Sunday, October 31, 2010

On the Horns of a Dilemma

Stained glass at St John the Baptist's Anglica...Image via WikipediaI have always tried to be respectful of the religious beliefs of other folks.  In my past, I have been active in fundamentalist Christian denominations.  Currently, I would say my beliefs are in flux, though I do still consider myself to be Christian.  While a lot of my social views would be in conflict with my former congregations, I still respect and support the right of those congregations to espouse those views.  In the immortal words of John Lennon, "Whatever gets you through the night, is alright, is alright."

The reason I bring this up is because I am facing a bit of a dilemma within the Dickster household.  A few years ago, my wife decided that she was dissatisfied with the Catholic Church and went on a pilgrimage, as it were.  She went with my support.  She ended up deciding to join the Mormon church. Again, I gave her my full support and attended her baptism into that church.  She also understood that I had no interest, and still have no interest in becoming a Mormon.  Nothing wrong with it, just not my thing.

The reason this is now a dilemma within our household is that she has recently informed me that the missionaries in her church want to talk with me.  She has told them repeatedly that I have no interest in joining their church, and she would prefer that they not push the issue.  They are continuing to push the issue.  The first time my wife told me that they wanted to come talk to me, she said that they might be coming by that day and the reason was to talk to me.  She had told me ahead of time not to answer the door.  Sure enough, they showed up that afternoon, and I did not bother to answer the door.

Recently, she informed me that they dropped by again when I wasn't home.  Their purpose was to talk to me. Again, I want to be respectful of the religious beliefs of other folks, but at the same time, I do not want those folks trying to force their beliefs down my throat.  My wife has repeatedly told them not to speak with me.  She knows all too well that I can be a bit of an asshole if I feel that I have been sufficiently provoked.  OK, she would probably say that I can be a bit of an asshole even if I haven't been provoked.

The way I see it, I have two choices.  I can continue to avoid speaking with the missionaries.  This way, I can be respectful of their beliefs and continue to support my wife's decision to be a part of their congregation.  Or, I can speak with them.  If I speak with them, there is a pretty good chance I can be respectful and firm enough to convince them that I have no interest in their denomination.  There is also the chance that if they push the issue to hard that I could say some things that would be less than respectful.  So, if you were me, would you continue with avoidance, or would you talk with the missionaries?
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Saturday, October 30, 2010

A Bittersweet Day-Update

Chesapeake Bay BridgeImage by sofafort via FlickrLast week, I posted about the efforts that my wife and I have been undertaking in trying to get our 16 year old son placed in a residential educational facility on Maryland's Eastern Shore.  After months of battling with the school system, they finally agreed that it would be the best place for our son. I talked about the mixed feelings that I had regarding that decision.

At the time, we were not sure when his start date at the new facility would be.  There were a few more forms that needed to be updated and filled out.  Yesterday, my wife called me to inform me that we now had his start date, Monday, November 8th.  I had just left the office and was on the beltway headed to my part time job.  I wished she had waited until I got home last night because my eyes immediately began to fill with tears.  Less than two weeks away.  My immediate thought was, "I'm not ready."

This morning, I woke up thinking about a lot of different things regarding the situation.  All of which made me tear up a bit.  At times, I wish I were stronger about these things.  There is the question of how to tell him what is going to happen, or whether to tell him anything at all.  If we tell him ahead of time that he is going to a new school, he will drop to the ground and refuse to budge.  I suppose we will take him and try our best to explain it to him when we drop him off.  He loves crossing the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, so hopefully that will get him out the door.

While there is a huge part of me that isn't ready for this to happen, there are times when I want it to happen now.  Those times are when he angers me.  Earlier today was one of those moments.  He asked me if we could go to Borders in Annapolis Mall.  That in and of itself isn't bad, but we have had two bad incidents with him at Borders recently when he wanted me to order a DVD for him that you can not buy, usually it is a DVD of Wheel of Fortune or another game show.

He doesn't fully comprehend that you can not buy everything.  I have recently started downloading game shows for him off of YouTube and burning them on to DVD for him so that he will have them.  Still, he wanted to go to Borders.  He told me he wanted to go there so I could order him a Wheel of Fortune DVD.  I tried to explain that we could not get that there, and we were not going to go.

He immediately went into one of his meltdowns.  For those of you with experience with an autistic child, you know what those can be like.  For those of you who don't, you would think it is a temper tantrum, but it really is more than that. He dropped to the ground and started getting angry.  Anything near him, he picked up and threw across the room.  At one point, his glasses went flying.  Still it is better to have had the meltdown here than at Borders.  I wanted to drop him off to the school right then.

There is so much that needs to be done between now and then.  He is going to need a whole new wardrobe because the school has uniforms.  We will also need to supply him with a fresh supply of his own toiletries and such.  He usually share mine at home.  It would be nice to have a party for him before he left, but we already have plans for the next two weekends, so we won't be able to do that. 

The school usually has a rule that we won't be able to see him for 5 weeks, but with the timing of his start date and Thanksgiving, I think he will only be gone for two weeks before coming home for a long weekend.  When he goes back after Thanksgiving weekend, he would be back at school for four weeks before Christmas break.   Hopefully, the transition won't be too hard on any of us.         
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Thursday, October 28, 2010

H.R. 4646

An assortment of United States coins, includin...Image via WikipediaImagine if you will, that you have a job. For the sake of simplicity, I will use round numbers. Now, lets say that every pay period you make $2000. After the government takes the withholding for federal, state, and Social Security taxes, you are left with a net check of $1500.

So far, so good. Now imagine that you take your check to the bank, or maybe you even have direct deposit to make your life easier. The way the money gets to the bank doesn't matter. Now the bank takes a $15 fee out of the check you brought to cash or deposit.

It doesn't stop there. After you get paid, you have bills to pay. Now again, it doesn't matter if you pay the bills using online bill pay or you write a check. To keep things simple, let's say you write a check to your mortgage company for $750 to cover principal, interest and anything else rolled into your mortgage. Your mortgage company adds another $7.50 to your bill as another fee.

Now you need to eat, right? So you head out to your local grocery store to pick up your shopping for the week. You go to the checkout with your groceries, and after everything is added up, along with any sales tax, the total comes to $100. You swipe our credit or debit card to pay the bill and have to add another $1 fee to the total.

Is this just another way for those greedy banks to profit off of the little man? Not exactly. This is exactly the scenario that Congressman Chaka Fattah (D-PA) has proposed in H.R. 4646 AKA The Debt Free America Act. Congressman Fattah is proposing a 1% tax on all transactions.  The stated purpose of this tax is to pay down the national debt of $13 trillion within 7 years of passage.  The funds are ONLY to be used to pay down the debt.  In addition to paying down the debt, HR 4646 states as a goal the repeal of the federal income tax after the debt is paid down.

On the surface, the idea of paying down the debt and the elimination of the income tax is appealing.  It is what lies beneath the surface that is disturbing.  First, to pay down the debt in seven years would take about $2 trillion out of the economy every year.  I am sure that will help the already anemic economy, NOT!  Second, the text of the bill states that the "tentative" income tax rate will be 0% beginning in 2018.  Have you ever known Congress to give up any taxes they have coming in?  They will find a way to change the law to allow income taxes to continue. Lastly, we have heard before that certain taxes would be used solely for one purpose, like Social Security.  How is that working out?


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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Addictive Personality?

Almost three weeks ago I returned from a business trip to Atlanta.  At that time, I posted this photo that I had the pleasure to have had taken with NASCAR great Richard Petty.  At the time I was particularly proud to post the photo, because when I was a kid, he was my favorite race car driver.  Part of the reason, and maybe the main reason, was that we shared the same first name.

As I said, when I posted the photo, I was proud to do so.  A couple days later I was looking at the photo again, and all I could see was my big belly hanging over my belt and was disgusted.  I decided that I was going to start eating better and try to lose some weight.  If you pay any attention to the BMI charts, which I don't, I probably need to lose between 50-60 pounds.  As much as I would like to lose close to that much, I would be ecstatic if I could lose between 30-40 pounds.

In the past, when I put my mind to it, I can stick to an eating plan fairly well.  When I am following the plan, I often do not feel like I am depriving myself of anything.  Once, I followed the SugarBusters program by cutting out all white sugar and flour.  I was able to stick with it for several months and lost about 30 pounds.  It is only after I stopped following a program that I have problems.  Once I start eating the bad stuff again, when I try to get back with the program that I start to feel deprived.

So, two weeks ago, I stepped on the scale and weighed more than I ever had in the past.  That day, I decided to cut out a lot of the junk food that I had been eating.  I started packing my lunch and some snacks to have during the day.  Lunch basically became a salad, and for snacks I would have some fruit or maybe a protein bar.  Things have been going pretty good so far in sticking with the plan.

The problem comes with my job.  My position is a buyer for candy and snacks for the company I work for.  There is constantly candy or junk food around the office.  The other day, a vendor sent in some samples of some dessert items that he wanted us to consider, some cheesecakes and other cakes.  Some of my favorites.  As part of my job, we were sampling some of the items.  I had a piece of the cheesecake, then tried to go about my day.  I don't know if was that bit of decadence back in the diet, but for the rest of the day I craved junk food.  It made me think I had an addictive personality.

It made me think about other areas of my life.  I don't really think that I am "addicted" to anything, but I see patterns.  Take alcohol for instance.  I can go weeks without having any alcohol to drink and not miss it.  However, if I have it in the house, I will drink it, probably more than I should.  The same with certain foods and even fairly innocuous things like playing games on Facebook.  They aren't even all that fun, but I find myself playing two or three of them every night.

I am going to start taking a closer look at some of my habits and hobbies.  It isn't that any of them are particularly bad, but it just seems like I have a difficult time doing things in moderation.  I can't seem to stop at a bowl of ice cream, I have to have the whole pint.  It isn't just a couple glasses of wine, but four or five.  Instead of going to bed at 10pm, I spend an extra hour on Facebook games or doing blogging stuff.  Time to get some balance back.   
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Monday, October 25, 2010

Music Monday-Toby Keith "Bullets in the Gun"

I really like songs that tell a story.  This song tells the story of a drifter who unwittingly becomes an outlaw after falling for the charms of a dancing girl.  It doesn't end well for the guy.   I particularly like the way they produced this little mini movie to go with the words to the song. 




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Sunday, October 24, 2010

Pharmacy Frustrations

Pharmacy Rx symbolImage via WikipediaFor the most part, I have been fairly happy with my current health insurance.  We have a fairly low copay with our primary care physician.  If we need any vaccinations or tests done, they are all covered.  There is no deductible to meet, other than $50 for our prescriptions.  While a great deal of the premium is covered by my employer, our share is fairly expensive.

Last year at this time, I had the lowest cost option from the options my employer had offered.  Unfortunately, we discovered that there were a lot of things that weren't completely covered, plus we had a deductible that we had to meet.  My current plan costs me nearly twice as much as last year, but it is worth it to not have the deductible.

As I said, I have been fairly happy with the current plan.  There have been some things on the pharmacy side of the coverage that have been a bit frustrating and/or confusing.  We currently have a three tier formulary plan for prescriptions.  Our copay is $10 for generic, $25 for branded drugs that are on the formulary, and $40 for branded drugs that are not on the formulary.

At times, the formulary has been particularly frustrating because it is constantly changing.  I had one prescription that the first time I had it filled was on the formulary, and was charged $25.  When I went to have it refilled, it was no longer on the formulary and they wanted to charge me $40.  Then there was a generic medication that we thought should be $10, but they said it wasn't on the formulary, so we ended up paying close to $40.

Our most recent battles with the insurance company have involved prescriptions for my son.  There have been two occasions where the insurance would not cover the full amount of the prescription that the doctor prescribed.  One involved a medication that came in 10mg tablets and 20 mg tablets.  The doctor wanted our son to take 30 mg per day.  They would only allow one 20mg table per day.

The second one was a little more vexing.  The doctor had been prescribing a 1mg tablet to be taken twice per day.  With some of my son's recent issues, the doctor decided to increase the dosage to one tablet in the morning, and two tablets at night.  In their infinite wisdom, the insurance company will only cover two tablets per day.  I guess they know more than the doctor. 

The most frustrating thing about this one is that the medication comes in 1mg, 2mg, 3mg, and 4mg.  If the doctor wanted to prescribe two 2mg tablets per day for a total of 4mg per day, and they would cover that.  However, they will not cover three 1mg tablets per day for a total of 3mg per day.  To my simple way of thinking, that just doesn't make sense.
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Saturday, October 23, 2010

Call Me Senator

Remember when (Hopefully soon to be ex) Senator Barbara Boxer chastised General Michael Walsh for calling her "Ma'am" instead of "Senator" during a hearing before a Senate committee?  If you want to see my reaction to that particular incident, you can see it at my post entitled "What a Bitch."

The reason I bring up that matter again is because Right Change has posted a new video by film maker David Zucker of "Airplane" and "Naked Gun" fame.  It is just too funny not to post here.  I heard the audio last night on the Mark Levin Show.  He was right when he said you get the full effect watching the video.

Right Change says that Zucker was upset with Boxer's showing of disrespect to the military and made the video "to apologize for having voted for her in previous elections."  I think the video is hilarious but makes a potent statement as well.  Hope you enjoy it.

Call Me Senator from RightChange on Vimeo.
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Friday, October 22, 2010

A Bittersweet Day

If you know me personally, or if you have read any of the posts regarding my 16 year old son, then you know he means everything to me.  You also know that he is autistic and has had his share of issues. 

One of his issues has been a severe lack of attendance at school.  Whenever my wife or I try to get him to go to school, he would drop to the ground, hit, kick, and refuse to budge.  He is about 5'10" and I would say weights between 170-180 pounds.  I have to estimate because he refuses to get on a scale.  So you can see, we physically can not get him off the ground and to the car to go to school. 

For the past two years, this has been an ongoing issue.  For most of that time, we had been able to get him to go to school 2-3 days per week.  Since August, we have not been able to get him to school.  There have been a couple occasions when my wife was able to get him in the car, and he unlocked the car, opened the door, and got out of the car while it was moving.  Fortunately, he never got injured.

For several months now, we have been trying to get the school system to allow our son to go to a residential school on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.  We our familiar with this particular school because our nephew, who is also autistic, just graduated from there.  They did amazing things with him there.  It is astonishing how similar the two boys are.

Unfortunately, as much as we tried to convince the school system that the best place for our son would be the residential school, they refused to consider placing them there.  In the past few months, with the assistance of our in-laws, we have stepped up the efforts to get him the placement we felt he needed.  Several meetings and home visits later, they finally decided to recommend his placement in this school.

Here is where the bittersweet comes in.  Other than one or two nights spent at his grandparent's house, my son has never been away from both his parents.  Once he is at the new school, we will not be able to see him for five weeks so that he can adjust to his new situation.

The thought of being separated from him breaks my heart.  In my mind, I know that this is the best place for him to get the education and help he needs.  I have seen first hand the love and caring that the people at the school have for the students.  I have also seen how much they can help these kids.

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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Sexy Photos

Remember the group of Russian spies that were caught and deported a few months ago?  There were 10 people arrested in the US and accused of spying for Russia.  Only one of the spies seemed to garner any attention in the press.  Anna Chapman, a young, attractive red haired woman.

I can understand why she would get so much attention.  The idea of a sexy female spy has titillated the mind of man since the time of Mata Hari.  Since her arrest and deportation, Anna has received offers to sell her story and other offers, including an offer to appear in a porn movie.  Given the clever titles the adult movie industry comes up with, I imagine it would be titled, "The Spy Who Banged Me," or something to that effect.

Well, Ms. Chapman is back in the news this week.  She has posed, rather provocatively I might add, in the Russian edition of Maxim Magazine.  She appears wearing lingerie and holding a gun.  I have to say, that she doesn't appear to be hiding many secrets in the photos.  If she were to be torturing me, I don't think I would be able to resist.

Speaking of sexy photos, a couple cast members of the television show "Glee" have stirred up a bit of controversy as well.  The Parents Television Council has their panties all in a bunch because three actors have appeared in a sexy photo shoot in GQ magazine.  Cory Montieth (age 28), Lea Michelle and Dianna Argon (both aged 24) appear in the racy shoot.  Thankfully, Montieth is fully clothed, but the two ladies are in various lingerie in very suggestive poses.

Even though the actors are all in their 20's, they portray high school students on the show.  The PTC released a statement saying, "It is disturbing that GQ, which is explicitly written for adult men, is sexualizing the actresses who play high school-aged characters on ‘Glee’ in this way. It borders on pedophilia."  When I see actresses that are in their 20's, and clearly of age, I don't think of pedophilia, regardless of the age of the character they are portraying.  The PTC needs to get a life.

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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

How About a McWedding?

McDonald's, Hong KongImage by Ian Muttoo via FlickrDo you have a special someone in your life that you are considering taking the plunge with and tie the knot?  Perhaps in these tough economic times, maybe you are overwhelmed by the sheer cost of a wedding and reception.  Costofwedding.com says that the average cost of a wedding in the US is just under $20000.

If you are looking to save some money on your wedding and reception, maybe you should consider a McWedding.  The McDonald's corporate office in Hong Kong is going to begin offering wedding ceremonies and receptions at their restaurants.  Included in the price of the wedding are meal deals, wedding cakes made from hot apple pies, and Happy Meal toys as party favors.  The cost for a party of 100, a bargain at $400.

Think of all the money you could save.  The money you would have spent on a traditional wedding could be put towards a new home.  That is not to say that a McWedding wouldn't have it's drawbacks.  For instance, the weddings have to be alcohol free, so no champagne toast.  Plus the restaurant will remain open for regular business during your ceremony and reception.

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Monday, October 18, 2010

Music Monday-John Cougar "Ain't Even Done with the Night"

Anybody out there remember John Cougar? If not, that is probably OK with John Cougar, better know as John Mellencamp.  Mellencamp had his first bit of commercial success under the stage name John Cougar in the late 1970's early 1980's.  In 1983, he began releasing music under the name John Cougar Mellencamp.  He soon dropped the Cougar altogether to become the legendary heartland rocker John Mellencamp.   

"Ain't Even Done with the Night" is one of those early hits.  Happy Music Monday!

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Sunday, October 17, 2010

Send This Marine to the Hill

This morning, I headed out to do our weekly grocery shopping.  Outside of the local Giant supermarket was a worker/volunteer for the Steny Hoyer campaign.  I was kind of hoping he would approach me so that I could tell him, "I wouldn't vote for Hoyer even if you paid me."  I must have had that "I support Charles Lollar" look in my eye because he did not approach me.

On more than one occasion on this blog, I have expressed my disdain for my current Congressman, Steny Hoyer.  Also on more than one occasion I have voiced my support for his current challenger, Charles Lollar.  In fact, I have a Charles Lollar For Congress campaign sign in my front yard.  It is the first time that I have ever put a campaign sign in my yard.  That is the level of support that I have for Charles Lollar.

Anyway, back to the events of this morning.  There is a certain arrogance possessed by the left, and it extends from the top of their food chain, all the way down to the campaign volunteers and workers.  As I walked away from the Hoyer volunteer, I heard him say the following to another person,"We don't have anything to worry about in the state of Maryland.  The only way we can lose in Maryland is if we don't show up."

I know that in the state of Maryland it is a long shot for Lollar to defeat a Democrat so firmly entrenched as Hoyer, but I so desperately want to teach those arrogant SOB's a lesson.  Charles Lollar represents the best hope in a long time to accomplish that task.  Maryland voters must send this marine to take the Hill.  For a taste of what Lollar represents, here he is speaking at the Solomon's Island Tea Party rally last year.






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Saturday, October 16, 2010

Time

The Passage of TimeImage by ToniVC via FlickrTime.  It is arguably are most valuable resource.  It is the one thing that just about everyone I know wishes they had more of.  Seriously, do you know of anybody who wishes they had less time? 

Just yesterday, I was talking with a friend at work about all the things we would like to do if we had more time.  Some of the things we talked about were simple things like getting more movement/exercise in our lives or even taking the time to prepare healthier meals.  It is just so much easier to grab something already prepared, and usually less healthy. 

We both have fairly long commutes to the office, at least an hour each way.  During the work week, it is my goal to get up and out of the house by 7:00 am.  Usually, I am in the office by around 8:30 and usually work until 5:30 pm.  By the time I get home, it is usually between 6:30- 7:00 pm.  The day is pretty much shot at that point, and it is time for dinner and a couple hours to get family time and whatever "me" time that I can get in before turning in for bed.

A typical evening consists of dinner, Wheel of Fortune (one of my son's favorite shows), and doing all of my internet activities.  The internet activities consist of writing this blog, visiting other blogs for my blog networks, and activities that I do to try to make a few extra bucks like Sponsored Tweets, paid blog posts on Social Spark, and being a guide for ChaCha.com.  I also spend time playing a few different games on Facebook.  It is only three games on Facebook, but they take up entirely too much time.

The weekends are a little better, but not that much better.  Saturdays are particularly full with the part time pizza delivery gig.  I run a few errands in the morning, and then have a few hours to relax before heading off to deliver pizza.  On Sunday mornings I go out to do the grocery shopping, then hopefully, have the rest of the day to relax.  Even during my "relax" time, I am usually doing the blogging stuff and Facebook games.  All while hanging out with my son and making him various CDs and DVDs.

I have already started pruning some of my activities to free up extra time where I can.  I used to have a premium membership to Pogo.com, an online games site, that I have let expire because I hadn't been playing as often as I had.  I have also cut out a couple of the Facebook games that I had been playing.  Of the Facebook games that I still play, some don't get played everyday, and some only get a cursory glance during the week.  Still, there just doesn't seem to be enough hours in the day to get it all done.

I am sure I am not the only one who feels this way.  What kind of things do you do to carve out more quality time in your life for yourself and your family?  Cutting back on sleep and adding more caffeine to the diet probably aren't the best options.  I am already sleep deprived enough.






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Friday, October 15, 2010

Open Enrollment and Health Care Reform

Barack Obama signing the Patient Protection an...Image via WikipediaEvery company that I have ever worked for has had open enrollment for signing up or changing your health insurance benefits in early October.  With the passage of the health care reform bill earlier this year, I have been anxiously waiting to see how the bill would impact me this fall.
 
Since the passage of the bill, most of the news stories that I have seen have not been encouraging.  There have been numerous reports of higher increases in premiums than in recent years.  Other stories highlighted businesses debating whether or not they would be better off dropping employee coverage due to the higher costs of complying with the new federal law.

With my current financial situation, I have been dreading the prospect of having significantly higher insurance premiums.  I have been checking my mailbox, visiting the company benefits website, and browsing the company HR intranet site to find any information on the upcoming open enrollment and any changes that I might occur.  I finally found an update stating that the open enrollment would not start until November 27th, almost two full months later than normal.

Maybe I am being paranoid, but this delay has me concerned.  I fear that our portion of the premium will be going up significantly, or that our choices of plans will be curtailed greatly.  The other thing that adds to my concern is a conversation I overheard in the elevator while leaving the office today.  One person was apparently working on a presentation because she made a comment about how to make "health reform" interesting.  The other person replied, "and all that comes with it."  Uh-oh!

I am wondering if anybody else has gotten their information yet on open enrollment.  Were there a lot of changes within your company in regards to cost increases or reductions in choices?
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Thursday, October 14, 2010

Comments, Moderation, and Spam

no spam!Image via WikipediaI have been writing this blog for a little over two years now.  In that time, I have never used comment moderation, and I have never deleted a comment.  Not that there hasn't been times that I wanted to delete a comment or two. 

There have been a few comments over the last two years that made me consider deleting them.  A few people would make comments that weren't germane to the topic at hand.  Things such as "found your blog while adgitizing," or the occasional person who would post a Bible verse without really tying it in to the topic of the post.  Lord know that any time Len from "First Door on the Left" would drop by with a comment, I usually ended up with blood shooting out of my eyes because he would make me so mad.

As I said, I have never deleted a comment on the blog.  I have always tried to have an open dialogue here.  That is until today.  I deleted my first comment today.  Not because I found the comment offensive or it made me angry.  Nope, it was such an obvious piece of spam that I felt that I really had no choice in the matter.  I don't mind folks commenting on a Music Monday post promoting their own blog and their Music Monday choices, but this was a blatant, "come to my commercial website and buy something" kind of comment.

Which leads me to this question for my fellow bloggers.  I know that several bloggers use comment moderation and approve all comments before they appear.  Do you find that it is worth the extra effort to approve comments before they appear?  For those that don't use comment moderation, do you find yourself deleting spam comments?  I have to say that spam has not been a huge issue, but I don't want it to become one.  I have always liked the immediacy of not having moderation so that readers can interact with one another before I have the chance to review the posts. 


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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Chilean Miners Rescued

The First Chilean Miner RescuedImage by FredMikeRudy via Flickr
The human spirit and the will to survive is an amazing thing.  After over two months of being trapped in a mine 2000 feet deep, all 33 miners have been rescued.  All seem to be in relatively good health, and here is hoping nobody has any serious problems and recovers fully.

As is usually the case in these humanitarian efforts, the US played an integral roll in the rescue.  The drill that finally broke through to reach the miners was made in the US.  The drill was operated by a US engineer who flew from Afghanistan to take part in the rescue effort.  NASA engineers designed the rescue capsule that would bring the miners to the surface.  But the real story is the leadership and cooperation that the miners themselves displayed to survive.

Each miner will have their story to tell and will forever be changed.  All will need time to recover and spend time with their families.  Some will have a tougher time than others.  Miner #21, Yonni Barrios, whose wife and mistress found out about each other during a vigil for the trapped miners.  Mrs. Barrios was not there for the rescue, but his mistress was.

Personally, I can't imagine what they must have been going through during the two months of being trapped. I know how stir crazy I can get when I can't go anywhere.  There were a couple times I was hospitalized for a week or more when I suffered blood clots in my legs. During that time I could not shower or wash my hair due to the IV that I had.  I remember how nasty I felt.  Can you imagine over two months without a shower or change of clothes?  At least during my hospital stays I had access to televisions and visits from friends and family.

In all seriousness, the story of these guys and their survival is amazing and inspirational.  Here is hoping that all make a full recovery and suffer no long term problems from their adventure.  I am sure some will write books or sell their stories.  They all deserve the opportunity to tell their story.  Good luck and welcome home.
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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Messin With Sasquatch

I am not a big fan of television commercials, although they are a necessary evil.  Usually, I do not pay too much attention when they are on.  For me it provides an opportunity to head to the fridge for a cold beverage or snack, or to go the bathroom to relieve myself.  Most commercials, like the GEICO little piggie that went wee wee wee all the way home, I find annoying.  That is not to say that some commercials aren't entertaining.  My favorite commercials are probably the Jack Link "Messin with Sasquatch" commercials like the one below.

Funny stuff.  Last week, I had the opportunity to travel to Atlanta for a trade show.  One of the booths that I visited was the Jack Link booth.  Sasquatch was in attendance.  One of my coworkers and I decided that we were going to "Mess with Sasquatch" a bit and pull a good old fashioned prank on him.
Fortunately, old Sasquatch was a good sport and didn't tear us limb from limb.  In fact, he even let me take a more serious photo with my old buddy Sasquatch.  Next time, I will have to come up with another good natured prank to pull on him.

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Monday, October 11, 2010

Music Monday-The Bee Gees "New York Mining Disaster 1941"

After being trapped for two months in a collapsed mine, 33 Chilean miners could begin to be extracted from the mine tomorrow.  In honor of their perseverance and their rescuers, my choice for Music Monday this week is The Bee Gees and their "New York Mining Disaster 1941"

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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PS: Because of spamming purposes, the linky will be closed on Thursday of each week at midnight, Malaysian Time. Thank you!
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Sunday, October 10, 2010

Thoughts on My HOA & My Neighbors

A man using a string trimmerImage via WikipediaI came home this morning after running some errands, and as I walked from my car to my home, it got me thinking about my homeowners association.  Now, I have said before that I really have no use for my HOA.  All they are really good for is collecting dues and sending nasty letters telling me all the things that they have determined need work on around the house.

The most recent series of letters came about two months ago.  One was telling me that my grass needed mowing, which I confess had gone too long without mowing.  I do not have a mower and have to use a weed trimmer.  The trimmer I had was electric and the motor burned rendering it useless.  I eventually was able to come up with enough spare cash to buy a new one.

Another letter was also lawn related.  My front yard is completely in shade, and we have a heckuva time trying to grow grass in it.  Every home in my strip of townhouses has the same issue.  Still, the HOA sent a letter saying that I needed to seed the bare spots in my front lawn.  The other issue in front of my house was one of my favorites; the sidewalk needed to be power washed.

Fortunately, I have a power washer.  I spent a few hours on Labor Day power washing the front walk.  It turned out pretty good if I do say so myself.  I spent the next day raking a bunch of debris from the front lawn and threw down a bag of grass seed that said it was a mix designed to grow in shady areas.  To my surprise, the seed has sprouted and my yard is actually looking somewhat green.  Here is hoping that unlike in years past that the grass comes back in the spring.

So, if I have completed the work that my HOA said needed to be done and it has turned out pretty good, why would I be thinking of my HOA?  Well, the other houses in my little strip all have the same issues that my home has; no grass, dirty walks, etc.  I have always assumed that they have all received the same letters that I receive.  According to the letters I received, the work was to be completed in early September.  None of my neighbors have done anything.

The letters state that if the work is not completed by a certain date that the HOA will take further action including possible fines.  My yard is green, while my neighbors' lawns are brown.  The sidewalk in front of my home is a couple shades lighter than those around me.  Even though I think my HOA is a major pain in the ass, I want to be a responsible home owner and neighbor.  However, given that none of my neighbors have done the same, it does make me wonder.  Either my neighbors are not getting the same notices that I am, or they are ignoring them.
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Saturday, October 9, 2010

Happy Birthday John

Today would have been John Lennon's 70th birthday had Mark David Chapman not assassinated him nearly 30 years ago.  Yoko Ono had asked for people to celebrate his memory by posting videos on YouTube.  Since I do not currently have the ability to do that, I will be posting my thoughts through my humble blog.

John Lennon has always been and will always be my favorite member of the Beatles.  There was a certain charm about John.  His sarcastic wit and disregard for figures of status or authority were appealing to me in my youth.  While my political views today would be the polar opposite of John's, I still have the same acerbic sense of humor.

I still remember the feeling I had in the pit of my stomach when I woke up that December morning to find that John had been murdered.  I literally felt sick and could do nothing that day.  He had just released his first album in years and had been working on a follow up to it.  I can't help but wonder how much more great music he had in them.

Today is not a day to dwell on his death but to celebrate his life.  He brought so much great music to the world and helped shape a generation of youth.  It was a life cut too short, but it was a full and awesome life.  Happy Birthday, John.  I will always love and respect your music and your talent.  

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Friday, October 8, 2010

Back From Atlanta

Usually, I don't have this long of a break between blog posts.  I have pretty much been out of action since Tuesday due to a business trip to Atlanta for an industry trade show.  These trade shows are a lot of work with a lot of walking and pretty long days.  My legs don't hold up that well to this much walking these days, so my feet are killing me and the legs are a little swollen.

While the shows are a lot of work, they are a very important part of my job.  We don't get to have a lot of free time to ourselves, but there are moments where we get to unwind a bit.  It is not uncommon for there to be some celebrities in attendance at these shows.  Former NFL star Darren Woodson was at one booth for a couple hours, but unfortunately our schedule that day was such that I could not stop for an autograph.  I did, however, have the opportunity to stop by the Hunt Brothers Pizza booth to shake hands and have my picture taken with NASCAR legend Richard Petty.

Our days are spent walking the shows and visiting the booths.  Then we usually spend our evenings at dinner with some of the vendors we do business with.  These dinners usually last at least three hours as we have a lot of business to discuss.  Thursday night we went to a fantastic steakhouse in Buckhead called Bone's.  While we were eating, one of my coworkers came back from the restroom and said he thought he saw actor Lou Diamond Phillips.  I walked by him and thought that it could be him.

I pulled out my BlackBerry and searched for Phillips on Twitter.  I found a verified listing for him under @LouDPhillips.  I looked at a few of his tweets and saw that he had arrived in Atlanta a couple days before, so at that point I was convinced.  I considered saying hello to him, but decided to let him enjoy his meal in peace.  I did, however, send him a tweet asking if he had been at Bones Restaurant on Thursday night.  To my surprise, I received a reply back from him the next morning, "@dickster1961 Yup. Great steak that I couldn't finish & outstanding service. Grit Fritters? Yowza. Ya shoulda said hi."  I thought that was pretty cool of him.  Maybe next time I won't be so reticent to approach someone.
 
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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

YouTube Ads

YouTubeImage via Wikipedia
Have you ever had this happen to you?  The other night, I decided that I wanted to watch some music videos on YouTube.  After I had played a couple of videos, a commercial came on.  No problem.  It wasn't the first time I tried to watch a video on a website to be confronted with a commercial announcement, and I can appreciate that YouTube would want to generate a little revenue.

However, it seemed like I was getting a commercial announcement every two or three videos that I was watching.  That in and of itself wouldn't have been too bad, but they kept showing the same fucking video.  The worst part is that it wasn't some ordinary product commercial.  No, it was a political video.  A geographically targeted commercial.  A commercial from Martin "I never met a tax I didn't like" O'Malley attacking my choice to regain the governorship of Maryland, Bob Ehrlich.

It is not so much the fact that the played a commercial that bothered me.  It isn't even the fact that it was a political commercial by a politician that I can't stand attacking a politician that I would prefer to see elected in my state. The thing that bothered me was that it was the same commercial shown several times over the course of an hour.  Fortunately, I quickly found that if I refreshed the page after the commercial started that the video I wanted to watch would begin.
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Monday, October 4, 2010

Music Monday-Kenny Wise "I'm Not Through Loving You"

I have mentioned on more than one occasion that I deliver pizzas on Saturday nights. These days, when I listen to music, it is usually Country Music. This past Saturday night, I was out delivering pizzas, and was listening to one of the two Country stations in the area.

On this particular night, I was listening to WPOC, the Country station out of Baltimore. On Saturday night from 11pm-midnight, they run a program called "Charm City Country" where they feature music from local artists.

This past Saturday night they featured a song performed by a local artist named Kenny Wise. I fell in love with the song. It is my choice this week for Music Monday, "I'm Not Through Loving You."

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.
PS: Because of spamming purposes, the linky will be closed on Thursday of each week at midnight, Malaysian Time. Thank you!
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Sunday, October 3, 2010

Autism Adventures & Awareness

Autism awareness ribbon. The puzzle pattern re...Image via WikipediaCurrently, 1 in 110 kids are affected by autism.  It is even more prevalent in boys, with 1 in 70 boys being impacted with some form of autism.  My 16 year old son and my 22 year old nephew are two of them.

Each child is unique and the impact of autism is different for each child.  With my son, it has been a mixture of joy and frustration.  There are some aspects of his autism that make dealing with him very difficult, and other things that make living with him an absolute joy.

On the positive side, there is an absolute joy in watching him play.  He loves video games, but he doesn't always play the games in the traditional way the game was meant to be played.  Instead he does things that I would never do while playing a video game.  For instance, if he is playing a football game, he will use all his time outs right away, and will always go for it on 4th and long.  However, he has an absolute joy about him while playing, and in the end, isn't that what it really is all about?

Then there are his dealings with my wife and I.  At the age of 16, he still likes being with his Mom & Dad.  It is not uncommon for him to sit on the couch next to me to watch a ball game or to sit with our laptops and watch videos on YouTube.  Frequently while we are sitting together, he will still lay his head on my chest, or he will give me his hands so that I can rub his hands or arms.  Having his hands rubbed comforts him.  No matter how old he gets, these things just don't get old.

On the other hand, life with an autistic child comes with it's share of challenges.  A couple years ago, my son started having bad anxiety attacks on top of his autism.  For months he did not want to do a lot of the things that he used to thoroughly enjoy, like going to baseball games.  We also ended up having issues because he would not go to school on a regular basis.  We found a doctor who was able to prescribe some medications that helped some, but not completely.

As he has gotten older, and bigger, it has become increasingly difficult to deal with some of his troubling behaviors.  Whenever he doesn't want to do something, or if he doesn't get his way, he his likely to drop to the ground and refuse to get up.  Now that he is as tall as I am and about 170-180 pounds, I can no longer physically move him like I could when he was younger.  Recently, it took us nearly an hour to get him to leave a Border's Book Store because they didn't have a DVD he wanted.

Until recently, none of his behaviors have been particularly harmful or life threatening.  That is, until the last month or so.  Over the past two months, we have been unable to get him to go to school at all.  On those occasions when my wife has been able to get him in the car, he has started a rather dangerous practice.  On more than one occasion, he has unlocked the car door and tried to get out of the car while it was still moving.  Fortunately, he has not gotten hurt.  Unfortunately, the other day, he laid down in the street for several minutes before my wife was able to get him to get up and go home.

For obvious reasons, I am the only member of the household that is working.  His actions of late have taken a particular toll on my wife.  Since I am at work, she has had to deal with the brunt of his behavioral issues.  Needless to say, things have been particularly stressful of late.  We are trying to deal with a bunch of issues with him and the school system, but we are hopeful to get some relief soon.  Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers. 
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Saturday, October 2, 2010

Random Japaneseness/Random Hotness

In addition to the "YouTube is Better than Television" meme that my old friend at the Undercover Blackman blog used to run on a regular basis, there were two other themes that he used to run frequently that I enjoyed, "Random Hotness" and "Random Japaneseness."  The following would fit under either category.

What do you get when you combine an attractive woman showing ample cleavage and leg, a hidden camera, and a stop watch?  Apparently in Japan you get a pretty entertaining television program.  The concept, as best as I can tell, is to film guys walking by the bait, in this case a beautiful woman.  They film them and then time how long they glance, gawk, or stare at the woman. The "winner" would be the person who looks at her the longest.

I really wish that I understood Japanese, because it sounds like a splendid time was had by all.  Even if you don't understand Japanese, which I suspect will be most if not all of my visitors, it is worth watching the clip if only to watch the facial expressions of the guys, and the different ways they sneak a peak.  Oh, and of course the woman helps too,




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