Monday, February 28, 2011

Music Monday-Paul McCartney "Birthday"

Today, I will be a little self indulgent. Happy Birthday to me.

Come join Music Monday and share your songs with us. Rules are simple. Leave ONLY the ACTUAL LINK POST 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!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Cutting the Crap

Cover of "The Primal Blueprint: Reprogram...Cover via AmazonI am rapidly approaching my 50th birthday; OK it's tomorrow.  Like a lot of people, I am a good bit heavier than I would like to be.  Now I have never been what you called slender.  I played football in high school and used to do a lot of weight training so I have always been a little more muscular.

Even though in my youth I was more active and athletic, I haven't always made the right food choices.  I have always liked junk food, and ever since I became old enough to drink alcohol I have had a love affair with beer and wine.  To be quite honest, a lot of the reason I did so much weight training when I was younger was so that I could indulge more frequently in those bad foods.

Unfortunately, as the years have passed, my activity level has decreased steadily.  There are a number of reasons/excuses for why this is so.  There is the added responsibility of being the father of a special needs child. Due to career changes, I have a much longer commute that eats into my spare time that could be used for exercise.  Then there are the financial issues that won't allow me to splurge on a gym membership.

Anyway, over the years the pounds just started to add up and led to a variety of issues.  One is the need for medication for high blood pressure.  The other has been just an overall decline in the quality of life in general.  It isn't really an appearance issue, but just a general feeling like crap all the time; no energy, assorted aches and pains, and frequent headaches.

So, two weeks ago, with the realization that my 50th birthday rapidly approaching, I finally made the decision to do start taking better care of myself.   In my job as a candy and snack buyer, I have a lot of junk food around my office.  Instead of taking a lunch, I would frequently sit at my desk and eat whatever I had around the office.  It was never anything of any nutritional value.  For the past two weeks, I have packed a lunch, usually a salad with some chicken or tuna, and taken the time out of my day for lunch.

It has been over two weeks since I have had any beer or wine.  When I do not have beer or wine in the house, I do not miss it.  Unfortunately, if I have it in the house, I drink it.  I never drink to the point where I would be drunk, but I would drink more than I should.  It was never so much that I would wake up with a hangover, but it was enough to make me feel sluggish the next day.

When I started this, my plan was to cut out the junk food and eat only nutritious food.  It has only been two weeks, and I already feel a huge difference.  My overall energy level is improving and more stable through the day.  I also started reading a new book on my Kindle, The Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson.  It teaches us that we need to eat more like our hunter/gatherer ancestors by making the diet mostly meat, fruit, and vegetables, and to avoid grains, sugars, and highly processed foods.  I will be incorporating a lot of the books teachings in my plans.
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Saturday, February 26, 2011

Breast Milk Ice Cream

White mocha (coffee) ice cream and ice cream s...Image via WikipediaI love ice cream.  It has always been a weakness of mine.  It is nothing for me to polish off an entire pint of ice cream in one sitting.  I love all kinds of ice cream and just about any flavor.  It's all good.  I think my favorite flavor of ice cream is Ben & Jerry's Chubby Hubby.  Of course, Baskin & Robbins has another of my all time favorite flavors in their Baseball Nut ice cream.

I love ice cream so much that one year my wife and my son gave me the Ben & Jerry's Homemade Ice Cream & Dessert Cookbook and an ice cream maker.  Over the years, that machine has gotten a good bit of use.  Sometimes I would use the recipes in the cookbook and other times I adjusted the base recipe with some of my own creations.  Once I made Mango ice cream with fresh mangoes and another time a coffee based ice cream with chocolate covered almonds.

As adventurous as I would get in my ice cream sampling and creations, I also have to admit that for the most part I am not a very adventurous eater.  My wife complains that I need to be more willing to try different types of foods.  I get a little squeamish at the thought of eating certain foods.  I will not go into a lot of the details of what those things are.  I am so squeamish that sometimes the thought of eating certain foods would make me gag.

As is my custom, during my commute yesterday I was listing to talk radio on 630WMAL here in the DC area.  During one of the news breaks between segments of the show I was listening they alluded to the story of a shop in London that was selling an ice cream made with human breast milk.  The concoction is being sold under the flavor "Lady Gaga." I haven't fully decided how I feel about this, but I am leaning towards the squeamish side. 

It is not that I am squeamish about the idea of human breast milk per se.  After all, I was breast fed as a baby.  However, breast milk is meant for babies.  There is something a tad unsavory in the idea of a woman having her breast milk harvested for some purpose other than the feed a baby.  If the thought of an ice cream isn't enough to turn you off from trying "Lady Gaga," the price might be.  It is being sold at the premium price of approximately $23 per scoop.  That is a lot of Chubby Hubby.
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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Pain at the Pump

Bombay highImage via WikipediaThis morning I got into my car and headed off to work.  Earlier this month, it was reported that gasoline prices had hit their highest retail price for early February ever, even higher than the record prices we saw a couple years ago.  There is one gasoline station that I pass on my way to get a gauge of what gas is selling for.  At the time the report was released, gas at that station was running around $2.99 per gallon.  Over the weekend it sat at $3.05 per gallon.  Today, it was up to $3.15 per gallon, up 3% in the past week.

The unrest in the Middle East over the last couple weeks has led to some of the recent increase to be sure.  However that is only part of the problem.  The Heritage Foundation has a great post on their Foundry blog that details 10 things you need to know about high gas prices and Obama's oil policy.  It makes for some very interesting reading.  Now, I am not going to lay all the blame for the current price of gasoline strictly at the feet of the Obama administration, but they sure as hell aren't doing anything to help the situation.

Every President since Carter has talked about our need to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.  There are huge oil reserves off our coastlines and in Alaska.  Unfortunately, since Carter, we have been hamstrung from developing our domestic sources of oil by giving in to the environmentalists.  Every time we do get a President to be willing to start the process of developing those domestic resources, we have to face the roadblocks of the environmentalists.  It takes so much time to get approval to drill, that by the time they can get started, a new administration comes in and shuts things down again.

There is a rather simple law of economics that takes place with oil and gasoline.  Prices go up when either demand increases or supply decreases.  Likewise, prices will go down when supply increases or demand decreases.  With the unrest throughout the Middle East, there are real concerns about the supply of oil being interrupted which will send prices up even higher.  Couple that with increased demand from other countries like China and Russia which is exerting even more upward pressure on oil prices.  Developing our domestic sources of oil would increase supply and ease pressure on prices.

I can hear all the environmentalists squawking about how we can't drill.  The reality of it is that for the most part, drilling has been fairly safe with very few environmental disasters, the BP Gulf spill notwithstanding.  And I don't want to hear about the poor polar bear.  Their populations have been growing, and they sure as hell don't care about what happens to us.  In fact, they would just as soon tear your head off as look at you.  If the polar bear wants to get in the way of drilling, I say drill through their ass.

Now don't get me wrong.  I am all for developing cleaner energy sources.  I am also in favor of more fuel efficient automobiles.  The reality is that oil helps drive the economic engine as well as our combustion engines.  Higher oil prices will impact all aspects of our economy which is struggling with high unemployment and slow growth.  With the government spending at a deficit rate in the trillions, we need revenue.  Ironically, as pointed out in the Heritage post, due to the administration's oil policy, the government is losing billions in revenue from royalties for oil production.

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Monday, February 21, 2011

Music Monday-Trace Adkins "Swing"

Spring training started for Major League Baseball last week.  That means spring is just around the corner.  In less than two months the baseball season will begin.  For my family, that means getting ready to go out to watch this year's version of the Bowie Baysox and the Delmarva Shorebirds, two of the minor league teams in the Baltimore Orioles organization.  For that reason, my Music Monday choice will have a baseball flavor to it, Trace Adkins and "Swing."

Come join Music Monday and share your songs with us. Rules are simple. Leave ONLY the ACTUAL LINK POST 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, February 20, 2011

The Dark Side of Islam

Cover of "The Dark Side of Islam"Cover of The Dark Side of IslamLast week, I mentioned that I finally got a Kindle ebook reader.  My big concern when I got it was whether or not I would actually use it enough to make it worth buying it.  At work, I rarely would take a formal lunch break.  Instead, I usually sat at my desk and ate junk.  So, I have made the decision to bring a healthy lunch to try to lose weight and use that time to read from my Kindle.  Last week, I finished my first book on the Kindle.

That book was called "The Dark Side of Islam" by RC Sproul and Abdul Saleeb.  Saleeb is the pseudonym of a former Muslim who has converted to Christianity.  The book is rather short, with only 8 chapters and less than 100 pages in total.  It is based on a series of conversations that the two had on the subject of the differences between Christianity and Islam.

The first seven chapters of the book highlight the various differences between the historical orthodox Christianity and Islam.  Each chapter focuses on a different aspect of the similarities and differences. Those subjects are the views on Scripture, the Fatherhood of God, the Trinity, sin, salvation, and the death and Deity of Jesus Christ.  With the brevity of each chapter, you do not get an in depth treatise on each subject, but a fairly high level comparison.  The two writers take turns within each chapter discussing various aspects of the topic.

In the final chapter of the book, Saleeb draws on his experience as a former Muslim and as a Christian to address what is called "the dark side of Islam."  Saleeb makes the argument that the vast majority of Muslims are, in fact, peace loving people.  However, there is the problem that can not be avoided and that is the fanatical element that are using Islam as their justification to wage jihad.

Saleeb states that Christians are not without sin in acts of violence in the name of Christianity.  However, his belief is that when Christians act in such a manner, they are acting in direct opposition to the teachings of Christ.  Muslims who perform acts of violence in the name of Islam do so based on the teachings of the Qur'an and the example as set forth from the life of Muhammad.

Normally, I am a big fan of the work of Dr. Sproul, especially in his works on "The Holiness of God" and "The Last Days According to Jesus."  His work usually is a lot more in depth than the particular book.  Still, I enjoyed the book and learned a bit more about the subject matter.  If you are looking for a brief look at the differences between Islam and Christianity, you may enjoy "The Dark Side of Islam."  However, if you want a more in depth treatise on the subject you will probably be disappointed.
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Saturday, February 19, 2011

Gay Marriage in Maryland?

Maryland State House (side)Image via WikipediaThe state of Maryland has taken the first steps towards becoming the sixth state to allow gay marriages.  The bill has passed through the Judicial Proceedings Committee and is headed towards the Senate.  The Washington Post reports that the vote in the Senate is expected to be close, but most think it will pass.  Then it would go to the House of Delegates where it is expected to pass more easily.  Governor Martin O'Malley has said he would sign the bill.

I do not have real strong feelings either way on the issue.  It is an issue in which I have empathy for sides of the argument.  It really does not impact me or my marriage.  Over the years, I have worked with and been friendly with homosexuals who have been involved in monogamous relationships.  One coworker recently took advantage of DC's gay marriage laws and married his partner of several years.  Having spent several years in evangelical churches, I also understand the religious argument against gay marriage.

The one thing that I will say in regards to the path that Maryland is taking, is that I feel the state is going about this in the right way.  I am a big supported of the 10th Amendment of the Constitution and of state's rights.  The issue of marriage is one that I feel should be decided individually by the state.  I also like the fact that Maryland is passing it through legislation, and not the courts.  Some of the states that currently allow gay marriage have done so by judicial fiat.  Lastly, the bill includes a strong conscious clause that allows religious institutions to be exempt from having to perform same sex marriages. 

Like I said, I have no strong feeling either way.  Given the circumstances, Maryland is doing it the right way, with features that I think are necessary for religious institutions.  If the populace of Maryland decides that the law is something that they can not support they can petition to have the issue brought to a referendum or they can vote in legislators that would be supportive of repealing the law. 
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Thursday, February 17, 2011

Borders Files for Bankruptcy

Borders Books at 1807 Fordham Boulevard in Cha...Image via WikipediaI have always loved books.  For as long as I can remember, I have had several bookshelves loaded with books.  A lot of them were from different mail order book clubs.  One of my favorite book clubs was a club that featured classic literature.  Depending on the type of book it was, the book came in a different colored binding. For example, classic American literature came in a navy blue cover and British novelist were green.  There were five different colors.

Most of the books that I bought in stores were from small stores at the local malls.  The stores themselves were small and didn't have a lot of variety.  The first big book store that I experienced was a Borders book store in Rockville, MD.  I was mesmerized.  There were bookshelves that went from floor to ceiling covering every conceivable subject.

On Monday of this week, I went up to the local Borders here in Bowie, MD. It is not as impressive as the first Border's that I went into.  I went to the Borders because we were going to be taking our son back to school and I wanted to pick up a couple DVDs for him to watch at school.  At the time, the clerk offered me an upgraded membership to their rewards card for $20.  It sounded like a good idea at the time.

Yesterday, Borders filed for bankruptcy.  My store in Bowie as well as that first store in Rockville happen to be two of the stores that are closing in my area.   There is another store nearby that also is scheduled to be closed.  Since I just bought the upgraded membership, I decided to see if I could get a refund.  I felt kind of bad about asking for a refund given their circumstance, but the clerk gladly gave me money back.  She said that today would be the last day they would be giving refunds.  

It is sad when a business that you have frequented is headed down this road.  Still, the combination of the economy and new technology has led to the decline of sales in places like Borders.  With the rise of eReaders like Kindle and Nook, combined with discount stores like Target and Walmart along with websites like have led to an atmosphere where stores like Borders will struggle.  
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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Military Class

General Peter W. Chiarelli, USA, Vice Chief of...Image via WikipediaThere is no doubt that the men and women of our military are top notch.  I am sure there are some bad apples out there, but every member of the military that I have had the pleasure to know has been worthy of respect in some fashion, especially those career military personnel.

I recall the example of Admiral Robert Willard when testifying before Congress last year.  During questioning, Congressman Hank Johnson expressed concern that Guam could become so overpopulated that it could capsize.  To Admiral Willard's credit he expressed no shock at the statement, but respectfully replied that he did not anticipate that happening.

A friend of mine posted a link on Facebook of another example of the class of our military.  This article was on CNN and written by author Bob Greene.  Greene recounts the story of an incident that occurred at a recent dinner.  White House advisor Valerie Jarrett mistook 4-star General Peter Chiarelli for a waiter because the General's dress slacks were similar to the pants worn by the waiters. 

Jarrett asked the General to get her a glass of wine, which he did.  The point is, the General's response is an example for us all.  He could have easily replied that he was not a waiter or done something to belittle Ms. Jarrett.  He did not.  It is a far cry from the response of Senator Barbara Boxer and her asking General Michael Walsh to call her "Senator" instead of "ma'am."  I am sure General Chiarelli worked just as hard, if not harder, to become a 4-star General as Senator Boxer worked to become Senator.

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Monday, February 14, 2011

Music Monday-The Righteous Brothers "Unchained Melody"

For Valentine's Day and Music Monday, one of the all time great love songs, The Righteous Brothers and "Unchained Melody."

Come join Music Monday and share your songs with us. Rules are simple. Leave ONLY the ACTUAL LINK POST 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, February 13, 2011

I'm a Lucky Man

Hooters Calendar Girl Melissa Poe in 2004Image via WikipediaTomorrow is Valentine's Day.  In a lot of ways, I am a lucky man.  My wife does not like flowers, so I do not have to be concerned about getting her flowers.  She also does not like going out on Valentine's Day because she doesn't like fighting the big crowds that hit the restaurants that day.  So today was our big Valentine's meal.  More on that later.

We are closing in on the end of having our son home for a long weekend.  We are supposed to take him back to school tomorrow sometime between 1-7pm.  He has already said he does not want to go back to school.  Today was going to be the day we were going to try to go out and do some fun things for him.

He had been asking us to take him to Border's Book Store to get an iCarly or Spongebob Squarepants DVD.  We have been reluctant to take him to Border's because we have had some very unpleasant occurances there with him of late.  I mentioned to him the possibility of going to Arundel Mills Mall so we could go to Dave & Buster's to play skee-ball and then go to FYE to buy the DVDs.  That worked for us all.

Let me now backtrack to Valentine's Day and our Valentine's meal.  Earlier in the week, I received a short text message from my wife.  It read simply, "Hooters, Valentines day." (See, I told you I was a lucky man.)  We considered waiting until tomorrow to try to fit all these in, but I figured the more stops we try tomorrow, the more likely we would have potential issues with our son and getting him in the car to head back to school.

Something happened at Hooter's this afternoon with our son that shows the progress he has made and helps confirm that having him there is the right thing for him.  At home, he has been drinking out of a sippee cup and not out of a regular glass.  He is very much a creature of routine, and for him, milk is to be drunk from a sippee cup.  However, at school, he has been drinking water from a cup.  At home he drinks it straight from the tap.

My son did not want any food while we were at Hooters.  At first, he also did not want anything to drink.  However, as my wife and I were eating our meal, he asked for water.  Our server (would it be inappropriate to call her our Hooter Girl) brought him a big cup of water with ice in it.  Usually, when he gets upset, you have to figure out what has set him off.  Today, he immediately said, "I don't like the ice."  He drank about half of a rather large cup of water.

There were three things that were great about our lunch, none of which had anything to do with the food or ambiance of the place.  First, while we were eating he decided that he wanted something after all and was able to ask for it.  Second, when his drink came, rather than having a meltdown about it having ice, he was able to communicate what he didn't like.  Third, he showed us that he could easily handle a rather large cup and drink from it without a straw or lid.

To most folks, these may seem like simple things.  To the father of an autistic child who at times has been incapable of communicating even the slightest desire or dissatisfaction without getting at best, upset, and at worst having a complete meltdown, these are monumental events.  It would not have been out of the ordinary for my son to scream loudly about having ice in the water and then to refuse to drink it.  We take our victories where we can get them, no matter how small they may appear.
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Saturday, February 12, 2011

My New Kindle

Cover of "Kindle Wireless Reading Device,...Cover via AmazonOK.  I did it.  I took the plunge and bought an eReader.  Last week, I posted that I was just about ready to buy an eBook reader.  At the time, I was leaning towards getting the Nook wi-fi version eReader for a couple reasons.  One was the fact that the Nook is expandable with a micro SD card.  Another was that you could purchase books from more sources.  The final reason was that you could borrow eBooks from the public library with the Nook.

However, I was tempted to do a little more research before finally making the decision to purchase a reader.  Last weekend, I headed out to the local Barnes & Noble to take a look at the Nooks.  Specifically to take a look at the Nook color.  The bookseller showed me some of the features of the Nook color, but in the end, I didn't want the additional features of the color.  I also noticed a lot of glare on it when in the store.  The other factor against the Nook color is that because it was a backlit LCD display, the battery life would be much shorter.

I then headed up to Target to take a look at the Kindle wi-fi that they had there.  One of the things I noticed was that the model they had said it would hold 1500 books.  However, I recalled seeing on Amazon's site that they had expanded the memory on the Kindle so that it would hold up to 3500 books.  Now, I do not expect that I will be going crazy adding eBooks to my library, but I wanted to have the option to either expand or hold as many books as I could.

The last factor was in looking at the availability and costs of books at the various outlooks.  I visited the website of my public library to see what eBooks were available to check out.  I did not see a whole lot of choices, so that favorable point for the Nook was nullified.  I then visited both the Amazon and Barnes & Noble sites to search for some books that I would be interested in downloading.  Most of the books were available on both sites, but Amazon had a decided advantage in price on a couple books I was looking at.

In the end, I decided on price and the market leader, the Kindle.  I placed my order on on Wednesday evening, shortly after 5 pm.  It arrived yesterday, registered to my Amazon account and ready for me to start downloading books.  So far, I have been looking at a lot of the free or very inexpensive options.  I have added a collection of Mark Twain books, Treasure Island, the Holman Christian Standard Bible, and Concerning Christian Liberty by Martin Luther.

There are a few books that I am looking at purchasing in the very near future.  There are also several other classics that I can get for free or at a very low price that I will also be downloading very soon.  It should come in very handy for an upcoming trip I have to the west coast for a trade show next month.  Whenever I would take a long trip, I would always take three books with me, the one I was reading at the time and a choice of two for when I finished that one.  Now, I can just take my Kindle and have a full range of choices. 

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Thursday, February 10, 2011

Home for a Long Weekend

Yesterday we picked our son up from school for a scheduled long weekend home.  It had been a little more than three weeks since we had dropped him off.  Originally, he was supposed to be at school for a little more than five weeks, but after week one we had to bring him home due to an ear infection.  After he recovered and went back to school, the three weeks he was there have been the longest he had been away from home.

For the most part, he has done better during the week when he has class.  He has struggled most on the weekends when he has spent most of his time in the dorms.  His weekend struggles have been particularly tough on my wife and I.  So much so that we have almost dreaded calling to check up on him on the weekends.  This past weekend, we got one of the better weekend reports that he had been eating better, interacting with peers, and cooperating in general.

When we picked him up yesterday and spoke to his teacher, she said that as of last Wednesday, my son seemed like a different child.  He had been performing his tasks without resistance and had been eating three meals a day.  Prior to that he would only eat lunch in school and occasionally a little breakfast.  This was a major relief to us because we had been particularly concerned about how little he had been eating, especially on the weekend and evenings.

He was pretty excited to be coming home.  The whole way home he was yapping away a mile a minute.  It was kind of funny because he would go into some of his rote conversations.  We would start to do our role in the conversation, but he had so much to say that he would quickly move from one topic to another.  He has been keeping me pretty busy doing things when I am home from work at night.  I will be burning him at least one or two DVDs over the weekend.

I have had a couple major concerns with him adjusting to living away from home.  A couple of them I have chronicled here previously.  His eating and drinking have been a major concern.  Another was that he would not comprehend or understand us taking him to school.  My fear was that he would think that we were abandoning him.

Yesterday, my wife asked him a question.  I can only hope that he didn't fully understand what she was asking him.  She asked him if he thought that mommy and daddy had forgotten about him.  His answer was "yes."  If he understood her correctly, then another of my biggest fears has been realized.  We have told him without equivocation that we would never forget about him.  My prayer is that he will know we will always love him and be there for us.  

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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Small Town Life

my first real taste of small town Main StreetImage by incendiarymind via FlickrI have often wondered what it would be like to live in a small town.  Currently, I live in Bowie, MD, a suburb of Washington DC.  While Bowie itself isn't exactly a bustling metropolis, it is near just about anything you could want.  In addition to being near the nation's capitol, we are about the same distance from Baltimore MD and very close to Annapolis MD.

In 2004, I lost a job with a company that I had worked for for over 20 years.  It wasn't anything that I did wrong that caused me to lost my job, but the company decided to centralize a lot of job functions to the corporate office in northern California, and they eliminated my job. 

Over the next several months, I went on a lot of job interviews, mostly local though some were out of state.  One company that I interviewed with was in a town called Sunbury PA.  In reviewing info about the area, we discovered that there was not a lot around the area, at least not of interest to our family. 

My wife did not like the idea of living in a small town very far away from a lot of shopping.  On the other hand, I am pretty much a homebody, and think I would be happy just about anywhere, at least as long as minor league baseball was nearby.

Today was the day that we had to go pick up our son from his school on the eastern shore for a long weekend home.  To be honest, his school is pretty much in the middle of nowhere.  On the way out to pick him up, we have to go through a small town called Ridgely MD. 

Today on our way out to pick up my son, I noticed a sign upon entering Ridgely.  The sign was one of your typical "Welcome" signs.  I remember when driving to Myrtle Beach SC, seeing a sign announcing that it was the home of Vanna White.  The Ridgely MD sign honored a life long resident of Ridgely MD who happened to be 100 years old.  I thought the sign was kind of quaint and sweet.

Shortly after entering Ridgely, you come upon a block with a church on one end and a school on the other.  Between the church and school is a line of shops that looks straight out of Mayberry RFD.  I fully expected to see Floyd the Barber standing outside the barber shop talking to Goober. 

Now, Ridgely may be just a bit smaller than I would prefer, but the idea that the town would honor a resident who has lived there 100 years is the type of small town charm you just can't find in the city, nor can you find it in the suburbs of Bowie MD.
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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

A New Opportunity

Over the weekend, I received an email from one of my blogging buddies, FishHawk of the As The Crackerhead Crumbles and FishHawk Droppings blogs.  He was telling me that he had started a new blog, The Tribulation Times Herald-Exhorter, and he asked me if I would be a contributor to the new effort.  He describes the purpose of the site as:
This site is meant to present as many views as possible of what we may want to believe is the truth about a number of subjects. For the more closely we seek to examine such, the closer we can come to accepting what our Heavenly Father actually says is absolutely true. For He will be there to counter what is not right, and He truly is interested in every aspect of our daily lives. Ah, but who is so deaf as the one who does not want to hear?

No, this is not for just articles about the possibility of us truly being in the end times. For it has been personally revealed to me that every day in this world is one of tribulation. In fact, even what we would naturally consider to be the best of lives is absolutely miserable in comparison to the worst of lives in our Heavenly Father’s Kingdom of Heaven. Therefore, be assured that this is a place for articles on politics (both secular and religious), business practices, social issues, environmental concerns, as well as spiritual matters—not all from a strictly “Christian” perspective, neither. 
First, I would publicly like to thank FishHawk for his gracious invitation to be a part of this new site.  I have never met FishHawk, and we only know each other from our blogs and comments on those blogs, so I am flattered that he asked.  I have accepted his offer to be a participant.  At this point, I am not sure what types of contributions that I will make, but I have a couple different ideas.  There may be some items that I post on The Tribulations Times Herald-Exhorter that I will also cross post here.  Either way, I am interested in seeing how this turns out, and I encourage you to give the new site a visit.
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Monday, February 7, 2011

Music Monday-Robert Cray "Consequences"

I am going to stick with a little blues guitar for my Music Monday choice this week. Last week, I went with my favorite guitarist of all time, Eric Clapton. This week I have selected Robert Cray, who I happened to catch in concert once as the opening act for Clapton.  During Clapton's encore that night, Cray stood on the floor just below where I was sitting.  I called down to him, he looked up and shook my hand when I told him what a great show he had.

Here Young Bob reminds us that when we are faced with a choice between right or wrong, there are "Consequences" if we choose the wrong path.

Come join Music Monday and share your songs with us. Rules are simple. Leave ONLY the ACTUAL LINK POST 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, February 6, 2011

Ronald Wilson Reagan

Official Portrait of President Ronald ReaganImage via WikipediaToday marks the 100th anniversary of Ronald Wilson Reagan, the 40th President of the United States.  Reagan was elected to the presidency in 1980, which happened to be the first presidential election that I was eligible to vote. 

I did not vote for him in that first election.  I was registered as an independent in those days.  As a teenager, I could not see me voting for this old man who I best new as having been in the movie "Bedtime for Bonzo."  At the same time, Jimmy Carter as president had been a disaster, so I voted for the independent candidate, John Anderson.

Four years later, I gladly voted for the re-election of Ronald Reagan.  His presidency helped to shape my current political views.  He instilled in me a sense of patriotism and love of country that I had not felt before.  During his presidency, I changed my party affiliation from independent to Republican.  Without a doubt, in my view, he was the greatest president of my lifetime.

I will be 50 years old at the end of this month.  The first president that I can remember is Richard Nixon.  I remember joking after the Watergate incident that the only thing that Nixon ever did wrong was get caught.  Still, he brought disgrace to the office and to the country.  When Nixon resigned, Gerald Ford took over and finished the last two years of Nixon's term.  He lost to Jimmy Carter in 1976.

As I said earlier, Jimmy Carter was a disaster as president.  During his presidency we had high unemployment, high inflation, and high interests rates.  During his term, the Shah of Iran fell, and 52 US citizen were taken hostage.  They were held in captivity for 444 days, and released shortly after Reagan was sworn in as President.

During the campaign, Reagan asked voters if they were better off today than they were four years ago when Carter became president.  The answer was without a doubt no. Under Reagan, the country recovered from the Jimmy Carter days, the economy thrived.  After the Reagan years, I think it was safe to say that the country was much better off than under his predecessor.

Reagan was succeeded by his Vice-President, George H.W. Bush.  A nice enough guy, but no Ronald Reagan.  He may best be remembered for two quotes.  First, "I don't like broccoli," and his campaign promise to Congress, "Read my lips, no new taxes!"  It was a campaign promise he did not keep and probably one of the reasons that H. Ross Perot entered the 1992 as an independent candidate.  Perot captured 19% of the vote and likely caused Bush to lose re-election to Bill Clinton.

I look at Bill Clinton a couple of different ways.  In a lot of ways, he was the first "cool" president.  He appeared on late night shows playing his saxophone.  I thought he would be a fun guy to hang out with and have a beer, but I didn't think he would be presidential material.  To be fair, he did some good things as president, like having a balanced budget during his term.  It should be noted that period came when the House was under the control of the GOP and Speaker Newt Gingrich.  However, there is something decidedly un-presidential about receiving a blow job from a White House intern.

Next up came George W. Bush.  In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, Bush the younger enjoyed extremely high approval ratings for the way he handled the crisis.  It was the first time in years that I felt a higher than normal sense of pride in the president.  Unfortunately, he was unable to maintain that level of popularity.  In fact, in his re-election bid, I voted against the Republican presidential candidate for the first time since 1980.  In retrospect, I am glad that the Democrat candidate lost.

Which brings us to the current President, Barack Obama.  I think it is still too early to make a final judgment on Obama, but suffice it to say that I am not impressed so far.  It took a Jimmy Carter to get us a Ronald Reagan in 1980.  One has to wonder what a Barack Obama will get us.  Unfortunately, at this time, I don't see another Ronald Reagan on the horizon, although I pray we find one soon.

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Saturday, February 5, 2011

Mardi Gras Night

Most Saturday nights, I am out delivering pizza to the local residents.  Tonight, however, was a special night.  Tonight, we had the opportunity to attend Mardi Gras Night.  It was a fundraiser for an organization called Opportunity Builders, Inc.

We had a great time.  Can you tell from my picture here that I had a couple of brewed beverages?  The night started off with a few hors d'oeuvres and a live band.  When you entered the event, they gave you a coupon for $50000 in chips to play casino games.  They had blackjack, poker, roulette, craps and slot machines.  I spent a good hour playing blackjack.  I broke about even, so I guess I did OK.  If you went through your free chips you could spend your hard earned cash for more chips.  It was a fundraiser after all.  At the end of the night, for every $25000 in chips you turned in, you received a ticket towards a raffle.

There were also two auctions during the night.  In the early part of the evening, there were several lots available for a silent auction.  I bid early in the evening on a four pack of Bowie Baysox tickets and an Outback Steakhouse gift card, but got so caught up in playing blackjack that I never went back to see how high the bidding got on the items.  The evening ended with a live auction and drawing of the raffle tickets from your casino winnings.  The live auction items are well out of my price range, and unfortunately, I did not win any of the raffles.

The reason we were able to attend the event is because my in-laws, through one of their companies, were a big sponsor of the event and had a table.  Earlier this week, I posted about how my son had started working in one of the programs at his new school.  Our nephew, graduated from my son's school last spring, and is currently working for OBI.  It is the next step in the transitional process for kids like my son.  I tip my Mardi Gras hat to organizations like OBI and companies that contract with them for work.

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Thursday, February 3, 2011

Ready for an eBook Reader

Cover of "Kindle Wireless Reading Device,...Cover via AmazonI have been considering buying an eBook reader like the Nook or the Kindle for some time now.  There have been a few things that have prevented me from taking the plunge.  First and foremost has been the cost.  The second consideration was which one to get.  The final consideration would be how much use I would get out of it.

Last summer, Barnes & Noble helped address the cost portion of my dilemma when they cut the pricing on their Nook which led to a price reduction by Amazon on the Kindle.  They also released a wi-fi only version of the Nook as an alternative to the 3G version, which brought the price down more.  This week, I came across a little extra money that we weren't expecting.  We received a check from our mortgage company because we had a surplus in our escrow account.  Plus we received our state tax refund as well.

The other consideration was whether I should go for the Nook or the Kindle.  On the one hand, the Kindle is far and away the market leader on eBook readers.  However, you are pretty much limited to buying your books only from Amazon.  The Nook, on the other hand, allows you to buy ebooks from multiple sources.  In addition, public libraries now allow you to check out ebooks that would be compatible on the Nook, but not the Kindle.  For that reason, I have decided that when I take the plunge, it will likely be the Nook.

The final consideration is the last thing that I have to overcome before taking the eBook plunge.  In the past, I have been a very active reader.  These days, I have so many things going on that I do not get to read as much as I would like to.  Now, I tend to do most of my reading when I go on business trips and have to spend a lot of time on an airplane or in the airport.  I am concerned that I would not use the reader enough to justify the expense.  Still, it would be so much nicer when traveling to carry a reader instead of a couple of bulky books.

All things considered, I am pretty close to making the purchase.  This weekend, I will probably head out to my local Barnes & Noble and see what they have.  These days, it is not very often that I treat myself to a relatively expensive gadget.  Now that I have a few extra bucks available to me, now is as good a time as any.

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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

My Hard Working Man

IRS Form W-2Image via WikipediaWe went to the mailbox today to discover a W2, for my son from his new school.  For 2010, he earned a big $4.61 and had $.07 taken out for Medicare and $.29 for social security.  My son now has a job working in one of the vocational programs at the school.

Our nephew graduated from this school last spring.  After the graduation, his case worker handed my wife a locked cash box that contained the money he had earned from his jobs.  One Christmas, the school took them shopping.  He selected gifts for family members and used his own money to pay for them.

Currently, my son is working in the Industrial Training Department at the school.  He assembles bottles by putting tops on them and placing them in a container.  He is paid based on the amount of work he completes.  The school also has jobs in a car wash, school kitchen, nursery, cleaning service, among others.

As my son progresses, he will have opportunities to work in other areas.  He receives a paycheck every two weeks for his work.  The class then goes on a field trip to a bank in the community to cash their paychecks.  Then they can go to the store to purchase things.  My son has used some of his money to buy some potato chips.

There are many reasons that we wanted our son to go away to this school.  The vocational program is one of those reasons.  They are helping kids with special needs to become productive members of society.  I am proud that my son has earned his first paycheck, and I am happy that they are teaching him valuable life lessons.
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