Thursday, September 30, 2010

Vote early and vote often

Ok, maybe not more than once per election (unless you live in Chicago), but I truly believe that you should vote every chance you can. And unless you've had your TV turned off and plan to keep it turned off for the next 33 days, you're probably aware that we have an election coming up. On November 2 in fact.

October 2 is the last day to register in SC if you're going to vote in this election. Of course, if you voted last time and nothing has changed, you don't need to re-register. If you've missed voting a time or to, you can easily check to see if your registration is still valid.

But what are we voting on? Well, I needed to know that myself, so I did a quick search on "greenville sc voting locations." (I didn't intend to add the period, but it got stuck in and it worked anyway - that's how easy this is)

Once the search completed, I clicked on the entry for "". There they had an item labeled Candidates for November 2010. This brings up a PDF file (4 pages). Now I'm somewhat informed. I'll do some searching on the candidates, but now I know what we're voting on.

Here's a promise I make to all of my readers: if you don't know what you're voting on, I will find this information out for you. Give me a way to contact you and I'll look up your state and district to find comparable information. I won't tell you who to vote for (at least not in this exchange) and won't ask you who you plan to vote for. I'll simply give you the information.

Incidentally, we're voting for state offices (Governor, Lt. Governor, Secretary of State, Attorney General, Comptroller, Supt. of Education, Adjutant General and Commissioner of Agriculture), US Senate, US Representative, State House, County offices, School District Representatives and four amendments to our state constitution. What are you voting on?

Remember - vote early and vote often!!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A lot can happen in nine years

My wife has already told everyone on Facebook that today is our anniversary. Nine years goes by fast. But a lot can happen in that span of time.

Yes, it was nine years ago today that we were married in an outdoor wedding at The Gray House, a small bed & breakfast in Starr, SC (outside Anderson - which is outside Greenville). The wedding itself was unusual, not many couples have their five children in the wedding. The bride's son gave her away, the groom's son was best-man. The bride's daughter was maid-of-honor and the groom's daughters were bridesmaids. It took two ministers to tie the knot and by some miracle, the candles didn't blow out until after we were pronounced man & wife.

Since then, four out of our five children have gotten married and started families of their own. Attending all of those weddings has worn us out. With one grandson and four granddaughters (all the girls born in a six month time period), we feel like our quiver is full, but of course there's always room for more. Our youngest is in college, he comes up when his laundry is able to stand on it's own.

We've shared a lot of joy and a lot of pain (we both had back surgery). We've both been back to school. Through it all, we've grown together. there's a saying that goes "that which does not kill me, makes me stronger." I'd add a part to the middle of that and say "that which does not kill me, or make me kill my spouse, makes us stronger."

So, with that, I'll say Happy Anniversary Nena. It's been a great nine years and I'm looking forward to the next nine. And then the next nine. And the next. And so forth. And so on.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Round up, my way or add $1 checking

A few months ago, I signed up for one of those checking accounts that moves money from checking to savings every time you use your debit card. Sounds simple enough, it's forced savings. What could go wrong?

Well, I've always been one to track my spending. In college, I balanced my checkbook (out of self-defense) so that I knew how much money I had. This was in the days before debit cards, so I only wrote checks or used the ATM, but I never overdrew my account. Even if it was only $1.67, I knew how much I had.

Now in theory, I could still track my account, just by adding $1 to every purchase or writing down two transactions every time I did one. That's a good theory, but I can't seem to make that work either. Sometimes, the bank doesn't take out $1 (I'm still not sure why) and sometimes they wait several days to take out the $1. So my balance never matches what the bank says.

And as for the forced savings, it's my own money that I'm saving. If I wanted to put money in savings, I could move it myself. It's not like the interest rate on savings is all that much about the rate on checking. So what's the big deal?

Anyone else using these types of accounts? Good, bad or indifferent?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Am I the only one in America who gets upset about profanity?

Today I read a post on another guy's blog about a politician's profanity. Actually, the first post I read wasn't about the profanity, but about other people's reaction to it. The post contained links to other blogs that expressed some remorse about the profanity, but expressed rage at the hypocrisy of those who felt rage at the profanity. (Is that confusing or what).

I did a quick search of my blogposts here using the word "profanity" as a guideline. I didn't find a single place where I raged against it, but I found several where I said it was bad.

I'm not prude, I've heard the words before and I know what they mean. I'm embarrassed to admit it, but I've used the words before. But I try to live by the rule that you shouldn't say something you don't want your mom or your kids to hear. If it can pass those two tests, it's probably ok.

I have confronted others about their profanity. In one recent case, a blogger was commenting on protecting his daughter from certain vices of the world (which is good), but also uses profanity in other posts. I confronted him with the dual-nature. My comments were accepted without anger, but he excused his behavior (I hope he is changed somewhat by what I said).

I guess the bottom line is, am I the only one in America who gets upset about profanity?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Homemade Salsa

*** Update ***
Our volunteer tomato bush returned this year and is putting out larger tomatoes and in more quantity. We got almost seven pounds of tomatoes when we came back from vacation. We're now using fresh cilantro and more bell peppers and the taste is unbelievable. I've also cheated a few times and added some canned tomatoes. You can tell the difference.

If you want the recipe, click on the word "this" in the last sentence of the next paragraph.
*** Update ***

We've had a tomato bush that is putting out tomatoes at an amazing rate. I'm not one to eat raw tomatoes (although I do in a salad) and these are roma tomatoes - too small for a sandwich. So I came up with the idea of making homemade salsa. I found this recipe and with a few changes, I had some good homemade salsa.

The hardest part of this recipe was blanching and peeling the tomatoes. I realized that in all of my (quite limited) cooking, I've never blanched before. In fact, I wasn't even sure I knew how. My wife explained the process and I felt confident. (I poured boiling water over the tomatoes and let them sit for 15 minutes or so).

The website calls for 5 pounds of tomatoes, since I only had about a pound, I changed it to 10 servings (website automatically scales ingredients). I had four colors of bell peppers and wanted to use some of each, so I chopped a small amount of each (very colorful salsa!). I didn't want to try jalapeno peppers, so I left that out completely as I did the celery. Instead of garlic, I substituted garlic salt. I intended to use a purple onion, but at the last minute used onion flakes (I wish I had used the onion).

My wife was in charge of adding the miscellaneous spices and she's not one to measure, so we ended up with more sugar and a sweeter salsa than expected. I was VERY impressed with my first attempt at salsa and would paste a picture of it here, except that someone took the last bit of it out of the fridge (Nena dear?). I noticed that the flavor was much better after it spent the night in the fridge, which means next time, I'll prepare it a day ahead of time.

I am wondering if the flavor would be as good with other kinds of tomatoes. It takes a LOT of roma tomatoes to make a pound.

I should also point out that our tomato plant is a volunteer. We didn't plant this bush. It grew in the middle of our roses and is taking over the rose bushes. We're amazed that it's there...

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Who needs states anyway?

I recently started reading a book I picked up from the bargain bin while on vacation. It's called "Miracle at Philadelphia: The Story of the Constitutional Convention" and it's pretty good. It's not what I would call a must-read or a spell binding book, but it helps fill some gaps in my understanding of the Constitution and helps you get inside the minds of the people who drafted it.

Part of what I was reading talked about the need for a strong central government and then I heard something on the radio that basically said - "who needs states anyway?" With the push towards national control of education, national control of health care, national control of banking and finance laws, etc, etc. Why have individual states?

Of course my friends and family who cheer for University of South Carolina who have to adjust to a new name if the states went away and Columbia College is already taken. But they could keep their beloved mascot and change the name to something like Gamecock U.

In all seriousness, I'd like your opinion. Who needs states? Why not let the federal government dictate everything. Why should my state laws be different than yours?

Friday, September 17, 2010

blogging for bucks

About a year ago, I created a blogpost with a contest (see here). It worked pretty well, I generated more comments than usual and picked up a few new regular readers. One of the readers won a prize, a $10 gift certificate at Amazon (congratulations again Glenn!).

Seems I'm not the only one (and I'll admit I stole the idea) who does give-aways on their blog. One of my favorite blogs is ChristianPF. It deals with day-to-day finance problems from a Christian viewpoint. Even if you don't follow this belief system, it has some pretty pragmatic ideas.

Today, the blogger announced an iTouch giveaway. So, I'm promoting his blog in a chance to win the iTouch. If you get a chance, go read

I don't recommend that you enter this contest, as I'm afraid it will decrease my chances of winning :)

Monday, September 13, 2010

How Obama thinks

I found an interesting article online by Forbes Magazine's Dinesh D'Souza titled "How Obama Thinks" (see here). Forbes magazine is typically not liberal-friendly and this article is no exception. However, it avoids the typical right wing stereotypes of calling the President a Socialist Muslim Communist.

The article starts by declaring President Obama "the most antibusiness president in a generation, perhaps in American history." It justifies this strong declaration by pointing out the debt increases and expansion of the government's control over "home mortgages, investment banking, health care, autos and energy." It details President Obama's support of Brazilian oil drilling and refusal to accept repayment of bailout money from some banks and then delves into foreign policy.

A quick check of some of the facts about NASA's new policy of improving relations with Muslim nations show that some of the facts may be open to interpretation. But even if these facts are incorrect in the story, it only shows that some of the President's selections for leadership don't get the message the way it's intended.

The article looks for answers on what drives the President and looks towards Obama's own writings - his book Dreams From my Father.  D'Souza looks to Obama Sr. for some of the answers. The buzzword from this section of the article is "anticolonialism".

The article is a very deep analysis and isn't likely to change anyone's opinion on the President. Right wingers will look at the article and say "I told you so" and left wingers will fact-check the article to death. It didn't change my mind, but gave me some insight into how President Obama might think.

One strong disagreement I had with the article was the way it treated the President's opinion of Obama Sr. I haven't read the book Dreams From my Father, but my impression is the President is very respectful of his father. D'Souza interprets that respect as agreement. I wouldn't interpret it that way. It is highly possible for the President to have a deep respect for his father, while at the same time disagreeing with some of his ideas. In fact, I would say that level of respect for his father is a good thing.

Your opinion is welcome...

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Ice caps melting slower

Seems that some scientists are now saying that the ice caps in Greenland and Western Antarctica are melting at 1/2 the speed originally estimated. It seems that some of the early estimates failed to correct for a phenomenon known as glacial isostatic adjustment. This means that the earth is rising up after being pushed down by the last ice age.

Of course, no scientist alive today actually observed the last ice age or how much the earth was pushed down by it, so we have to accept what these people tell us based on faith scientific evidence. And we know that other ideas based on faith are unacceptable.

My question is, with these ice caps melting at 1/2 the speed earlier estimated, will Al Gore give back 1/2 of his Nobel Prize? (Of course, given the current economic conditions, maybe a certain President should give back part of his too).

Link to story is here.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Burning the Koran - Updated

*Update& - On tonight's news, I heard the White House has weighed in on the subject and said the church shouldn't burn the Koran. So how is it, that they come down on the side of freedom or religion and speech regarding the WTC mosque, but against it on this matter? Yes, this will be used (if they go through with it) as anti-American material by Muslims, but won't the WTC mosque be used as well? Why doesn't the White House realize that there are some matters that do NOT require their involvement?

You may have seen this story, where a pastor at a church in Florida plans to burn the Koran in a bonfire on 9/11 (the 9th anniversary) of the attack on the US by some Muslim extremists. The leaders of the movement say that they are doing this "to warn about the teaching and ideology of Islam."

My first hope is that the President stays out of this issue. Unfortunately, the current president has a tendency to take issues like this and escalate them to a national level (consider the WTC Mosque, the arrest of Prof. Gates and the firing of Shirley Sherrod). He seems to have the idea that he can fix any problem, if we will only listen to him.

My second thought on this is that the leaders of this church have every right to burn the books. As Americans, they have the right of free speech, especially religious speech. Part of our founding as a nation begins with the concept that we are free to express our own ideas and that we as a nation are better for it.

However, I see this as being much like the WTC mosque. While these Floridians have the right to bun the Koran, I think it's a bad idea. I seriously doubt that anyone will change their mind about following the Koran (one of the goals) because of the book burning. It gives Christianity a bad image, an image of being hateful. As I said in my previous post, just because someone has the right to do something, that doesn't make it right to do it.

One additional comment is that General Petraeus is concerned about the impact of this protest on soldiers in Afghanistan. I have mixed emotions about his concerns. My initial thought is that anything that puts a soldier's life in more danger should be stopped, and stopped quickly. However, what if there are other threats? What if some group decides to oppose apple pie distribution in states in the south and threaten soldiers because of it? Would we stop distributing apple pies? I hope not!!

Americans should not be held hostage to an idea, or from an idea, just because soldiers are threatened. They are fighting FOR the idea of free speech and to limit speech for their protection is contradictory. I also believe American soldiers are quite capable of fighting ANY enemy and to change our beliefs out of fear is ridiculous.

So what do you think? Burn the Koran? Ban the burn?