Saturday, January 31, 2009

R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means to me

I recently had a discussion with another blogger about respect. He pointed out that he believed respect was earned. In some ways, I agree with him, but in other ways I disagree.

Wikipedia defines respect as "esteem for, or a sense of the worth or excellence of, a person, a personal quality, ability, or a manifestation of a personal quality or ability." What a mouthful. It gives an example a salute in the military as a sign of respect.

But a salute in the military is based on the number (and type) of stripes the person is wearing. If a man approaches you with more stripes than you, you had better salute.

The same goes for the job world. On Monday, I start a new job (in the same company). I haven't worked for my new manager before and when I've worked with him, it's been on a peer level. But I have to respect him. When a decision is made, I have to respect the decision. Whether I think it's the right decision or not, I have to respect it (or go find another job).

Politicians deserve a certain degree of respect. In my last post, I quoted a congressman from Florida who made some pretty stupid statements. I don't know the man, and while he said something stupid, I still owe him some respect. When he speaks again, I'll listen carefully to see what value he might have. He represents the people of his district and he deserves to be heard.

A couple of our former presidents are low on my respect list. One lied on television to all Americans, told our daughters that oral sex didn't matter and then only told part of the truth when he knew he would get caught. But he was still elected by the American people (twice) and I have to respect that. When he speaks, I listen carefully to what he says.

The other president I refer to was never a "bad" president (he was never accused of any crimes that I know of), but was pretty lack-luster. The only military action during his term ended in failure. But I still listen to him. I was greatly disappointed when he spoke badly of a sitting president, something no other former president has done except during an election. But the next time he's on TV, I will listen to him again. He deserves that respect.

I've made no reservations in showing the areas I disagree with the current president. But I've read his speeches in detail and understand why he does the things he does. And I respect his opinion. And respect that he was elected by the American people. I may disagree with his actions and I may even "lobby" against them here in my blog. But I respect him and I respect his position.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Rescue Plan - Why didn't we pass it sooner?

A few weeks ago, I posted my feelings on the rescue plan (see here). I said it reminded me of a pyramid scheme as we were going to keep borrowing to get out of the borrowing mess.

However, Representative Alan Grayson of Florida has explained it and now I'm wondering why we didn't pass it sooner. Rep Grayson said the bill would "shelters the homeless, and heals the sick. It helps us to look forward to a day where we beat our swords into plowshares."

MAN!! If it does all that, it's got to be good. I would have liked to have seen a little raising of the dead, but I guess I can settle for this.

(see the story here)

More to come later....

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Digital TV Conversion - updated

You may have heard that the conversion to Digital TV has been delayed. CNN reports "The transition to digital-only broadcasts had been set for nearly a decade for February 17, 2009, but 6.5 million households, mostly lower-income, have not bought the newer digital TVs or converters for their old sets." (emphasis mine, full story here).

Congress, the ever caring, is worried about these 6.5million households. Now there are over 111million households (see here), so this is just under 6%. So why is it that we are worried about these 6% of Americans? Well according to the LA Times, "Consumers throughout America . . . will lose access to essential news and information" if the deadline isn't extended (see here).

But wait, people who have access to cable or satellites (or people who thought ahead) will have access to essential news and information. So, we're talking about people who don't have access to cable or satellites. People who only have access to the big networks. Which has been proven over and over to be left leaning. So, if we convert on schedule, those brain-washed by the left, won't be brain-washed anymore. Hmmm, maybe there's more to the story here... Oops I just lost my connection, guess I can't investigate any more.

** Update
Steve beat me to the punch (I guess I slept too late). See in the comments where he points out the vote did not pass and the digital TV conversion will proceed as originally planned. According to one report I read, "millions are unprepared". The switch will (at least for now) still take place on Feb 17. Digital TV sellers will increase prices until then....

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Two funny stories from school

Both of these are true stories, I have to protect the sources. But both were relayed directly to me from an inside source.

First a middle school kid was suspended for two days. The reason why isn't important, the father emailed the teacher and told her he was very disappointed. Seems the young lad (middle school) had been having problems so the father had him write an 1800 word essay on discipline and the consequences of suspension.

What makes this funny is that my kids think I'm the only one that does this kind of stuff.

Second is a high school kid in a government class. The discussion today centered on Governor Blagojevich being accused of selling President Obama's Senate Seat. This high school senior said he thought it was fine. After every one expressed their surprise, he pointed out that they are selling pens used by Obama and papers, why not sell his seat too? (This kid is a football player, but unfortunately, he's not THAT good).

Monday, January 26, 2009

Blog reading diversity

I try to be somewhat diverse in my blog reading. Certainly most of what I read is stuff written by Christians who are politically conservative. But I read blogs about politics, religion, life in general and even a daily blog by a Miata lover (Brian almost makes me covet his red Miata).

But lately I've been looking for some greater diversity in what I read. My posts on contrary evidence, Super-heroes needing an antagonist and even on diversity itself were basically disguised attempts to look for another blog or two that I could read.

So if you know of a good blog from another view, especially a political or religious blog, let me know.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Contrary evidence

A couple of my readers might remember reading some of this before. But not more than two. I've never blogged about it, so it's fresh for most of you.

I've always made it a point to look for contrary evidence. Let's say I'm evaluating two options, A and B. All evidence points to option A being better. It's cheaper, lasts longer, cleans brighter and makes you look 10 years younger. There's a tendency to only look at option A. But the question is, what are you missing?

This seems to happen a lot in politics. If you like candidate A, you'll only see good things in what he does. And you'll only see bad things in what candidate B does.

In the last week, we had a significant change in political leadership. Some severely dislike the former president and refuse to even think anything good happened on his watch. Other dislike the new president so much, they complain about policies he hasn't even implemented yet.

It seems to me that if we fight Democrat vs Republican we miss so many opportunities to learn from each other. We miss a lot of the people who are impacted by the decisions made by both parties. And isn't that what we should be focusing on to begin with?

Friday, January 23, 2009

A sign of things to come

I have to start by saying that I'm not happy with the world reputation that we (Americans) have due to the problems at Guantanamo Bay Cuba. Frankly, I'm not sure what we should do with these prisoners.

As an American, I think everyone deserves a fair trial. The prisoners are not Americans, but I still think they should be treated with respect and humanity. My understanding of the interrogation techniques is more than I care to understand.

But I also know that what hap pend almost 8 years ago was the most horrific thing that has happened to the United States in my lifetime. More horrific than the current crisis we face. Both the economic crisis and the perception crisis around the world. And if it takes housing prisoners in Cuba and interrogation techniques more horrific than I can imagine, then so be it.

Unfortunately, it looks like we will loose that bargaining chip. For the last 8 years, we've done it ourselves, prior to that we, outsourced those actions to other countries.

The New York Times is reporting that a former prisoner in Cuba, who was released in 2007, has risen to become a new chief within the Al Qaeda network. Is this a sign of things to come? I hope not. See the full article here.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Every super hero needs an antagonist

The movie Unbreakable came out in 2000 and featured Bruce Willis as a superhero (who didn't know that's what he was) and Samuel L. Jackson as his antagonist. Batman needs the Riddler. Underdog needs Simon Bar Sinister.

This thought came to me about normal people too. Normal people need someone to hate. I was talking to someone recently who saw another person as a villain. When I pointed out some features of the villain that weren't so bad, I was greeted with contradictions and then a quiet stare. I changed the subject.

For the last eight year, President Bush has been the villain of choice for a lot of people. I believe he intentionally took that role, to be a lightning rod for those people. He knew some of his ideas were unpopular, there were several that I didn't like. But rather than pointing the finger, he decided to shield some of those around him.

The question is, now that Bush is gone, who will be the villain? We have a Democratic President, a Democratic Senate and a Democratic House of Representatives. The individuals who see Bush as the uber-antagonist won't see the same in the new president. Will it be Rush Limbaugh (who I can only tolerate in short segments, about once a month)? Some other right wing conspiracist?

Today, I have decided that I'm no super-hero. I don't need an arch-enemy (I'm probably my own). I choose to look at the world with open eyes and not to see the villainy of those who oppose my ideas. Instead, I will oppose their ideas and support their ideas when I agree.

Monday, January 19, 2009

For such a time as this - Bush?

I'm hoping some of the people who don't support Bush will read this and comment.

If you haven't heard Wayne Watson's song "For Such a Time as This", you should go right now and listen to it and see the words on YouTube (here). It's taken from the Old Testament book of Esther.

If you're not familiar with the book, you should go to a Jewish Purim play (hopefully Messianic Jews). They put the book on as a play. The one I attended was fun, involving the audience throughout. The premise of the book is that the Jews are living as slaves in Persia (modern Iran). During this time, Esther (who happens to be a "closet" Jew) is made Queen. Then Haman, a really bad dude, crafts a plan to kill all the Jews. It was at this time, that her uncle said "who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this."

The song is interesting to me personally, because I've seen in my life where God placed someone "for such a time as this." That person helped me through a particularly difficult time, but I found later that I helped that person also.

But back to my theme, I believe that President Bush believes he was made president "for such a time as this."

At this point, I won't deliberate whether I agree with him or not, I just want to stipulate what I think HE believes. I believe that everything about what Pres. Bush has done since September 2001 has been based on that. He believes that he is operating on a power, not given by the American people, but given by God.

I have to confess, in some ways, this bothers me. For him to put so much faith, and to control the nation by that faith, well, it's just a little scary. I can't find anything constitutionally wrong with this idea. But what if his power isn't from God? Well, I've decided that in that case, I'd let God take care of it. He's better equipped than me.

So, I'd ask you to read Pres. Bush's mind a little or at least evaluate what he's done the last 8 years and see if you agree. Does Bush believe that he was placed in the presidency "for such a time as this?"

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Swing Vote - Movie Review

"Swing Vote" was our best Netflix pick in a long string of bad picks. If you haven't see the previews, it's like this: through an odd sequence of events, the presidential election comes down to one man's vote. That man is "Bud" Johnson, a worker in an egg sorting factory. He has a couple of weeks to make his decision and during that time, he's in the spotlight.

Courted by the nominees of both parties, he has to decide the next leader of the free world. All during the movie, I kept thinking, what if "Joe the Plumber" had to make that decision. Now while I might have agreed with Joe's choice, frankly I think the whole ordeal was grossly overplayed by both parties. And that's what happens in this movie.

What's interesting is to think about a given topic (say environmental protection) and where the republican and democratic candidates might stand on the topic. Then see where they stand in this movie, or better yet, where they stand when they try to when Bud's vote.

But is a single dad, with a 12 year old daughter who knows more about politics and politicians than he does. During his two weeks of fame, he and his daughter have secret service protection, yet she still manages to slip away. Bud is upset and yells at he secret service "you guys protect the President." To which they reply "she's smarter" (than the President).

During another banter with his daughter, Bud expresses his distaste for egg-salad sandwiches for lunch every day (remember he works at an egg sorting factory). His daughter explains "You want to eat better? Drink less beer."

The one downside to the movie was the profanity. Am I the only one in America upset with profanity? (an excellent website for reviews) says that there are 38 instances of profanity. I think they missed a few.

Overall, the movie was a good one. I give it an easy thumbs-up

Friday, January 16, 2009

when do you blog?

I blog at various times. Sometimes, I blog during slow time at work, when I'm waiting on someone to call me back (see yesterday's blog for an example). Sometimes I blog in the morning, when I'm going through my list of daily blogs.

Usually, I'm listening to the radio (via the internet), so blogs with music on them mess me up. I'm putting those on a special list, which I will view when I can.

Other times, I review blogs and create a new entry on my own when I'm listening to a boring conference call. Those seems to come up a lot this time of the year. Everyone is closing out for last year and starting fresh.

When do you blog? When do you read other blogs?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Failure to plan on your part....

Does not constitute an emergency on my part....

1) I went from one call to another most of the day today. People who tried to Instant Message me couldn't get to me. My answer to them - schedule something with me later. "No, I'll just try again." - OK, but it's going to be the same.

2) When you schedule something and I tell you there's a conflict, don't expect me to suddenly drop everything/.

3) Problems with your paycheck? I am not your personal banker. You should have planned better.

What a frustrating day.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

VITA/TCE Certified

Last night I took the Basic Exam for the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Tax Care for the Elderly (TCE) Certification Course. It's pretty tough, with 30 questions ranging from filing status to dependency questions. You also have to fill out two complete 1040's along with supporting forms to answer some of the questions and then do a review of someone else's form. The test is administered electronically.

The big news: I passed!! I'm now officially certified. I've probable spent somewhere around 40 hours working on this and probably around 20 of those in the last 3 days. So this was a big victory for me.

Tonight I start the software training, 6 nights of classes, 2.5hours each night. Then I start preparing taxes the following weekend. Right now, I'm just enjoying looking at my laser printed - suitable for framing, certificate.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Oh diversity, where art thou?

Several years ago, I purchased a video tape (pre-DVD days) that was the original pilot for the original Star Trek series. You see, the original pilot was never shown on TV in it's entirety. When the "big shots" at NBC saw it, they asked for another pilot, one with a more western style. So Roddenberry went off and created a new one. The original pilot came back in pieces as a two part episode.

For the initial showing of the tape, I invited a lot of co-workers from my then new job. The tape had an introduction from Gene Roddenberry that explained (among other things) that the show practiced wide diversity at a time when television was not very diverse. Indeed, the show included males and females in roles of authority, blacks, Asians, and even aliens. One of my college friends told me that the show featured TV's first inter-racial kiss (Uhura and Kirk). In the last few years, we've learned that one of the stars (Lt. Sulu) was even homosexual, although he wasn't open about it at the time.

During the show, I realized that my group of friends lacked a lot of diversity. All were white males. However, we were somewhat diverse, one co-worker asked where he could go to smoke a cigarette.

So my question is, what is the value in diversity? Should there be diversity in everything? If your company is looking to be diverse, does that mean they will be recruiting smokers and alcoholics or is diversity restricted to skin color and sexual orientation/

It's come to my attention that my blog readers are not very diverse. I did have one self-described liberal reader (David, are you still out there?), but most are politically conservative. Most are Christian. I do have a mix of male/female.

If you have some liberal and/or non-Christian friends, I'd appreciate it if you sent them my way. My message hits a diverse set of topics and hopefully there is something for everyone.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Time Zone Shifting

Seems that when my kids were (and one still is) in college, they engaged in an activity I call Time Zone Shifting. They go to bed very late and then sleep until noon. It's as if they are living their life on Pacific time or Hawaii time or something.

Well, this weekend, I'm Time Zone Shifting, except in the opposite direction. Last night, I conked out about 9pm, then this morning I woke up at 5am. Not sure how I'll get back on Eastern Standard Time...

Saturday, January 10, 2009

OK, I confess, I'm a hypocrite

My faithful readers know that I'm a conservative. Lower taxes, less government interference. If someone suggests additional government help for the jobless, I'll tell 'em to go get a job.

But when it becomes personal, I change my tune. And by personal, I don't just mean when it affects me. I mean when it affects me or those around me. Friends, neighbors, etc on an individual basis.

I've helped some people do taxes in the past and I went out of my way to make sure they got every dollar they could, even if it meant getting more in a refund than they paid in the first place. Maybe I don't agree with the idea of them getting money back that they didn't pay in (I never did), but if they have a chance of helping themselves, I'm all for it.

Same goes for welfare. I hate the idea of it. I think it's wrong. But if someone I know is entitled to collect some, I'll help them any way I can.

So why the hypocrisy? Basically, it comes down to this: if they don't take the money, it's not going to change anything, only make them poorer. By taking the money, they may be able to change their lifestyle.

This year, I've signed up to help with VITA - Volunteer Income Tax Assistance. I start my formal training next week (I've been doing some online training already). In respect to my clients-to-be, I won't blog about the details of anything I'll be doing. If I find that I can sprinkle tidbits into my blog, I might, but first priority has to be to protect the dignity and privacy of the people.

Wish me luck.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Do you believe this 100%

Earlie this week, I focused on some "facts" that I find almost unbelievable. Did you realize we're moving at over 1,000 miles per hour? Today, I'll get to my main point, do you believe the Bible 100%? I do, but I also confess that sometimes it's a little hard to believe it all.

When I first became a Christian, there were a lot of parts of the Bible I didn't believe. I mean creation in 7 days? A man swallowed by a fish, came out three days later and preached? Come on, let's get real. But as I get older and understand more, I begin to believe more. Most of the change came when I accepted the fact that God is god and I am not. If He truly is God, He can do anything He wants. Creating the world in 7 days seems to be easy enough. Why when you really get down to it, He only needed 6 days and most of that was just looking around at what He had made thinking "man, look what I did."

So, here's my point. Maybe you have trouble believing everything in the Bible. That's OK, God has seen and heard that before. He can handle it. The real key is do you trust Him to handle it? God said there is one way to Him, through His Son Jesus. Once you accept Jesus, the rest is easy. If He can create the world in 7 days, surely He can work with you to understand His Word.

If you haven't come to the point where you trust Him yet, or if you trust Him, but don't completely believe all the stories you've heard, then why not read His Word? Read the stories and ask Him to explain it to you. Then read some more.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

How fast are you moving?

I had a thought the other day, how fast am I moving? We all "know" that the earth rotates about once a day (sometimes it seems faster), exactly how fast is that? Well it turns out to be easy to calculate, according to this website, the earth is about 24,901 miles in circumference, doing a little math tells me that it's a little under 24,000 miles in Greenville, SC.

And don't forget, we're moving around the sun in an orbit once a year (last year seemed very slow to me, maybe it was that leap second?) That's a journey of some 585 million miles according to this site.

So we're spinning at around 1,000 miles per hour and hurling around the sun at just under 67,000 miles per hour. And of course this ignores the fact that our solar system is traveling through the galaxy (thinking about the Milky Way makes me want a candy bar). My question is: Do you believe this 100%

I have to confess that I don't. Oh I accept it. I've been on a plane, the "fact" that the earth is round makes sense to me. I've made models of our solar system, seen the sun rise over the ocean and even seen it set over a different ocean. But somehow the numbers are just mind-boggling.

A couple of my readers will know first hand that I love those tea-cups at Disney World. You're spinning a cup that is on a spinning saucer that is on a spinning plate. You're spinning in three different directions at once. Hopefully, you have a good stomach and the walks of the cup will hold you in.

But what holds us on the earth? Well, you're probably thinking I've lost my mind, gravity of course! But do you believe in gravity 100%? Sure, I took physics in high school and college, I've done all the math and know that all masses have gravity. But if that's true, why aren't I attracted to things around me? I admit, I'm attracted to my wife, but that's a different attraction.

I remember doing the math in high school on gravity and the earth's gravity is so much, that everything else close by pales in comparison. But who measured the earth's mass? And how? did they use a big scale? No wait, scales measure weight, not mass.

By now you're convinced that I've lost my mind. That may be true. But there is an ulterior motive here if you'll be patient. I wasn't up too late last night, and I promise there's a point here. Simply put, how many things in life do you accept as being true without honestly believing 100%? You just accept someone else's word?

Let's think about that for a day and then I'll explain a little more.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Confessions of an Empty Nester

Back in August, I proudly proclaimed to the world (or at least the part that reads my blog) that my wife and I are now Empty Nesters. Over the holidays, our nest became full again for a short time period. The son returned from college, our oldest came for an extended visit with her hubby and our beautiful grandchild (note: our grandchild happens to be her daughter). Another daughter was in and out a few nights, some friends came over, more relatives and then we ended the year with the birth of our second granddaughter.

While we were happy to have everyone come home, we are also glad to return to empty nest status. I thought I would take these few pixels and bytes to explain some of the differences we've noticed. Despite the somewhat-racy subject line, I promise to keep this "G" rated. (Note: for the rest of this post, Empty Nest will be abbreviated E.N.)

1) An E.N. generates less trash. We're not sure why this is true. All summer, our weekly trip to the curb was with a full and often overflowing trash can. Now our trips are with a partially full can. One week we even forgot and the next week wasn't overflowing. It wasn't that the youngest son generated that much trash. Maybe we've just gone green?

2) An E.N. runs the dishwasher less. Ok, this is easy. We have 1/3 less dish usage. Actually, it's probably more like 50% less as he never used the same glass twice. And he eats like a horse, so the plates and silverware were always needing washed. Previously we ran the dishwasher at least once/day, now it's 2-3 times a week.

3) Milk stays colder in an E.N. refrigerator. This surprise came up over the holidays. I noticed that the milk was warm and seemed not as fresh. After fearing our relatively new fridge was dieing, I realized that we keep the milk in the door. During the holidays, the door was opened and closed A LOT more than usual. Being the avid CSI fans we are, we deduced that the door openings were not allowing the milk to stay as cold as before.

4) An E.N. doesn't generate as much laundry. This makes sense. In fact, last night, we had a towel party. We went through every towel in the house and rated them as 1) our bathroom, 2) guest bathroom or 3) donate. Our "towel party" as I called it, resulted in nice neatly organized bathroom closets.

Which brings me to my final point. Seven years ago, my wife and I combined two households into this nest. We kept just about everything and then added to it all. Our closets extend into another dimension of time and space, just like the twilight zone. Over the next few months, our goal is to reduce, reuse and recycle as much as we can to clean out this empty nest. Expect to see a few blog posts on this subject over time.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Email to the Today Show

This morning I sent the following email to the Today Show. I'll offer it here without additional comments unless you, my readers, comment. If I get any reply, I'll put it in another post.

I've always been a fan of NBC news. During the election my son (age 18 and a new voter) commented on how much he trusted Brian Williams and I responded that this spoke to his credibility. The today show with Matt Lauer, Meredith Viera, Al Roker and Ann Curry is my favorite part of the day. I don't get to watch it every day, but when I start the day with news, its NBC news and the Today Show.

I also like the local NBC affiliate's news team. Michael Cogdill has the same kind of credibility as Brian Williams, Gordon Dill's recent weight loss experience put a face on this story, I've heard Carol Goldsmith speak locally and I've seen Geoff Hart and John Cessarich at the local college football games. The team works to build their image both on and off the air.

But it's NBC's Today Show that is the focal point of my attention in this note. My loyalty to NBC's Today goes back a long way. I remember Bryant Gumbel and Katie Couric as two of my favorite ex-hosts.

However, this past Saturday morning, January 3 I turned the Today Show off. On that day, Dr. Nancy Snyderman was talking about the changes she was expecting in 2009. In the past I've admired her medical knowledge, but on this day she chose to introduce politics into her discussion. She talked about medical insurance and how "everyone knows that it's broken". This kind of comment seems devoid of any facts and pure opinion. She went on to say that she thought the new president would create an executive order to "end this ridiculous stem cell research ban." Even the most liberal senator and soon to be president would admit there are struggles on this issue, but Dr. Snyderman simply calls it ridiculous and asks for an immediate change. And all of this is done on a news show. It should be clearly labeled as commentary. (the quotes are from my memory and may not be exact).

I will probably continue to watch NBC News and the Today show. I may even watch Dr. Snyderman again. But please let her and your editorial staff know that if she begins to talk about politics instead of medicine I will turn the TV off again.

I’ve copied the local NBC affiliate (WYFF4) on this note. I couldn’t find a single email address for them, so I copied the three anchors I mentioned above.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Happy New Year!

Wow! What a way to bring in the New Year. My youngest daughter, who was (past tense) about 9 months pregnant had a doctor's appointment early New Year's Eve day. Just a status check, but after a few false alarms they were anticipating setting a date for inducing the labor process. Much to every one's surprise, they chose to induce IMMEDIATELY.

The night before, my son-in-law had experienced a lot of pain due to an infected tooth. So he had decided to sleep through the appointment. Zoom, off goes mom-to-be to the hospital (actually, she already was a mom - see here for her son's announcement 3 years ago). I was nominated to pick up my son-in-law to take him to the hospital. To make a long story short, we got to the hospital in plenty of time to witness the birth of a 9 pound 3 ounce little girl, Audry Dyann.

Late that night, my son-in-law had to go the ER. Funny thing, no dentists are open on New Year's Eve. So, I was nominated to sit with him until the ER docs could give him some anti-biotics and pain medicine.

We've spent the first few days of this year starting the spoiling process, a job we expect to continue for years to come. Audry joins her cousin Kayden Grace (see here) and both bring their parents a 2008 tax deduction. (Way to go girls!)

Audry, welcome to the world. In June, you will be joined by two new cousins. You will always be able to say you're a year older than them.