Monday, November 29, 2010

Music Monday-Toby Keith "I'll Never Smoke Weed with Willie Again"

Country legend Willie Nelson got in trouble again over the weekend.  On Friday, his tour bus was stopped at a border checkpoint and he was arrested for possession of six ounces of marijuana.  It is not the first time that he has had legal issues with marijuana.  He is a vocal proponent of the legalization of the drug.

My choice for Music Monday this week is Toby Keith's homage to Willie and his love of marijuana, "I'll Never Smoke Week with Willie Again."

Come join Music Monday and share your songs with us. Rules are simple. Leave ONLY the actual post link here and grab the code below and place it at your blog entry. You can grab this code at LadyJava's Lounge Please note these links are STRICTLY for Music Monday participants only. All others will be deleted without prejudice.
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Sunday, November 28, 2010

Update on School and My Son

It has been three weeks since I have written an update on my son and school.  There were a lot of things going through my mind that day as we took him to his new school.  I was concerned about how difficult it would be to try to explain to him that we would be leaving him that day and not seeing him for two weeks.  To describe his eating as picky would be a severe understatement, so there were major concerns about him eating while he was out there.

Surprisingly, getting him to the school was much easier than I anticipated.  Saying goodbye wasn't, and I don't think he understood when I told him that I would see him in two weeks for Thanksgiving.  With me being the worrier that I am, I called the school every evening to get an update on how he was doing.  The initial reports that we got that first week were encouraging.  He tried a couple new foods like hash browns and some salad.  His teacher said he was adjusting to the schedule and working well in class.

At the time, I considered writing a post about my adjusting to his being gone.  When he is here, he basically dominates the television.  It is rare that I get to watch what I want on television, when I want to watch it, and without interruption.  Then there is the issue of buying him all the food that we buy special for him.  In addition to the benefit he would get from being at the proper educational facility, there were benefits to me in terms of my personal leisure and savings on the weekly grocery bill.  Still, the bottom line was that I missed him immensely. 

His first weekend at the school was a bit more difficult for him.  He prefers to stay home on the weekends, and watch TV, play video games, and surf the internet.  The school plans a lot of weekend outings and activities, which he shows no interest in.  They do have socials where they play music and have dancing.  He really enjoys and looks forward to those.

When the second week of school started, he had a difficult time getting back into the routine, but had a another good week of classwork.  Towards the end of the week, he started to have a lot more difficulty, especially in the eating department.  By the end of the second weekend, I was extremely worried because he had basically stopped eating and drinking entirely.  It became a concern at school as well, as they had us pick him up a day earlier than the original Tuesday pick up date.

He has been home almost a week now.  As soon as we picked him up, he started drinking again, and he has been eating his usual fare since he has been home.  Tonight, he and I went out to Watkins Regional Park in PG County, MD to see the Winter Festival of Lights.  It has become something of a Thanksgiving weekend tradition for the two of us.  As we were driving home, he looked over at me and said, "No school tomorrow, Daddy."

Tomorrow is the day we are supposed to take him back to school.  They are having a Christmas party.  When we picked him up last week, he talked about coming back to school and going to the party.  However, based on his response coming back from the Festival of Lights, I have a feeling we will have a difficult time tomorrow.  More importantly though, is the eating.  This time, he is not supposed to come home until just before Christmas, almost four full weeks.

I am not sure what will happen over the next four weeks.  The one thing I know for sure, is that it will be another four weeks of worry on my part.  I am not sure what will happen if he stops eating and drinking again.  He obviously needs to drink and eat.  He also needs to adjust to his new situation.  My son, even with his disability, is a bright child.  If he thinks he can continue to manipulate the situation and get to go home by not eating and drinking, he will display those behaviors.  Pray for us.   
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Saturday, November 27, 2010

Name or Obscenity

Dick (film)Image via WikipediaMy given name is Richard.  It is the name that I use on any official documents that require a signature.  I am rapidly approaching the age of 50.  For my entire life, I have gone by the name Dick or some variation of it.  I have been called Dick, Dickie, Dickster, and since I am a junior, my least favorite moniker, Little Dickie.

With the advent of the digital age and the internet, I have had several different email accounts and have joined several different forums.  Usually, when creating an email address or a user ID, I incorporate my name in that email address or user ID.  The user ID that I use the most is dickster1961, a combination of one of my nicknames and the year of my birth.

Sadly, in today's world of political correctness and rigid electronic filters, there have been times when I have tried to sign up for a forum and my user ID has been rejected.  The reasons vary, but they pretty much all center around the same theme that the user ID contains a word that has been rejected by the company's filters.  Once, I actually was having difficulty emailing a vendor that I was dealing with because my email signature was being filtered by his company's spam filters as obscene because it contained my name.

Whenever I have had a problem creating a user ID that contains my name, I will usually write to the company through their "contact us" link on their website.  If at that point they will not allow me to create a user ID that contains my name, as a matter of general principal I will not do any business with that company.  I am well acquainted with the additional meanings that can be associated with the name Dick, however, I take great offense to those companies that assign a rigid ruling of "obscene" to what is a common name throughout history. There have been a lot of famous Dicks through the years.

When I started this blog over two years ago, I gave it my name "Dickster."  When I signed up with Twitter, I signed up with my common user ID "dickster1961."  Associated with the blog and my Twitter account, I have had a relationship with a few different companies that have paid me for the occasional blog post or Twitter tweet.  Those relationships don't provide a lot of income, but every few bucks here and there is always a help.

The reason I bring all this up now is because of some recent issues that I have had with one of those companies and my Twitter account.  I have had a relationship with this particular company for about a year where I have gotten paid to send out tweets.  There has never been a problem with my twitter name in that time.  My last two opportunities have been rejected by advertisers because I have an "inappropriate Twitter handle."

It seems odd that all of a sudden, my twitter name is a problem.  Especially I had posted paid tweets for one of the advertisers multiple times in the past year, and it was never a problem.  I have raised the issue with the company that arranges for the paid tweets to see if the issue lies within their system or whether it is actually with the advertisers.  On the one hand, I would like to have the opportunity to earn a little extra cash, on the other I don't want the hassle of changing my Twitter ID.

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Friday, November 26, 2010

Black Friday

Today was Black Friday, the day when retailers try to lure customers in with killer deals to kick off the Christmas holiday selling season.  Generally speaking, I tend to avoid the shopping centers on this day.  I definitely do not go for any of the early morning, door buster specials.  I just don't like the crowds and traffic that go with the Black Friday frenzy.

That is not to say that I didn't try to take advantage of some Black Friday specials.  I have been debating for some time about buying a Kindle or Nook ebook reader.  I had been reluctant to go with the Kindle because I didn't want to be tied to only buying ebooks from Amazon, however, almost helped me make up my mind.  One of their Black Friday specials was a Kindle for only $89, a full $100 off the regular price.

This particular "Lightning Sale" was schedule to begin today at noon my time.  I checked out the Amazon website to see how to take advantage of the Lightning Sales.  As soon as the link was active to purchase the Kindle, I clicked on it.  Several thousand other folks had the same plan.  It took a couple minutes for the site to update, but I was unable to take advantage of the sale.  So for now, it is back to regular old fashioned books with paper pages.
Mr. Rebates
I do like the convenience of shopping online, my disappointment at missing out on the Kindle promotion not withstanding.  One of my favorite sites to shop at online is Mr. Rebates. Mr. Rebates is a portal that gives you access to hundreds of online stores. Several major retailers can be found there like Best Buy and Barnes & Noble.

Once you have accumulated $10 in rebates, you can easily collect your rebates through PayPal.  I don't do a whole lot of shopping online, but since becoming a member of Mr. Rebates, I have received three payouts into my PayPal account.  I am only a few dollars away from being able to cash out again.  If you do any shopping online, you really should check out Mr. Rebates.

As a matter of full disclosure, Mr. Rebates does have a referral program.  If you happen to sign up for Mr. Rebates through one of the links on this blog, I would get a referral commission on any rebates that you would get through the program.  However, it in no way would impact the rebates you would earn had you signed up without using the links.
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Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

A roast turkey prepared for a traditional U.S....Image via WikipediaHere is hoping that everybody out there has a wonderful Thanksgiving with all of their family and friends.  Our family is having a quiet Thanksgiving at home for a change; just my wife, my son, and I.  The turkey will be going into the oven shortly and the smell of roasting turkey will fill the house.  It is one of my favorite smells.

While we should do it everyday, Thanksgiving is a time to reflect upon those things that we have.  In no particular order of importance, here are some of the things that I am thankful for in 2010.  Some of them serious, some of them not so much.
  • Our family is in relatively good health.
  • We have survived my son's first trip to live at his new school, though it was not without its own share of drama.
  • I have a good job that is allowing me the opportunity to have the time to deal with taking my son to and from school.
  • We have the love and support of our extended family on both sides of the family.
  • We have a roof over our head and food on the table.
  • There will be three football games to watch today.
  • I have plenty of red wine in the house.
  • We still live in the greatest country known to man.  God bless the USA.
Happy Thanksgiving everybody.

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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Open Enrollment , Health Care Reform, and Taxes

Doctor VisitImage by Laura4Smith via FlickrI finally have received my information for Open Enrollment for my health insurance for 2011.  First, I was concerned because the company I work for was late sending anything out regarding open enrollment.  Then there was the letter that came from my company informing us of the dates of open enrollment and that our share of the cost would be higher than in previous years.

Perhaps because I was so concerned with the warning signs leading up to open enrollment, I have not fully decided if the final result is not as bad as I expected it to be, or worse that I expected.  Either way, it is not exactly good.  For me to keep my current health insurance plan, my share of the cost will go up 23% per pay period.  So when Barack Obama told us if we like our insurance we can keep it, he was telling some of us the truth, so long as we were willing to pay through the teeth for it.

The good news for our insurance plans is that they basically did not take anything away from us.  It looks as though the benefits for each of the available plans basically stayed the same. They have kept the choices available to us the same.  We have four choices available to us.  Two of which are more expensive than my current plan, and one that is less expensive.  The problem with the less expensive plan is that it has higher copays and a deductible.

Now the question for me is whether or not I can absorb the large premium increase into my already stretched as tight as it can get budget.  Unfortunately, it is not just the increased health insurance premium that I have to be concerned with.  As of right now, the Democrats and Republican continue to have a pissing match regarding whether or not to extend the current tax rates to avoid a huge tax increase on January 1st.

One thing I know for sure, if I have to spend an additional 23% on my current health insurance, it would be extremely difficult based on my current financial situation.  Combining that with a higher tax withholding would be devastating.  I suppose I could go down to the least expensive health care option, but then I would be faced with a deductible that I can't afford should anybody need anything that isn't covered before meeting the deductible.  Regardless of which direction I choose, it is not an ideal situation.  How's that hopey, changey thing working out? 
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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Customer Service

Image representing Amazon as depicted in Crunc...Image via CrunchBaseI got my first job when I was 15 years old.  It was in retail.  At a very early age, I was instilled with an ethic to provide good customer service to our customers.  In most of my positions over my career, I have had to perform some level of customer service.

It has been ingrained into my psyche what is, and consequently what isn't, good customer service.  As such, I have high expectations of how I expect to be treated if I am the customer.  I know how I would treat customers, and I expect to be treated the same way.

These days, unfortunately, it is harder and harder to find quality customer service.  If I am in a place of business, and I receive what I perceive to be shoddy customer service, I do not hesitate to lodge my complaints with management.  By the same token, if I encounter what I consider customer service that I consider meets or exceeds my expectations, I want to talk about it.

We picked our son up from school yesterday.  He was pretty excited about an upcoming Christmas party that his school was going to have next week.  When we got home, he asked ,e to burn him copies of some Christmas CDs that we had bought for him last year.  One of which I had saved on my current laptop (it has become my custom to rip a copy of any CD that we buy from him since he tends to break them) but the other was going to be a problem.

The second CD was called "60 Christmas Carols for Kids" that I purchased as a digital download from last year.  Unfortunately, I had those MP3s saved to an older laptop and an external hard drive, both of which have crashed in the past 6 months.  (Remind me to start making backups of my backups.)  I contacted Amazon customer service through their website, informed them of the situation, and asked if there was any way to allow me to re-download the files.

I received an email from them in less than 12 hours informing me that they had reinstated the option to download all of my previous MP3s that I had purchased from them.  Since the original purchase was over a year ago, I fully expected that they would not be able to help me.  Tonight I have downloaded all of the files that I needed, and burned them onto a couple of CDs for my son. 

In today's day and age, it has become increasingly difficult to find good customer service.  My experience has shown it is even more difficult to find it in larger companies.  I want to publicly thank for helping me out in this situation, and making it much easier to provide my son with the CDs he wanted.

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Monday, November 22, 2010

Music Monday-Dwight Yoakam "Close Up the Honky Tonks"

When I was a kid, my dad used to listen to a lot of country music. We used to hear a lot of classic country back then; Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Hank Williams, and Buck Owens.  Over the years, I have come to appreciate all of those artists, but at the time, my favorite was Buck Owens.  I guess primarily because we used to see him weekly on the old television show "Hee Haw."

Buck got a bit of a resurgence when he did a duet with Dwight Yoakam called "Streets of Bakersfield."  There was a special relationship between Dwight and Buck.  You could tell that his style was heavily influenced by Buck.  If there was to be an artist to do a tribute album to Buck Owens, there was nobody better to do it than Dwight Yoakam.  When Dwight released his CD "Dwight Sings Buck," I had to have it.  There is a lot of good music on the CD, but my favorite is this one, "Close Up the Honky Tonks."  

Come join Music Monday and share your songs with us. Rules are simple. Leave ONLY the actual post link here and grab the code below and place it at your blog entry. You can grab this code at LadyJava's Lounge Please note these links are STRICTLY for Music Monday participants only. All others will be deleted without prejudice.
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Sunday, November 21, 2010

Red Light Cameras

Red light camera system at the Springfield, Oh...Image via WikipediaThis morning was a reminder of why I do not like red light cameras at intersections.  I was heading home from the grocery store when I was coming up to an intersection that has a red light camera.  As I approached, the light turned from green to yellow.  I was fairly close to the intersection, and had I maintained my speed would have easily made it through the intersection before the light turned red.  However, I had the camera in the back of my mind, so I hit the breaks.  I had to hit the breaks fairly firmly to stop before the intersection and an item sitting on the passenger seat flew to the floor of the car.

Thankfully, it was fairly early on a Sunday and the road was fairly empty.  Had there been another driver following closely behind me, they may have felt that they could have made it through the intersection before the light turned red.  The result of which would have been a rear end collision, and therein lies my issue with red light cameras.  Drivers that are aware of the red light cameras may be more prone to break suddenly when they could have easily and safely navigated the intersection, increasing the likelihood of a rear end collision.

Jurisdictions claim that the purpose of the cameras is for safety and not revenue.  The National Motorists Association has maintained the opposite.  Their feeling is that the red light cameras are more likely to increase accidents rather than reduce them.  In January 2008, they released a blog post with links to five different studies that showed that red light cameras increased accidents. Earlier this year, the city of West Palm Beach installed red light cameras.  In the first 70 days, rear end collisions more than doubled and overall accidents increased.

I have never gotten a ticket from a red light camera, nor a speed camera for that matter.  Nor have I been involved in an accident at an intersection with a camera.  So, I am not taking this position because I am bitter about getting a fine, or worse yet, about being in an accident.  There is probably a benefit in reducing right angle collisions, but if studies show overall accidents increase, then the cameras may cause more harm than good.  That is, if safety is the goal, but if the goal is revenue, then mission accomplished. 
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Saturday, November 20, 2010

Remembering an Old Friend

Image of David Mills from FacebookImage of David Mills
I woke up this morning and as is my custom, I picked up my BlackBerry to check email.  There was an alert on it to remind me that today would have been David Mills' 49th birthday.  When I fired up my laptop and headed over to Facebook, I was reminded again, both from a birthday alert and posts expressing their remembrance of him on this day.

David along with Donald Valyou were my two best friends from high school and college.  We were on It's Academic together in high school, we carpooled together in college, and we went out most Friday and Saturday nights for a few beers in college.  Like most people, careers and the years allowed us to drift apart and we lost touch with one another.

Over the years, I thought about my two friends often.  While there is a lot to be critical of in regards to social media, it is through social media that I was able to reconnect with my two old friends.  I first connected with David through the professional network LinkedIn, and then through Facebook.  We both later reconnected with Donald through Facebook.

After we reconnected, we were able to meet a couple of times when David came back to Maryland from California.  We were able to go to dinner together at Ledo's for pizza and then to a baseball game at the Bowie Baysox.  It was through Facebook that I was alerted to his sudden passing on March 31, 2010 when I received a message from Donald.

On this day, I want to share a memory of a particular birthday of David's.  At that time, the legal age for drinking beer and wine in Maryland was 18.  Donald and I were born a couple days apart.  David was 
a little more than 8 months younger than the two of us.  Since David could not get into bars, Donald or I would buy beer and we would get together at one of our homes to drink beer and debate.

31 years ago today, was the first day that David was legally able to go out for beer.  We had seen flyers around campus for a bar near campus that held wet t-shirt contests.  In honor of David's 18th birthday, we decided to head out to Yesterday's Inn for a few beer and some wet t-shirts.  Turns out that they were no longer holding the contests and it was strictly a topless bar.  We sat in a corner booth and spent more time debating philosophy and social issues than watching the dancers.

That was typical of our relationship.  Even after all the years that had passed, when we got together over a year ago, it was like we never had been apart.  The discussions were lively and friendly.  I think about David often.  There is never a bad memory associated with him, unless you count having so much beer that you ended up throwing up.  I really miss him.
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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Don't Touch My Junk

Flying has never been one of my favorite things to do.  Even before 9/11, I just didn't like flying.  It wasn't that I was particularly nervous or afraid of flying, it was more just the amount of time spent at the airport waiting for my flight.  Plus, let's face it, planes are just loud, cramped, and generally uncomfortable.

I still remember my first flight.  It was a flight from Maryland to California for an assessment center to test for a promotion with the company I was working for at the time.  The person sitting next to me was a wreck.  She was holding on to her armrests, white knuckled the whole way up.  When we got in the air, she turned to me and apologized for how nervous she was.  I asked her if it was her first flight.  Turns out it wasn't. Had I known that, I might have been a little more nervous that I was.

Of course, since 9/11, flying has gotten considerably more complicated.  I remember when my wife and son could sit with me at the gate until my flight took off or meet me when I landed.  Now you need a ticket to get close.  Every year, security has gotten tighter and tighter, until we have gotten to where we are today.  Now we have scanners that essentially can take a nude photo of you or you can be subject to the now infamous new patdown policy from the TSA Agents.
I fully understand the uproar out there over the new screening procedures.  Nude photo or groped by a stranger?  Not much of a choice.  I wouldn't want either of those options either.  Having said that, on those occasions where I have to travel for business, if I have to choose one or the other, I would probably opt for the scanner.  Though it might be fun to tell the agent "a little more to the left please" while they are performing the patdown.

As I said, I understand the outrage.  However, at the same time, I do not understand the logic of some, like this one lady I heard call in to Sean Hannity's radio program.  She felt that people should not stand for these new procedures and should boycott the airports.  The sad thing with this narrow mindedness is that would have no impact on the TSA.  It would only impact the airlines, retail shops, restaurants, and the workers that are employed at the airports.  It would only harm those folks.

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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Prince William to Wed

I guess the big news of the day is that Prince William and Kate Middleton have announced their engagement and they plan to wed in the spring or summer of 2011.  It must be big news because for the past two nights it seems to have been the big story on the news broadcasts.  Personally, the announcement means absolutely nothing to me.

I have nothing against the Prince or Miss Middleton.  They seem like a perfectly lovely couple.  Both are attractive young people and seem nice enough.  I guess I just don't understand the whole fascination that we seem to have for the Royal Family.  After all, we fought a revolution a couple hundred years ago to gain our independence from the crown, and besides, the monarchy is just a figure head anyway.

I guess it all comes down to the fascination that we have of celebrity in general in this country.  How else can you explain the election of Barack Obama as president of the United States.  He became a rock star/celebrity/politician, and he was elected.  Think of it as the American Idol culture of the country.

It extends far beyond the election of Barack Obama.  How else can you explain how the daughter of a former vice-presidential candidate, who had a baby out of wedlock, can become a "celebrity" and appear on Dancing with the Stars?  You really have to wonder how much the popularity of Sarah Palin has contributed to Bristol's success on the show.  From what I hear, there is no way she should have made the finals based on her dancing ability.

I usually come under the camp of leaving the kids of politicians out of the media spotlight.  However, when you put yourself out there like Bristol Palin has, you then become fair game.  While we are on the subject of Sarah Palin, she has become a rock star in her own right.  As much as I like Sarah Palin, much like Barack Obama, I don't think that is enough to qualify her for the highest office in the land.
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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

More Insurance Frustrations

Dentist - Faroe IslandsImage via Wikipedia
A few weeks ago, I posted a story about some of the frustrations that we have been having with our health insurance and some of their policies in covering some of my son's prescriptions.  Now, it looks like we are about to have another round of fighting with an insurance company, this time with our dental health provider.

I have mentioned before that we recently were able to get our son into a special residential school program where he has been since last Monday.  One of the things we needed to get done before he could attend was to have a dental exam.  I knew it would be tough to get my son to cooperate for a dental exam, but we called several dentists in our plan and found one that said they could deal with his disability.

We went to the dentist, and sure enough, my son decided to act out.  When it finally dawned on him that we were there at the office for him, he dropped to the floor.  We tried all of our tricks to get him up and in the chair, and after about 10 minutes succeeded.  He managed to cooperate for a basic exam.  However, when it came time to try to get dental x-rays, we lost him.  The dentist felt like he had a good enough exam to fill out the form for the school.

According to our dental plan documents, oral exams are supposed to be covered at 100% without any deductible, so we were not expecting any out of pocket costs.  Today, I received an email from the dental insurance saying that the claim for my son's trip to the dentist had been processed.  When I looked at the claim, I discovered that the policy applied a deductible and only covered 80% of the cost after the deductible.

Needless to say, I called the insurance company.  Since the dentist was unable to do a comprehensive exam with x-rays and a cleaning, they coded the claim form as a limited oral exam.  Even though the plan documents say that oral exams are covered at 100%, they say that since it wasn't a complete exam, they only cover 80% after the deductible.  Now I have to hope that the dentist will resubmit the claim with a different code so that it will be covered.

Like the situation with my son's prescriptions that the health insurance would not cover, I am confused by my dental insurance company and their refusal to cover the charges.  If the dentist had done more work, they would have covered it at 100%, thus costing them even more money.  Since the plan documents simply say oral exams are covered, what difference should it make whether it was a complete or limited exam?  It just doesn't seem logical to my way of thinking.  
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Monday, November 15, 2010

Music Monday-Jason Aldean "My Kinda Party"

I really like artists that can create a distinctive sound for themselves. Jason Aldean has a driving, rocking, country sound that is his own.  His latest effort, "My Kinda Party" continues in his development of his own sound.  It is my choice for this week's Music Monday.

Come join Music Monday and share your songs with us. Rules are simple. Leave ONLY the actual post link here and grab the code below and place it at your blog entry. You can grab this code at LadyJava's Lounge Please note these links are STRICTLY for Music Monday participants only. All others will be deleted without prejudice.
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Sunday, November 14, 2010

Corruption Alive and Well in PG County

Stacks of moneyImage via Wikipedia
As I have mentioned before, I live in Bowie, MD which is a part of Prince Georges County.  I don't pay too much attention to county politics, because the county is a Democrat stronghold.  In most county elections, the Democrat candidates frequently run unopposed.  During the most recent elections, the Democrats received nearly 90% of the county vote.

Big news broke on Friday though when outgoing county executive Jack Johnson and his wife Leslie were arrested in an FBI corruption sting.  Currently, the couple have been charged with evidence tampering and destruction of evidence, though the FBI has stated that they expect additional charges and arrests.  Leslie Johnson is accused of flushing a $100,000 check from a real estate developer down the toilet on the instruction of her husband.  She also managed to stuff nearly $80,000 cash into her bra.

During the week during my commutes, I listen to WMAL630 talk radio, in the morning it is former Congressman Fred Grandy, and in the evening Sean Hannity and Mark Levin.  On the weekends, they primarily have financial programming, however, they recently added another former Congressman to their talk radio lineup.  On Saturday evenings when I am out delivering pizzas, I get to listen to former Arizona Congressman J.D. Hayworth.

Hayworth was having a grand old time with the news that Leslie Johnson has somehow managed to stuff nearly $80,000 into her bra.  A large part of program was inviting callers to call in with suggestions of what to call her bra.  It was an entertaining bit of radio.  Some of the particularly memorable suggestions are listed below:
  • Melon's Bank
  • Fort Knockers
  • The Pay for Playtex Bra
  • Money Bags
  • The Over the Shoulder Money Holder
  • Double D Depository
I think you get the idea.  I would welcome any other suggestions that you can list here.  
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Saturday, November 13, 2010

Free Speech vs. Common Decency

Patriot Guard RidersImage by qnr via Flickr
I am a big proponent of the 1st Amendment and the right of free speech.  Even if I disagree with your point of view, I generally support your right to say it.  I do think, however that there is a time and place for you to be able to express those points of view, and that there are times when that right can and should be restricted.

The reason I bring this up today is this.  The vile and hateful Westboro Baptist Church will be in my vicinity over the next few days.  In my opinion this group, while claiming to represent Christian values are about as anti-Christian a group as they come.  I have spent a lot of my life around Baptist churches, and while they do consider homosexuality be sinful, those groups would not espouse the hatred that the Westboro Baptist Church spews forth.

Today, they will be bringing their "God Hates Fags" rhetoric to Richard Montgomery High School in Rockville, MD.  The school is going to be presenting "The Laramie Project" a play based on interviews of residents of Laramie, WY where Matthew Shepard was murdered because he was gay.  As distasteful as their signs and protests will be, this particular protest is one that I have to reluctantly agree that they have the right to stage that protest.

Another protest that they will be launching is one where I have a bit more of an issue as to their rights.  On Monday, they will be protesting at the New Life Wesleyan Church in La Plata MD at the funeral of 19 year old Lance Cpl Terry Honeycutt who served his country well and lost his life in battle in Afghanistan.  The family and friends of this young, fallen hero deserve the right to pay their respects with dignity and without this bunch of assholes marring the day.

Charles Lollar, who I supported to be the Congressman of the 5th Congressional District of Maryland, has posted on his Facebook page requesting folks to show their support for the Honeycutt family.  The Patriot Guard Riders will be attendance to create an Honor Flag Line to help shield the family from the likes of the Westboro Baptist Church.

For years, I have felt that those who show the type of homophobia that is displayed by Fred Phelps, leader of Westboro Baptist, is that they are afraid to confront their own latent homosexuality.  I once joked to a friend that the reason he was homophobic was because he was afraid if he tried it, he might like it.  He replied, "You're damn right."  Me thinks Mr. Phelps doth protest too much, if you get my drift.

Here is hoping that when the Supreme Court decides the free speech case regarding the Westboro Baptist Church's protests at military funerals, that they will classify this type as speech in the same manner of "yelling fire in a crowded theater" and restrict these assholes from disrupting another military funeral. 
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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Veteran's Day 2010

Today is Veteran's Day.  A day to give tribute and thanks to those who have served this country to help keep us free.  I have a great deal of respect for the men and women who have been a part of our military heritage.  They deserve our praise and our thanks every day, and not just today.  In honor of our veterans and those that are currently serving, a thank you video from Ray Stevens. 

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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Cell Phone Bans

Cell PhoneImage by Mike "Dakinewavamon" Kline via FlickrIn October, the state of Maryland became one of nine states along with Washington DC to have a complete ban on hand held cell phone use while buying.  Currently, the offense is considered a secondary offense in Maryland meaning that you can only be charged if you are charged with another moving violation.  I have made known my opposition to these types of laws here and here.

Since the new law went into effect, I purchased hands free devices for both my wife and I.  I am not crazy about the devices.  One reason is that I have not found one that I felt fit comfortably for me.  The other is that frequently, I feel like I have to hold the device in my ear when talking so that I can hear the what the other person is saying.  It kind of defeats the purpose of having the device.  The device I have now is more of an earbud type device that is wired and plugs into my phone.  This way I can leave it in my car and not worry about forgetting to take it with me.

I had a bluetooth device, but the problem I had with it is that it was losing its charge fairly quickly.  It would work for my morning commute, but not the evening commute.  Frequently, I would forget to take it with me.  I also find those that wear bluetooth devices outside of their cars obnoxious, especially when I was working retail.  I can't tell you how many times I thought a customer was talking to me only to discover they were carrying on a phone conversation.

The reason I bring this subject up again is because of an incident this morning that underscores perfectly my opposition to these laws.  I was on the DC Beltway on the way to work this morning.  A car in the lane next to me was passing me.  When I looked over, the lady in the car was applying makeup to her face.  I suppose I could say something snide like it wasn't doing her any good, but I digress.

My point is this, the woman applying makeup has to look in the rearview mirror to apply makeup to her face, thus taking her eyes off of the road.  Her activity is just as dangerous, if not more so, than the person who is conversing on their cell phone.  However, under Maryland law, if she has an accident and is at fault, she would be charged with reckless driving. The person talking on the cell phone having an accident would be charged with both reckless driving and a cell phone violation.  Therein lies my opposition to the law.  Both activities are stupid, but only one draws an additional fine.

The other thing that I started to think about in regards to these cell phone bans is it got me curious as to the political makeup of the jurisdictions that have banned cell phone use.  In addition Washington DC and Maryland, the other states that have banned cell phone use are California, Connecticut, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Utah, and Washington.  It should be noted that with the exception of Utah, all of these are heavily blue or Democrat jurisdictions.  I guess that should not surprise us since these are the same type of people who want to ban toys in McDonald's Happy Meals.
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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Decision Points

Cover of "Decision Points"Cover of Decision Points Former President George W. Bush has been making the interview circuit hawking his new memoir "Decision Points."  According to, Bush takes an honest look at his flaws, mistakes, and accomplishments in the book.  He also shares the details behind how he reached various decisions during his presidency.

Of late, I have not been a big fan of Matt Lauer, however, I watched with great interest Lauer's interview with the former president broadcast on NBC last night. I actually enjoyed the interview and thought Lauer did a fair interview.  Tonight, I expect to watch Sean Hannity's interview on the Fox News Channel during the Hannity show.  I even saw a promo that Bush would be appearing on the Oprah show. 

There is a lot to be critical of Bush's presidency, but I think he was a decent man who did what he thought was right and needed to protect the country.  Take the Iraq war for example.  When the administration was considering the invasion of Iraq, I was against it, primarily because we did not have wide support.  Once the decision was made, however, I felt like we should do all we could to win that war.

I have not decided yet if I will read the book or not, but am leaning towards it.  One thing for sure, I will be avoiding a lot of the left wing blogs because no matter what the man does, it will never be acceptable.  The one thing that I find impressive about Bush is his refusal to criticize his successor, even when given the opportunity by Lauer and Hannity.  This in spite of the fact that the current resident of the White House and his sycophants have been constantly blaming him for everything that happens.  How many of us would be able to hold our tongues in that situation?  If nothing else, you have to admire the man's integrity.   
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Monday, November 8, 2010

Music Monday-Gary Allan "Tough Little Boys

In light of the fact that today was the day we took my son to live at his new school, I felt that "Tough Little Boys" by Gary Allan would be an appropriate choice for Music Monday today.  I know that the lyrics are based on a dad for his little girl, but I can tell you having a boy is just as tough on some of us, at least for me.  It will be a long two weeks until I see him again for Thanksgiving.

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Sunday, November 7, 2010

A Confession

Chesapeake Bay BridgeImage via Wikipedia
I admit that when it comes to my son, I am a bit of a baby.  Tomorrow morning is the day we take him to his new school where he will live most of the year.  There has been so much that needed to be done since we found out his start date.  It is the primary reason why I have not posted anything to this blog for the past few days.

My wife has been spending a lot of time shopping with her mother for all of the things he will need to take with him.  We had to take him to the dentist for an exam.  That was an adventure.  I have been spending a lot of time burning CDs for him to listen to when he is in his room at night.

Knowing something is the right thing to do, and preparing to do it doesn't end the sadness that comes with the separation that is coming.  Even though sending our son to this school has been a goal of ours, I got tears in my eyes when my wife told me the county finally agreed he should go there, when she told me the day he was going to start, and just about any time I think about it.

It might surprise you, or perhaps not, how the littlest thing might set the waterworks in motion.  For example, my son and I headed out to the grocery store this morning to pick up a few things.  One of the things we needed was milk.  Usually I buy a gallon because milk is one of his staples.  Nobody else drinks milk, so since he leaves tomorrow, I only bought a half gallon.  I nearly started to tear up as I reached for the milk.

In light of his behaviors of late that have led to us taking these steps, we have decided not to tell him what is happening tomorrow.  We figure that if he knew he was going to a new school that he would drop to the ground tomorrow and refuse to get in the car.  He likes going over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, so all we have told him is that we are going over the bridge tomorrow.  When he says to me,"No school tomorrow, Daddy," I nearly lose it.

I expect that tomorrow will be pretty tough on all of us, probably the hardest day of my life.  I don't really know what to expect tomorrow when we drop him off.  I know he will not understand fully what is going on.  Previously, one of the toughest things I experienced as a parent was taking him for a medical test where he had to be put to sleep.  I had to go in and help hold him down as they tried to hold the gas mask over his face.  The look on his face said to me, "You are supposed to protect me, why are you letting them do this to me?"  I expect a look like that tomorrow.  
Now, back to burning CDs.
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Wednesday, November 3, 2010

I Hate My Neighbors

Seal of Prince George's County, MarylandImage via WikipediaI hate my neighbors!  No, this is not another rant about the group of single guys that live next door to me and their propensity for playing their music so loud that my walls vibrate and I can't hear my own TV.  Instead this is about my fellow citizenry in Prince Georges County Maryland, or as I like to call it, DC East.

The wave of common sense that swept through the country in yesterday's election that saw one of the greatest shifts in political power in the country's history didn't extend to my state of Maryland.  Prince George's County is largely to blame for that.  The Democrats have such a stronghold in PG County that I don't even bother to vote in most of the county elections.  The reason is that in the vast majority of those races, there is no race.  There is usually a Democrat running unopposed.

There were two races that I was actively involved in some small way, shape or form; the Governor's race between Bob Ehrlich and Martin O'Malley, and the 5th Congressional race between Charles Lollar and Steny Hoyer.  I was so impressed with Lollar that for the first time in my life, I had a campaign sign in my front yard.  It will not be the last. There was also a Senate race between Eric Wargotz and Barbara Mikulski, but I heard practically nothing from Wargotz until just a couple weeks prior to the election.

The 5th Congressional District consists of Charles County, St. Mary's County, Calvert County, and parts of PG and Anne Arundel Counties. Last night, while watching the election returns coming in, Lollar was holding an early lead over Hoyer.  At one point, with about 14% of the precincts in, Lollar still held 54% of the votes counted.  Then they started counting PG County and all of a sudden Hoyer jumped out to a 65-34 lead over Lollar.  In the end, Hoyer ended up with 64% of the vote and defeated Lollar by 64,000 votes.  Coincidently, Hoyer received 82% of the vote in PG County, and defeated Lollar in the county by, yes, 64,000 votes.

The Governor's race wasn't much different.  Out of 23 counties in the state of Maryland, Ehrlich won 19 of them.  The only counties he lost were Montgomery County, Howard County, Charles County, and of course PG County.  O'Malley's largest margin of victory in those counties, was in PG County where he received 88% of the vote.  If it weren't for having a special needs child and needing to stay in the county to maintain his educational funding, I would be so out of here.  Leaving the county for another would require starting the whole process over again in a new county.

On the other hand, news from around the country on election day was mostly positive.  I was particularly pleased to see the loathsome Alan Grayson get his ass handed to him by Daniel Webster in Florida's 8th Congressional district.  Also in the Sunshine state, up and coming GOP Superstar Marco Rubio clobbered the flip flopping turncoat Charlie Crist.  Too bad Lisa Murkowski didn't suffer the same fate in Alaska, though that hasn't been fully decided yet.

Sure, there were some disappointments in other races around the country.  Mealy mouthed Harry Reid managed to win re-election in Nevada.  We still have to deal with him, but at least we can tell Nancy Pelosi what she can do with her gavel.  I will close this post with a tweet that Charles Lollar sent to his followers on Twitter: "Marines don't retreat - they establish a rally point. Rest now, but prepare to regroup. This is not victory denied, but victory delayed."  I am hoping that we will see and hear a lot more from Major Lollar in the years to come. 
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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Open Enrollment and Health Care Reform-Update

Two weeks ago, I was getting concerned about the lateness of the open enrollment period for health insurance for the company I work for.  I had been concerned that the lateness of the enrollment period had something to do with the health care bill that was passed earlier in the year.  I was also concerned that the lateness was an indication that our share of the cost of insurance was going to go up significantly or our choices would be curtailed significantly.  Today, I received a letter from my company regarding open enrollment.  Below is the basic text of the letter.

Dear Medical Plan Participant:

As you have been hearing in the news, the Health Care Reform Bill mandates substanial changes for health care industry as well as employer-sponsored health plans over the next several years.  Accordingly, the medical plan changes XYZ Company must make for 2011 include;
  • the removal of lifetime and annual limits on certain benefits,
  • coverage for certain preventative care services at 100%, and
  • offering of coverage for children to age 26 regardless of student status.
Since the enactment of the Bill in March, there has been intense focus by XYZ Company Senior Management on health reform and the related cost increases.  Significant analysis has been completed to determine the impact on our associates, the medical plans, and the business.  In order to make all of the necessary changes to the health care plans, the timing for annual enrollment has changed and will begin on November 29th.

In keeping with our current strategy, the Company will continue to share in the increased cost of medical inflation for 2011.  However, in these difficult economic times, the Company cannot fully absorb the combined increases of health care reform and medical inflation.  Therefore, the XYZ Company medical plan rates listed on your Annual Enrollment Worksheet will be higher than in previous years.  Increases will vary based on the medical plan and coverage level you elect.

There were a couple concluding sentences about considering all your choices and your personal situation when making your choices, but the above is the pertinent info from the letter.  It basically confirmed the bulk of the my suspicions that the delay was due to the the health care bill and that we were going to stuck with an increase of our share of the bill.  The question remains as to how much of an increase.  Though I must say after receiving a letter like this, I suspect it will not be a small increase.  Another reason I expect to see the GOP regain control of the House tonight.
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Monday, November 1, 2010

Music Monday-Ray Stevens "Throw the Bums Out"

Tuesday is election day. If you put any faith in the polls, it looks like the bad guys are going to lose big. I would say that the good guys are going to win, but the reality is the GOP had better realize that this is more a condemnation on the Democrats than a mandate for them. They are on a short leash and had better learn their lessons from their past sins.

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