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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!

Electronically Mugged

Last Tuesday night, I needed to make a quick run to Walgreens to pick up some child's pain reliever for our daughter.  I went to pay with my debit card but it was declined.  I furrowed my brow and said "Well, that's not right.  Let's try it again."  This received the same result as the first attempt, so I conceded and paid with my credit card.

Back in the car, I checked my account with my phone and found some rather interesting charges on our account.  There were a total of $900 worth of charges made just outside Chicago on the Indiana side at Walgreens (ironically), Family Dollar, and a Dunkin Donuts.  Evidently, my debit card information had found its way into the wrong hands.  Like, seriously, some really wrong hands.  Who spends $900 at Walgreens, Family Dollar, and Dunkin Donuts?

I called and had both mine and Jodi's cards cancelled.  The next day, I went to my bank and they very quickly credited me back all the charges without a fuss.  One more reason that I highly recommend Great Southern Bank.  They've always been great to deal with and a welcome change from 12 years at Bank of America.

I was very fortunate and feel blessed to have had this happen when it did rather than some other time.  I had just paid several bills and had all those transactions go through without anything left pending when the thieves made the charges.  Had there been things pending, charges would have accumulated.  And, while Great Southern would have credited me back any fees that they charged, they wouldn't have been able to do anything about the fees that resulted on any other company's end such as returned check fees, late fees, etc.  But, like I said, nothing like that happened so it turned out to be a pretty easy fix.  Much more than I can say for most people who have to deal with these sorts of things.

Just after the event, we got a notice from the back that Mastercard had informed the bank that a lot of cards were compromised due to a digital security breach at some company.  One thing that I have learned from this is that it's important to check your account daily.  With debit cards, time is of the essence.  There are laws to protect the owner of the account, however, there are also time requirements on the disputing of charges.  So, a daily reviewing of your checking account is pretty important.

Fascination With The End of the World

We Americans are no stranger to movies about the end of the world, but I find it odd when there are so many different apocalyptic films at one time in theaters.  It seems that America has had an insatiable appetite for seeing different depictions of one of three plot scenarios:

1. A tale of the world coming to the brink of destruction only to be saved by some unlikely hero.
2. A tale showing the world being detroyed by some uncontrollable force(s) yet following the lives of a surviving minority.
2. A post-apocalyptic tale of survivors of some world-destroying event.

In short, people want to see the before, during, and after of the earth being destroyed.  And, maybe it's not just America.  Maybe everyone everywhere enjoys being entertained with stories of cataclysmic destruction.

Well, one must look no further than the Bible for such stories.  For example, Noah and his family were the only survivors of a global flood (Genesis 6).  This flood dramatically and violently altered the landscape not just by drowning it, but by radically eroding it and depositing massive amounts of sedimentary layers burying both land and sea creatures.

There are many differing theories on biblical eschatology, yet the common denominator is that there will be a measured destruction of the earth (2 Peter 3:10) and that there will be a new earth (Isaiah 65:17, 2 Peter 3:13).

But, one doesn't have to be a Christian to be fascinated by the concept of a detroyed earth.  Evidently, as the presence of all these summer blockbuster movies pictured here that are currently in theaters would suggest, everyone is interested in experiencing a future loss of life as we know it, as long, of course, as we can experience it on the big screen.

The big difference between the two groups as it concerns the subject at hand is that while non-Christians may seek entertainment in theaters watching the almost, during, or aftermath of the destruction of the earth and chalk it all up to fiction and fantasy, Christians know that the destruction is inevitable, though the cause will be different.  It won't be a race of extraterrestrials come to claim property, flesh-eating zombies looking for a meal, or a Lex Luther looking for power through global dominance.  Regardless, the world will end.

Now, don't go using this as some excuse not to recycle or to run up a bunch of debt you have no intention of paying off.  No.  We are stewards of this earth.  And, it's our job to be responsible with it as well as with our finances.  Yes, the Bible talks a lot about that, as well.

I know what some of you are thinking.  You're like "what a Debbie Downer!"  Well, there is good news.  There may not be a non-fictional man from planet Krypton watching out for you or a gang of half-men-half-turtles in your local sewers or a group of mutant teenage do-good-ers living in some mansion at the ready to thwart humanity's newest nemesis.  But, there is a Savior.  There is One who laid down His life, paid our debt, overcame death, and offers us eternal life on His merits.  No fictional character has ever even attempted that.  His name is Jesus.  And, you can read about Him in the greatest comic book ever written, the Holy Bible.

Issue of Equality?

Last Tuesday, I was listening to the "Bible Answer Man" radio show on Bott Radio Network.  This is a live broadcast that welcomes people to call in and get a chance to ask whatever question they like.  The show's host, Hank Hanegraaff, then does his best to answer that question from what he sees as a biblical perspective.  I found that I like the show despite the fact that I don't always agree with his answers.  I guess I just like interacting in conversations about things that matter to people and how they relate to the Bible.  Granted, the conversation is taking place without my ability to interact.  But, being a fly on the wall is apparently alright with me since I continue to tune in.

I downloaded the mp3 from the show last Tuesday and trimmed it down to the one caller's two-part question along with Hank's responses.  I have included that at the bottom of this blog entry in case you would like to hear it for yourself.

The question essentially went like this:  Since we are equally granted the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, shouldn't same-sex couples be equally granted the same rights and benefits as heterosexual married couples but in the form of civil unions?

This question came from a Christian who thinks that it is "inequality" to give benefits to married people yet deny those same benefits to same-sex couples.  The more common argument is that they want same-sex couples to be granted the right to get legally married thus providing them with the same benefits.  Though, in listening to their arguments, most are not so concerned with the benefits.  They just use them as a point to argue about, but really they're looking to be treated as equals by the law.  This is a tough one to argue simply because, like the photo depicts, one who disagrees with the misguided movement is quickly labeled as a bigot, a hatemonger, a racist (quite the stretch there), intolerant, unloving, etc.

I thought, at first, that Hank was going to answer this question as I would have answered this question but he didn't.  He dived straight into the arguments against redefining marriage.  Which is fine, but I feel that he missed the opportunity to confront the underlying assumption that the question is posing.  The question is assuming that there is a lack of equal rights between a heterosexual man/woman and a man/woman who self-identifies as a homosexual.  The assertion being made is that heterosexuals enjoy a right to marry and the rights to the benefits that go along with that while those who claim to be homosexual are denied those rights.  However, this assumption is simply not true.

The fact is that all adults have the equal right to marry whomever they choose as long as they meet the criteria required to be a lawful marriage.  We all have the same criteria to that right.  Therefore we all have equal rights.  There are certain criteria that need to be met in order to receive a marriage license.  Just off the top of my head, here are some of those criteria:
  • There must be two applicants applying for the marriage.  (You can't marry yourself, or your imaginary friend.)
  • Both applicants must be humans.  (No explanation necessary.)
  • Both applicants must be alive.  (No marrying dead bodies.)
  • Both applicants must be present.  (No absentee ballot marriages.)
  • Both applicants must be adults.  (I believe that some states will allow minors of a certain age to marry with parental consent, though I don't personally believe this is a good practice.)
  • Both applicants must consent to the marriage.  (No forcing marriage on someone.)
  • Both applicants must be of sound mind.  (No forcing marriage on someone who may not willfully choose it if they had the ability to properly communicate their wishes.)
  • Both applicants must not be immediately related.  (No one seems to be debating this despite the fact that pretty much all of the same arguments being made for the allowance of same-sex marriage also apply to this category.  Right?)
  • The two applicants must consist of a man and a woman.  (This gets into the popular "redefinition of marriage" debate.)
  • The two applicants must not already be married to another person.  (The polygamy argument.  Not too many debating this one either, albeit with the spotty success of same-sex marriage legalization, more polygamists are coming out of the woodwork looking to piggyback with the same set of arguments and the watered-down legal definition of marriage.)
Since we all have the same rights that have the same restrictions we do have equal rights.  Where the argument takes the turn is when someone makes the statement that they can't legally marry who they love.  What is happening here is two things: 1.  They are trying to say that marriage is the legal recognition of those that love each other.  But, even Tina Turner points out the problem here with her hit song "What's Love Got To Do With It?"  As demonstrated in the list of criteria above, the government doesn't require nor recognize love.  And, we don't want them to.  2. They are trying to shift the equality from people to actions.  But, equality doesn't translate to actions.  Actions are not equal unless they are the same action, which in the example cited (the love between a same-sex couple versus the love between an opposite-sex couple) is not at all the same action.  One can't compare one love to another regardless of "sexual orientation".  But, that is another argument all together.  Hank went straight to this argument when trying to answer the question.  And, I can see why.  He knew that this is where it was going.

Where my answer would've differed is that I would have started with the refutation of the assumption of the question that implied that there is a lack of equal rights happening here.  I did this in the paragraphs above.  Then, to refute that civil unions should be allowed to offer the same benefits to same-sex couples, I would've simply stated that the benefits given to opposite-sex marriages are given because it's the only union that can possibly produce our nation's greatest asset: children.  Same-sex unions can not do this.  The argument goes like this in its purest form:
  1. By nature and design, 100% of children are produced by one man and one woman.
  2. Only male/female relationships can provide a mother and father to a child — the intuitive ideal supported by countless studies.
Same-sex unions cannot produce children nor can they ever produce the ideal household in which to raise other children.  Without the production of children, our nation will not survive.  And, without the production of ideal child-rearing environments, our nation will fail to produce successful future generations.  It is in the best interests of our government and the advancement of our culture to encourage opposite-sex marriages through whatever means within our power.  Therefore, the government has no business offering same-sex unions the same benefits since their unions are not nor will they ever be equally beneficial to society as opposite-sex marriages have always been.

Mapping Out Your Travels

I got to talking with my wife last night about all the different states that we have been to over the course of our lives.  I've decided that there should be some universal rules in place to determine whether or not you've truly visited a state.  They are as follows:
  1. You must have been old enough to have memories of the state you visited. (I was taken to California in 1979, when I was only a couple months old, but that doesn't count because, clearly, I have no memory of the trip nor the destination.)
  2. A flight layover at an airport doesn't constitute visiting that state unless during the layover you left the airport and went somewhere.  (I have changed planes in Memphis, TN, Charleston, NC, and Atlanta, GA but since I never left those airports, I can't claim that I've been to those states.  I'd like to be able to check them off since that would complete the entire southeast U.S. for me, but I didn't really experience them just from walking through an airport there.)
  3. Driving through a state does count for having visited that state.  (I feel that driving is a much more intimate way of travel than flying.  While it can be debated whether or not you actually "experienced" the state by zooming through it at 65 mph, I don't believe that an argument against having been there would be a valid one.  When driving or riding in a vehicle, you see the landscapes, the big cities, the small towns, the geography.  You experience the climate, see the local fauna, the habitats, etc.  It may not be as good as a guided walking tour and certainly isn't as equal to having lived in a state.  However, I maintain that driving through a state counts.)
The map at the top indicates all the states that I have visited.  The lower map is all the states that my wife has visited.  Ours are pretty close.  She's been to fourteen and I've been to seventeen.

I found this cool little map maker at Big Huge Labs.  It lets you check off all the states that you've visited and it turns them blue.  It gives you the html code for the map you create so that you can insert it into your blog, website, whatever.  It's fun to see what yours looks like.  It also lets you change it to the globe to check off countries you've been to.  But, I stuck with the U.S.A. only since Haiti is the only other country I've been to.  Go check it out and make yours now.  How many states have you been to?

Repurposing Pianos

My wife and I are a real pair, I tell you.  Those of you that know us are nodding your heads in agreement right now, I'm sure.  And, those of you who don't know us would be nodding as well, I'm certain, if you did.

Our most recent undertaking is adopting old pianos that people are practically begging others to come take off of their hands.  People just don't want them anymore.  They're heavy.  They're huge.  Most are slightly out of tune or have keys that are stuck.  And who needs a piano these days anyway?  It's much easier to iToss the iPod in the iHome and iRock out to iMusic.

Despite our lack of appreciation for them, pianos are a really interesting instrument inside and out.  Most people haven't bothered to check out the insides of pianos, but it's shameful that their evident internal craftsmanship remains hidden behind its external shell.  I did some reading about the manufacturing process of pianos and found that they are incredibly more difficult to manufacture than I had even previously thought.

A piano is essentially an ornate cast iron harp that is mounted to a very thick quality-built hardwood soundboard.  This soundboard is designed to take the resonance of the strings transferred through the harp and through the bridge.  It doesn't absorb the vibration like virtually any other material would, but rather it continues to maintain the resonant pitch from whichever string is struck.  The strings are hit by a felt hammer.  Each string has its own hammer that is sized and weighted specifically for that string. The action, the intricate mechanism that translates the pressing of each key to its respective hammer, is a work of art all its own.  It's a beautiful piece of mechanical engineering that not only is delicately made with precision, but is surprisingly built with such quality that most of these have lasted well over a century in excellent working order.

Here comes the crazy part.  In the last few weeks, Jodi and I have quickly amassed a small collection of six upright pianos, all of which were free for the taking.  It'd be seven if we hadn't already found a home for one of them.  Well, I take that back.  One of them, we already had and another we got for free last fall.  So, really we just got five and gave one away immediately.  So, you're probably wondering what we're doing with them.  Well, many things actually.

I've decided that we'll be using all of them, not unlike how the Native Americans used every part of a buffalo.  I already have two desks in the works that will display the harp beautifully while creating a unique workspace that will inspire creativity.  Jodi made a cute pair of "kissing songbirds" from two of the hammers.  At least one of the actions will remain intact as a display piece.  We've already converted two of the keyboards into hanging art pieces.  The player section of one of the player pianos will become a unique wall shelf complete with a loaded music roll still mounted and "ready to be played".  We're making another wall shelf out of the player's bank of air diaphrams.  We have several other art ideas and and will no doubt come up with many more as we continue.  What I love about this more than anything is that it's yet another thing that Jodi and I are finding that we love to do together.  And, that's what truly matters.  Stay tuned.  Photos to come as projects are completed.

Brazil Wins Again

Brazil has won their fourth FIFA Confederations Cup.  This one makes three in a row for them.  Couple that with their five World Cup championships, and no one can doubt that they are not the leading country when it comes to competitive international soccer.  So, why don't I like them?

I say I don't like Brazil because they're not the underdog.  They're the overdog, if there were such a thing.  I say it's nothing personal.  It's just they always seem to be winning.

But, the truth is that my disdain for Brazil goes deeper than that.  Let us travel back in time to the year 1994.  [Insert funky time traveling sound effect]  I am 15 years old.  This is the first World Cup to which I would be paying attention.  And, this is the first World Cup ever to be hosted in the United States.  For most of my life I had received scorn for being a soccer player.  It was not a favored sport in this country and in my particular home town of Ozark, Missouri it was disrespected at some times and all but ignored most of the time.  But with the World Cup games being played in every major city throughout the U.S., soccer was finally getting its due attention.

Their were three major soccer giants in the tournament.  All three countries had each won three past World Cups.  They were Brazil, Germany, and Italy.  Two other countries sported two World Cup wins.  They were Argentina and Uruguay.

My favorite team is Germany.  I had seen one of their games and fell in love with their mathematically controlled playing style.  I love Italy because I always felt that the little bit of Italian blood coursing through my veins bonded me to the country somehow.  Of course, I hope the U.S. will do well, but we all know with the lack of public support for the sport, we are way behind every other country in developing a program.  I respect Brazil for their obvious talent, but have no ties to them otherwise.

Through the month of June, the 64 games get played with the final between Brazil and Italy.  Of course, I'm rooting for Italy.  The referee's stopwatch runs out with the two teams tied.  They go into the first overtime period.  Tied.  The second overtime.  Tied.  Then come the dreaded penalty kicks.  What a way to end a tournament.  The greatest tournament on earth.  Yet, that's how it ends with Brazil defeating my team and walking away with their fourth World Cup.  The only country to win four.

Fast forward to 2002.  Similar story, but this time Brazil beats Germany, my favorite team, in the final.  Now they've won five World Cups.  Fast forward to 2013, a couple weeks ago.  I somehow didn't know about the Confederations Cup, but when I found out, it didn't take me long to discover that the last Confederations Cup in 2009 the U.S managed to make it all the way to the final.  But they lost to ... you guessed it...  Brazil.

So, when you hear me say that I don't have anything against Brazil, please call me out on my blatant lie.  I may have to work on my unforgiveness.

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