD Flea Market. Out of all the flea markets in town, STD is my favorite. It has a strange name, I admit, though an innocent one. The acronym stands for Springfield Tool & Die. The story goes that the owner of Springfield Tool & Die retired and turned the two buildings he still owned into flea markets since they weren't much good for anything else.

I love both stores. I've found some really good items over the years for myself and have even resold some items bought there for a quick and nice profit. Jodi had a booth in the downtown location for a brief stint, but it didn't do all that well. After the cost of booth rent, we showed that we were pretty much just breaking even which means we were going to an awful lot of trouble to just give stuff away.

Anyway, back to last week. I stopped in and was eventually drawn like a fly to a booth that was full of electronics. I mean full! There was everything from VCRs to DVD players to computers, to laptops, to digital TV converters, etc. It was cool. I spotted a stash of LCD monitors all of which were priced at $5. Of course, there was no way to test them immediately available, but after a search through the store I found a computer in another booth that had a power cord. I swiped it, grabbed the biggest monitor (a 22-inch), found an outlet, then a ladder to reach the outlet and was finally in business. The monitor powered on and showed a "no signal" message at which I took to be a good sign that the monitor worked fine. I knew, however, that chances were that it had issues that I wouldn't find out till later. I figured $5 was worth the gamble.

Upon fully testing it later, I found that it didn't work. It would come on for about 2 seconds and then the screen would go dark. I did some research online and found it to be a very common problem with LCD monitors. It's just a backlighting issue. I was able to confirm that the LCD part was still functioning from being barely visible when looking very closely. You just can't see it because the lights that light up the screen aren't on.

Usually this is the cause of the inverters going bad. It's so common, in fact, that there are several different companies that sell kits to fix this issue. I took the entire monitor apart and really became acquainted with how they work. I tossed around the idea of buying the replacement parts to fix the monitor at about a cost of $30, but decided that even a 22" LCD monitor wasn't worth $35 to me. And, I shouldn't spend $30 to justify the $5.

It was hardly a total loss, though. I now know how to repair the most common problem found in LCD monitors as well as LCD TVs. That lesson is definitely worth $5. So, I'll keep my eye out for people selling "broken" LCD televisions on Craigslist. I've seen them been given away for this reason. So, maybe I'll be able to find and repair such a score.

Also, rather than toss out the monitor, I had the idea to repurpose it. It's now a $5 picture frame in my office at work. Have you ever bought something that turned out to be junk? Have you ever repurposed junk into something useful or unique?

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