Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Piers Morgan is a _______

I will let you fill in the blank with whatever words you feel fit.  If I had filled in the blank in the headline of this post, I can guarantee you that it would not have been a complimentary adjective to describe Piers Morgan.  Suffice to say, I am not a fan of Morgan.  There are some people you would like to see get bitch-slapped and he is one of them.

My disdain for Morgan goes back to when he appeared on Celebrity Apprentice.  I do not normally watch that show, but I did that season because Trace Adkins was on the show, and I am a big fan of Trace.  On the show, Morgan just came across as a pompous ass.  Omarosa was also on the show that season and a couple times I thought her and Morgan were going to come to blows.  I am pretty sure she would have kicked his ass.

After the tragedy in Connecticut at Sandy Hill Elementary School, Morgan launched his all out attacks against the 2nd Amendment of the Constitution.  He has been one of the many liberal voices out there pushing for stricter gun controls.  There is nothing that galls me more than foreigners like Morgan and George Soros who come to this country and then proceed to trash us.  Here, Ted Nugent schools Morgan on gun control.

So it isn't enough for Morgan to trash our Constitution.  Next he goes on to have Pastor Rick Warren on the show to discuss gay rights.  During the discussion Morgan goes on to tell Pastor Warren that the Bible needs to be amended to allow for gay marriage and other things that Morgan, in his holier than thou view, are outdated.  Morgan actually states that the Constitution and the Bible are "inherently flawed."

Hat tip to Wayne Dupree of World of News Ninja 2012 for posting the two videos that appear in this post.

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Tuesday, December 25, 2012

On the Twelfth Day of Christmas-Rich Mullins "You Gotta Get Up"

From now until Christmas day, I will be posting some sort of Christmas related post for the 12 Days of Christmas.  As a kid, I remember the anticipation of getting up in the morning to see what presents Santa brought for us.  It was always the case that us kids would wake up before our parents and we would eagerly encourage them to wake up.  I think Rich Mullins captures that feeling perfectly.  On the Twelfth Day of Christmas, You Gotta Get Up.  Merry Christmas everybody!
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Monday, December 24, 2012

On the Eleventh Day of Christmas-Twas the Night Before Christmas

From now until Christmas day, I will be posting some sort of Christmas related post for the 12 Days of Christmas. I think every family that celebrates Christmas has had this book at one time or another. On the Eleventh Day of Christmas, Twas the Night Before Christmas

Sunday, December 23, 2012

On the Tenth Day of Christmas-Festival of Light

From now until Christmas day, I will be posting some sort of Christmas related post for the 12 Days of Christmas. One of the things that my son and I do together each year during the Christmas season is to drive through a local part for the Festival of Lights. On the Tenth Day of Christmas, the Festival of Light
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Saturday, December 22, 2012

On the Ninth Day of Christmas-Jimmy Buffett "Ho Ho Ho and a Bottle of Rum"

From now until Christmas day, I will be posting some sort of Christmas related post for the 12 Days of Christmas.  On the Ninth Day of Christmas, Jimmy Buffett with "Ho Ho Ho and a Bottle of Rum" because sometimes even Santa needs a break.
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Friday, December 21, 2012

On the Eighth Day of Christmas-Silent Night

From now until Christmas day, I will be posting some sort of Christmas related post for the 12 Days of Christmas. American Pulse recently released the list of the favorite Christmas songs in America.  #1 is my own personal favorite, Silent Night. On the Eighth Day of Christmas, Silent Night as performed by the New York Children's Choir to open Saturday Night Live in memory of those who lost their lives in the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

On the Seventh Day of Christmas-Dean Martin "White Christmas"

From now until Christmas day, I will be posting some sort of Christmas related post for the 12 Days of Christmas. When I was growing up, Dean Martin was one of my mother's favorite singers. My son watches a lot of infomercials when he is home from school. One of the infomercials he likes are the ones for DVDs of Dean Martin's Celebrity Roasts and Variety Shows. So, he has become a fan of Dean Martin as well. On the Seventh Day of Christmas, here is Dean singing "White Christmas."
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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

On the Sixth Day of Christmas-The Hallelujah Chorus

From now until Christmas day, I will be posting some sort of Christmas related post for the 12 Days of Christmas. When I used to sing in the church choir many years ago, part of our Christmas program would include The Hallelujah Chorus from Handel's Messiah.  Our church also used to have a hand bell choir.  On the Sixth Day of Christmas I give you a hand bell choir perforing Handel's Hallelujah Chorus.

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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

On the Fifth Day of Christmas- A Christmas Story

From now until Christmas day, I will be posting some sort of Christmas related post for the 12 Days of Christmas. On the Fifth Day of Christmas, without my favorite Christmas movie of all times, "A Christmas Story."  Poor Ralphie, you'll shoot your eye out!
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Monday, December 17, 2012

On the Fourth Day of Christmas-Scotty McCreery "The First Noel"

From now until Christmas day, I will be posting some sort of Christmas related post for the 12 Days of Christmas.  On the Fourth Day of Christmas, American Idol winner Scotty McCreery singing The First Noel.

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Sunday, December 16, 2012

On the Third Day of Christmas-Ted Yoder "Little Drummer Boy"

From now until Christmas day, I will be posting some sort of Christmas related post for the 12 Days of Christmas.  On the Third Day of Christmas, I present Ted Yoder performing The Little Drummer Boy on the hammered dulcimer.  I fell in love with the sound of the hammered dulcimer from listening to the music of Rich Mullins who featured the instrument in many of his songs.

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It is probably safe to say that all of us, in some way, shape, or form has had their lives touched by cancer.  We all know somebody, whether it be a family member, friend, or coworker who has had to battle a cancer.  Perhaps you yourself has been on the receiving end of the diagnosis of cancer.

The care and treatment of a diagnosis of cancer has improved in leaps and bounds over the years.  Several cancers, if found and detected early, can be treated successfully.  Still, I can think of no other diagnosis that can bring a sense of fear and shock than the doctor informing you or a family member that they have cancer.

Thankfully, there are medical researchers out there working diligently to further enhance the treatment of cancer to continue to improve survival rates.  They are working on experimental drugs and conducting clinical trials to come up with the latest treatment breakthrough.  These trails need money to be conducted.

You can now have the opportunity to help with these critical projects.  Through a website called, you can now search for project where you can donate to cancer research projects.  Currently, they are trying to fund a study of a new chemotherapy drug for breast cancer patients who have had the cancer spread to brain.

If you would like to take a more active role in the treatment of cancer, please check out  Perhaps you will find a project you believe it and perhaps you can help fund the next treatment to help defeat cancer.
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Saturday, December 15, 2012

On the Second Day of Christmas-A Charlie Brown Christmas

From now until Christmas day, I will be posting some sort of Christmas related post for the 12 Days of Christmas.  On the Second Day of Christmas, Linus explains the meaning of Christmas in my favorite holiday special of all time "A Charlie Brown Christmas."

Friday, December 14, 2012

On the First Day of Christmas-Darius Rucker "Candy Cane Christmas"

From now until Christmas day, I will be posting some sort of Christmas related post for the 12 Days of Christmas.  First off is Darius Rucker and Candy Cane Christmas.

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Some Thoughts on the Connecticut Tragedy

Official seal of Newtown, Connecticut
Official seal of Newtown, Connecticut (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I just want to share a couple thoughts on the senseless tragedy that occurred today at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut where 26 people were murdered, 20 of which were elementary aged children.

I can only imagine what the parents of those children are going through tonight.  You drop them off at school and you expect them to come home safely after.  Never in a million years do you expect that some nut job will come in and gun down defenseless children.  Words can not express what those folks must be feeling.

Then there are those who were fortunate enough to escape unharmed.  Those parents are undoubtedly relieved that their children are safely home tonight. At the same time, they must be taking special care to watch over their children to guard against any traumatic effects.

Sadly, at a time when we should be praying for the families and for the country, there are those who are quick to pounce upon this tragedy for political gain.  Almost immediately, those on the left launched into calls for more gun controls.  How utterly reprehensible.

Equally revolting to me is the counter attacks by some of my friends on the right.  My Facebook feed was filled with counter attacks about how guns don't kill people or it's time to arm our teachers.  Some posted an equally horrible story about a man in China with a knife who injured 22 people at a school there.

I do not own a gun, nor do I want one.  However, I firmly support the right on law abiding citizens to own them.  I also believe that if you do take guns away from law abiding citizens, that criminals will find way to get guns.  They don't respect laws in general, so how can we think gun laws will work with them.

I do not pretend to know the answers on how we can prevent things like this.  I do not believe that taking away the rights and freedoms of the majority of American in the wake a tragedy like this is the route to take.

As I said before, right now we need prayer for the victims, and I believe for the country.  The last thing we need is for people to try to take this tragedy in order to put forth or defend a political agenda, particularly in the hours immediately following the shooting.  A pox on all their houses.
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Monday, December 3, 2012

Music Monday-Miranda Lambert "Fastest Girl In Town"

I guess if you need a female getaway driver, Danica Patrick is as good a choice as any.
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, December 2, 2012


Seal of the United States Social Security Admi...
Seal of the United States Social Security Administration. It appears on Social Security cards. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Last week, I shared my concern and frustration regarding a letter I had received from the Social Security Administration regarding my son and his SSI benefits.  I had already met with SSA to talk about having my son's SSI benefits increased to the full amount with no reduction.  I left the office having been told that they would be increasing his benefit to the full amount.  I thought that would be the end of it, but I received a letter from my local office stating that they needed to speak with me prior to November 30th or my son's benefit could be eliminated.

I called Monday morning and left messages for the person that I had met with on November 7th and with the person whose name was on the letter I received.  On Tuesday, I left messages with both people as well.  I also tried to speak with anybody who would answer the phone.  That person was no help at all, making excuses that they were short staffed and would not even look up my son's account.  Wednesday morning, I left messages again with the people that I thought could help me.  I never received a call back.  Thankfully, I did speak with somebody who looked up my son's records, assured me that everything was up to date, and that he would begin receiving his full benefit on January 1st.

On Friday, I checked the bank account that we are using for my son's SSI benefit and saw that he had received his normal deposit that had been reduced by the in kind support.  Today, I went into the accounts to check the balance.  I was pleasantly surprised to find a second deposit pending for my son's account.  It was for the amount that they had been reducing his benefit due to the in kind support that he had been receiving.  So, it looks like he is actually going to start receiving his full benefit this month rather than next month. It couldn't come at a better time as we have to get him a new mattress and box spring before he comes home at Christmas break.

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Friday, November 30, 2012

JackThreads for Your Men's Fashion Needs

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of JackThreads for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.
Did you go out and fight the crowds on Black Friday?  I didn't.  I try to avoid going out to the malls that day.  It just isn't worth the aggravation of trying to work my way through the large mass of people and fighting to find a parking space.  I try to get a lot of my shopping done early, or at times when the crowds are not quite as intense.
That is not to say that I don't like to take advantage of great prices.  I surely do, because I need to save wherever I can.  It is one reason that I like to shop online.  One site that I recently discovered is JackThreads.  JackThreads is a members only, online shopping community with a large selection of men's clothes and men's footwear where you can save up to 80% off regular retail.  It is like having Black Friday everyday.
Now I am not what you would call a fashion conscious kind of guy.  I usually go towards comfort and price.  That's OK, because JackThreads has you covered.  They have clothes to meet every need.  You can find nice shirts and ties for your professional side or you can find hoodies, thermal shirts, and henley t-shirts for more casual ware.  
The cool thing about them is that they launch new sales everyday at noon Eastern time.  Most last only a few days, so it is in your best interest to check in often.  They have seasonal shops where you can find all your essential winter gear.  One of my favorites is the Cooperstown Shop where you can find vintage baseball caps like the 1966 Baltimore Orioles cap featuring the Orioles Bird.
One of the current sales that I liked was something that I used to own a lot of a few years back.  Do you remember the knit ties that were popular a while back?  Well they have several varieties of those available.  I guess it is true what they say about fashion.  Sooner or later, everything comes back in style.  If I were wearing ties these days I would be tempted to pick up a couple of these.
So guys, if you are looking for great prices on men's clothing and accessories check out JackThreads.  It is completely free to join, and you are bound to find something to suit your taste.  Once your friends ask you about your new style, you can invite them to join.  When they do, you will earn a $10 credit to spend as you see fit.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Music Monday-Billy Idol "Cradle of Love"

Poor guy never stood a chance. Lesson here is if Devon knocks on your door with a Billy Idol tape, run, do NOT answer the door. Happy Music Monday
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, November 25, 2012

Dental Woes

I hate going to the dentist.  I know, who doesn't? Right?  The truth is that I don't mind going for a simple, routine checkup and cleaning.  I can even tolerate something as simple as a filling.  With my dental insurance, those types of procedures are relatively affordable.  It is when we get into things like root canals, crowns, and other types of treatments that even with insurance can get quite expensive.

Several years ago, I had a molar that was badly decayed and had to have it extracted.  Now, whenever I go to a dentist, they always want to talk to me about getting a partial bridge done.  Even with insurance, the procedure would cost several hundred dollars out of pocket.  Since the tooth (or lack thereof) has never bothered me, and since money (and lack thereof) is also an issue, I have never had this done.

Besides the fact that every time I go to the dentist they want to do an expensive procedure, another reason I hate going to the dentist is that I have had a few really bad experiences.  Once, while getting a filling done, I didn't get enough Novocaine and the dentist started drilling before I was numb.  Other times, I have had dentists lecture me on my dental sins rather than move forward to fix and prevent further issues.  Even if you know you are wrong, you don't want to be lectured by anybody.

One of the things, at least in my past, has been poor communication from my past dentists in regards to the importance of dental health.  I like to know all of my options.  It doesn't help if I feel that the dentist is only trying to come up with ways to get more money rather than looking out for what is best for me and my dental health.

I recently came across the website of Dr. Mac Lee.  He is a TMJ Dentist Richmond TX and has appeared on the Dr. Oz show.  He is also the author of the book "I Hate Dentists!"  His website is very informative about all sorts of different dental issues and explaining the consequences of not receiving treatment.  One of the things I learned is that issues such as headaches and neck pain could be the result of a bad bite.  Who knew?

As somebody who suffers from sleep apnea and has to use a CPAP machine, I also found out that there are dental alternatives to treat sleep apnea for those who have a hard time with the CPAP machine.  Personally, I have adjusted to wearing the CPAP mask just fine, but it is good to know that there are other options out there if I needed them.

Unfortunately, I am probably going to have to bite the bullet (pun intended) and get to a dentist pretty soon.  I have two wisdom teeth, one top and one bottom, in the very back of my mouth that are in need of attention.  Both had a little piece break off of them and will either need to be repaired or extracted.  I hope all they will need is a filling.  I definitely can't afford root canals or crowns which is why I will wait until after I get my tax refund next spring.
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Friday, November 23, 2012

Our Government at Work

I had two encounters today in the span of about 10 minutes with two government entities, and neither one of them was pleasant.  No, I was not pulled over by a police officer for speeding or for any other infraction.  In fact, there were no police involved at all.  Both of the encounters took place in the same transaction, as it were.

First, let me recount an event from earlier in the month.  In a previous post, I had recounted how my autistic son is eligible for SSI benefits.  Since he is living at home, and not paying rent or for his own food, the Social Security Administration determined that he was receiving in kind support from us and reduced his eligible benefit by one third.  In the post, I discussed possibly charging him rent in order for him to get his full benefit.

In October, I wrote a letter to the Social Security Administration asking them to reconsider the reduction in his benefit.  We informed them that he was using the money to purchase his own food, which amounted to about $200 per month.  We also were going to start charging him rent of $300 per month.  Shortly after sending the letter, I received a letter from Social Security saying they wanted to review his file and eligibility.

That appointment was scheduled for November 7th.  I brought all of the documents that were requested and went to the meeting.  The meeting itself went fairly well.  I explained the situation of how we needed our son to begin contributing to the household expenses.  The woman I met with ended the meeting by telling me that our son would begin receiving his full benefit on December 1st.

Grumman LLV photographed in USA.
Grumman LLV photographed in USA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
A week or so ago, I received one of the regular communications that we get from Social Security regarding my son's benefit.  That letter said that their would be no change in his benefit amount.  I called Social Security and was told that there would be no change for December, but January 1st would be the full amount.  This was no problem as I was originally told it would take three months to make the change.

This brings me to today and my two encounters.  I was leaving the house to go to my pizza delivery gig when I saw the mail truck at our mailboxes.  I opened our mailbox and there was a card saying there was a certified letter for my son that they were unable to deliver because we weren't home.  Fortunately, the truck was still in the parking lot so I approached the mailman.

I asked him what time the post office closed so that I could go pick up the certified letter.  He replied that he had it right there in the truck.  He didn't try to deliver it to our house because our outside light was on, and he assumed we weren't home.  Well, you know the old saying about when you ASSume something.  No wonder the post office is losing money.
Seal of the United States Social Security Admi...
Seal of the United States Social Security Administration. It appears on Social Security cards. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I signed for the letter and went inside.  It was a new letter from Social Security.  At the top was written "Second and Final Notice."  It also went on to say that they needed to see me to discuss my son's case and that if they didn't see or hear from me before November 30th, that they might stop paying my son's benefit.  Needless to say, my first thought was, "WTF?"

I can only hope that the letter from Social Security is a clerical error that can be cleared up with a phone call.  The letter was requesting the exact the same information that I had taken with me to the last meeting.  I really can't afford to take another day off to try to clear this up when I already had a meeting with them.

The thing that really steams me is the postman.  Had he not still been in the parking lot of our townhouse complex, I would not have gotten the letter today.  If I hadn't seen the truck, I most likely would not have gone out to get the mail. I am not sure that I would have been able to get to the post office tomorrow to get the letter since I have to work early tomorrow.  I know that I would not have been able to pick it up during the regular week.  His assumption, and really his laziness in not doing his job properly, could have been disastrous for us.

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Monday, November 19, 2012

Music Monday-Mitch McVicker "Awaken Me to Love"

Ever since the election two weeks ago, I have been contemplating things on a more spiritual level. Rather than listening to conservative, political talk radio, I have been listening to Christian radio and some of my old Christian Contemporary Music CDs.

On the music front, I have been listening to a lot of Rich Mullins. Mitch McVicker is a Christian musician who happened to have been close friends with Rich. In fact, he was in the vehicle when the accident occurred that took Rich Mullins home. Here is one of his latest tunes.
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, November 18, 2012

All Grown Up

I have been an adult now for over 30 years, however these days I am feeling a little bit more grown up than I had been.  It isn't that I haven't had my share of responsibilities over the years to contribute to my being a full fledged grown up.  Being the father of an 18 year old with special needs pretty much forces you to be a grown up, whether you want to or not.

So, you may ask, what monumental event has occurred that has prompted me to feel more grown up?  My wife and I have finalized our wills.  With our son, it is particularly important for us to spell out in advance how any assets that we have are handled.  

For my son to continue to receive his SSI benefits, he can not have assets in excess of $2000.  Consequently, we can ill afford to have any assets pass directly to him.  That is why we have spelled out in our wills the establishment of a special needs trust.  This way, no assets directly pass to him, and he will maintain his eligibility to collect his benefits.

We were fortunate.  My father in law had an attorney that he deals with that he referred us to for discussing planning for our son after he turned 18.  As part of that, he has picked up the attorney fees.  Had he not done so, I could have used a benefit from my company's employee assistance program that would have allowed us to get our wills completed.

But what if you aren't that fortunate to have somebody else pick up the tab?  Well, if you happen to live in the state of Texas, you should check out Texas last will and testament.  At that website, you can find an affordable on line alternative to hiring a lawyer directly.  You fill out a questionnaire, the lawyers write your documents, and send them to you.  They give you all instructions for signing the documents.

It's as simple as that.  Regardless of whether or not you decide to go with an online will service or hire an attorney, you need to plan for your future.  You need to have all options considered so that your heirs can be in the optimal situation when that time occurs.  Not having a will, could have a negative impact on my son's ability to maintain his benefit.  It is the least I could do for him.
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Thursday, November 15, 2012

Going to the Dogs

I love dogs.  When I was a kid, we got our first dog when I was in the second or third grade.  She was a mutt; half cocker spaniel and half collie.  She was creamed colored and had a white heart in the middle of her forehead.  I was in high school when she passed away.  Shortly after she died, we got a new puppy, another mutt.  I think she was part Labrador and spaniel.

Currently, we do not have a dog in our household.  There are a number of reasons why we don't at this time.   One of the biggest reasons is money.  Pets can be a terribly expensive proposition, especially if they happen to get sick.  We just don't have a lot of extra disposable income for those kinds of things.

Another reason why we never got a dog is because of my son.  For the longest time, he was very frightened by dogs.  When he was small, we took him to a friend's house to watch the Super Bowl.  They had a large dog that was overly friendly and enthusiastic.  For years, he would not get close to a dog.  He has gotten better with dogs, and now will even pet one.

Perhaps the biggest reason why we don't have a dog is time.  They require a lot of attention.  My brother in law has a heart of gold.  A few years ago, he had no dogs.  Currently, he has four dogs that he has either rescued from shelters or from homes he has encountered in his business that are no longer able to care for those things.

It is great that he loves the dogs and has rescued them.  Unfortunately, his work often requires him to be out of the house for several hours at a time.  Many is the time that he has called my wife and desperately asked her to go by his house to walk the dogs so that they don't have an accident in the house.  Unfortunately, they have had a few.

Probably more often than not, my wife is able to go over to walk the dogs.  However, there are times when she is unable to do so for a variety of reasons.  It is at those times, it would be helpful for my brother in law to have an indoor pet potty.  It sure would be a lot less expensive than having to get the carpets cleaned or replaced.
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Saturday, November 10, 2012

A Time for Reflection

National Day of Prayer
National Day of Prayer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The Presidential election that took place this past Tuesday didn't exactly go as I had hoped.  OK, in my mind is was an unmitigated disaster. I had really hoping that Mitt Romney had the momentum and would have defeated Barack Obama to become the 45th president.  I had also hoped that the Republicans could have gained ground in the Senate.  Unfortunately, none of that happened.

It has been a while since I have posted anything on this blog.  It isn't that I am despondent over the results of the election, though I am disappointed.  The bottom line is that I have been really tired.  For most of the past 4 years, I have been very active in following politics and the issues.  On this blog, on Twitter, and on Facebook, I have been actively promoting the conservative cause.  I need a break.

The entire election took a lot out of me.  I had a conversation with my sister the day after the election.  We talked about where we are as a country.  In our home state of Maryland, we had laws passed that gave illegal immigrants in state tuition rates and we passed a law that allows same sex marriage.  Morality and the rule of law used to matter, now they are considered old fashioned or worse.

She told me of something that happened to her youngest son.  One of his friends asked him who he hoped would win the election.  When he said Mitt Romney, his friend called him a racist.  These are kids that are 12-14 years old.  How did we get to the point where if we disagreed with somebody's policies that we were all of a sudden racist because that person happened to have a darker shade of melanin?

In the apostle Paul's letter to the Christians at the Church of Philippi he wrote:
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things. (NIV Phil 4:8)
So that is what I am going to do. I am taking some time to reflect on what is really important in life.

At various times in my life, I have been the holiest of saints and at other times the basest of sinners. Of late, I have become increasingly more irritable and finding that things that used to not bother me are making me more intolerant.  I don't like it one bit.  So, I am going to do some reflecting.  I am going to spend more time catching up on my reading and thinking about things that are noble and true.

Dude Write
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Thursday, November 1, 2012

Surviving Sandy

I am a worrier.  I can't help it.  It is something that is ingrained into my psyche as it were.  I think it is one of those personality traits that I inherited from my mother.  She worries about everything.  That is why last week, as soon as the weather forecasts began forecasting Hurricane Sandy's potential impact on the DC area, I started fretting and keeping up with the forecast of the path of the storm.

Saturday was when my concern really started to multiply.  You see, my son attends and lives at a school on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.  Saturday afternoon, the projected path of the storm was right over the town that my son's school is in.  My preoccupation with tracking the storm started to grow exponentially.  It prompted me to ask for prayer requests for the safety of the kids at the school on my social media sites.

Over the next few days, I either had a weather app on my phone, and internet browser open, or both, tracking the path of the storm.  Even as the projected path moved north of us, I still worried.  As wide as the storm was, I knew that even if we did not have a direct hit we would both still get some nasty weather.  This past summer, we lost power for several days due to the derecho storm that came through the area, and I had seen pictures of my son's campus where some flooding came through.

From a personal level, we made it through the storm unscathed.  Here at the home front, we had some heavy rain and some strong wind gusts but fortunately never lost power.  Just an occasional flicker now and then.  Likewise the school also made it through the storms without incident.  They never lost power.  To their credit, the school director called the parents to let us know that things were going well, the kids were safe and dry and handling things well.

Sadly, as we have all seen on the news, other parts of the country were not as fortunate.  Obviously, my thoughts and prayers are with those folks.  We can only hope that their lives resume some semblance of normalcy rather quickly.  Below, is a time lapse video that I saw through  It captures the power of Sandy over a two day period as the storm came through New York City.

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Saturday, October 27, 2012

Workers Credit Union

There used to be a television commercial for a well known credit card company that used the tagline "Membership has its privileges."  One area where membership definitely has its rewards is belonging to a credit union.  Credit unions all have some requirements for membership, such as working for a particular company or having a family member that works for that company.

There is a Credit union Massachusetts that has a fairly simple membership requirement.  You don't have to work for a particular company.  You don't have to do business with a particular business.  You just have to live or work in Massachusetts or the southern New Hampshire area.  That credit union is the Workers Credit Union.

Workers Credit Union is located in the north central region of Massachusetts and has 14 branch locations.  Like a lot of credit unions, they belong to a network of over 1300 shared credit union branches where you can do banking without incurring any fees.  That way, if you are on vacation or move away from the Massachusetts area, you can still take advantage of your credit union membership.

Workers Credit Union offers a full range of financial services no matter what your banking needs are.  They have savings accounts, checking accounts, CDs, IRAs, loans, and credit cards for individuals at competitive rates.  They offer planning services to pay for college education and for retirement. You can have all of the benefits of banking at a big bank, without all of the fees.  So remember, membership does have its privileges, especially at a credit union.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Benefits Fair & Open Enrollment

Open enrollment for my 2013 benefits officially opened this week.  I have two weeks to decide whether or not I will bite the bullet and commit to paying for the huge increase in my health insurance premium.  To keep my current health insurance, and thus be able to keep my current family doctor, my share of the premium will go up $200 per month.

I always like to go to the benefits fair even though I rarely change insurance plans.  I can always count on restocking my pen supply during these events.  All of the companies at the event have some sort of raffle for prizes like cookbooks, blenders, and exercise equipment.  Besides, I was hoping to have the opportunity to ask somebody about the big increase in my health insurance premium.

As luck would have it, I did get the opportunity.  When I arrived at the fair, there was one of the managers from our corporate benefits office at one of the tables and nobody else was occupying her time.  I seized on the opportunity to ask why my share of the premium went up 30%.  It was no surprise to me when she told me that the primary reason was due to the health care reform bill, or Obamacare.

Obamacare, or the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act as it is officially known, is proving to be anything but affordable.  Since the law was passed, my share of the premium has nearly doubled.  My salary has not kept pace.  Beginning in January, I will have $800 per month withheld from my paycheck to pay for health insurance for my family.

I really started to think about that figure.  It is nearly as much as my primary mortgage each month.  I could have a vacation home with what I am paying for health insurance.  Both my wife and I are driving cars with excess of 100,000 miles on them.  Repairs are becoming more and more frequent for both vehicles.  With $800 per month, I could easily afford two car payments.

Combine the increased health insurance premium with the expected end of the 2% payroll tax holiday and potential expiration of the Bush tax rates and things don't look good for 2013.  It may not be all bad.  I recently contacted my mortgage company to see if there was a possibility of refinancing under HARP (Home Affordable Refinance Program.)  

Previously, I did not qualify, but now they say that the guidelines have been relaxed so that I do.  If the loan is approved, my mortgage will drop enough to cover the increased premiums and the expiration of the payroll tax holiday.  So at the very least, for one more year, I may be able to tread water for another year.

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Sunday, October 21, 2012

Iron Chef Michael Symon

I have a confession.  I watch a lot of the Food Network.  My favorite shows tend to be the ones that are more competitive in nature.  I guess you could chalk that up to the sports fan in me.  That is not to say that I don't also enjoy some of the other shows that are less competitive in nature.  Shows like Guy Fieri's Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives, especially when they feature restaurants local to my area are also a favorite.

As I said, my favorite shows on the network tend to be the more competition oriented shows.  I have watched several seasons of The Next Food Network Star, The Worst Cooks in America, and The Next Iron Chef.  Needless to say, since I am a fan of The Next Iron Chef that I am also a fan of the original Iron Chef America.  One of my favorite Iron Chef's is Michael Symon who one the first season of The Next Iron Chef.

One of the reasons that I like Chef Symon so much is that he has a very engaging personality.  He just seems like he is a lot of fun. He also has an infectious and distinctive laugh.  Another reason that I like him is his support of Autism Speaks.  When appearing on a celebrity version of the show Chopped, his charity was Autism Speaks.  Unfortunately, he did not win that competition.

Today, I had the pleasure of getting to meet Michael Symon.  He was appearing at the Williams & Sonoma store in Annapolis mall this afternoon signing copies of his new cookbook Carnivore.  It has been a while since I attended any kind of signing, so I wasn't sure what to expect as far as a line or wait.  I am used to attending signings of sports stars, and have had to wait a couple hours or more to get my autographs.

Symon was scheduled to start signing at noon today.  I got to the store shortly after 11 am and bought my copy of the book.  It was then that I saw the rather long line waiting to get in to see him.  It didn't look that bad.  I decided to go ahead and get in line rather than walk around the mall and window shop.  It was then that I noticed that they were already allowing people to go in.  Symon had gotten there almost an hour early and started signing right away.  That has never happened at any signing I have ever attended before.

The line moved pretty quickly, and entered the store right around noon.  While waiting my turn, Symon was out of my field of vision, but I could easily hear his distinctive laugh.  When it was my turn, he noticed my Benedictine shirt (my son's school) and started a conversation because his father attend a Benedictine school in Cleveland.  We had a brief and nice conversation.

The entire event was very well organized.  Williams & Sonoma had people who wrote sticky notes to put in the books for how you wanted your book personalized.  They had people who would take pictures for you if you had a camera.  I have included two of the four pictures they took with my camera phone.  I was also impressed that Symon started signing early.  I was able to get in and out early enough to get home in time for the Redskins game.

Since I have been home, I have been browsing through the cookbook.  There are a lot of recipes that I am looking forward to trying.  Unfortunately, my wife could not attend the event with me.  I raved to her about how nice a guy Michael Symon was.  She now thinks I have a man-crush on him.  I don't know if I would classify it as a man-crush, but I do admire the man.  Now if I could just get him to fix me a few of these dishes. Michael, I will bring the wine.

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Monday, October 15, 2012

Music Monday-Night Ranger "When You Close Your Eyes"

One of my favorite bands from the 80's, Night Ranger, has a new album coming out in a few weeks. It is a live, acoustic CD and DVD of their greatest hits. It sounds like it will be interesting. I will have to think about picking it up. Besides, Jack Blades, one of the lead vocalists with Night Ranger has thrown his support behind Mitt Romney and performed at the GOP convention.  So he has to have my support.

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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Thursday, October 11, 2012

Screwed Either Way

For those that may have found me through DudeWrite, no, this is not a follow up to my post More Money, More Fun.

Do you remember when the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, forever to be known as Obamacare, was being pushed through Congress and fought for by Barack Obama back in 2009?  Do you remember when Barack Obama said that if you like your insurance and your doctor you will be able to keep them?  I sure do.

Here is another question for you.  Did you believe him?  I sure didn't.  In fact, I even said so here.  Do you believe him now?  If so, I have a bridge in Brooklyn that I am willing to make you a sweetheart deal on.  When the law was being discussed, I wrote a post that suggested that there would be businesses that would drop coverage as it would be cheaper to drop coverage and pay the penalty than it would be to provide insurance coverage.

One study recently showed that 10% of businesses would drop health insurance coverage for their employees and pay the penalty.  Last year, another survey suggested that as many as 30% of companies might drop employer provided health care.  The final number will probably come up somewhere between the two numbers.

You may be asking why I bring this up all of a sudden.  Simply because it is time for open enrollment at my work place and it is weighing heavily on my mind.  My share of my current health insurance is slated to go up 30% in 2013 compared to this year.  Combine that with the expected end of the 2% Social Security tax holiday and it doesn't look like a good start to the new year. God forbid they don't pass some sort of extension on the so called "Bush era tax cuts."

To be honest, I am not sure where to place the blame for the increase on my current health insurance coverage.  It could be due to an increase from the health insurance company, or it could be that my employer is trying to force everybody into a different health care plan.  One thing that I am fairly confident of is that we can somehow relate it to Obamacare and its full implementation in 2014.

The reason I say this is because of something that I saw in a trade journal that talked about the potential penalties a business could face when the penalties go into effect in 2014.  For those companies that offer insurance, but fail to offer "affordable" plans to their employees, they could face a $3000 per employee penalty.  They define "affordable" as a plan in which the employee's share of the premium is less than 9.5% of their salary.  Entering 2013, my plan will be nearly 14% of my salary.

My thinking is that one of two things is going on in the options available to me at my work place.  Either my company is trying to force everybody into a plan that would qualify under the 9.5% rule, or they are passing on the potential penalty to those that want to keep their current plan.  In reality, it is probably a  little bit of both of these scenarios.

So how does this impact me, since after all, it is all about me.  When my new insurance premium goes into effect in 2013, my share of the premium will be almost 14% of my salary.  That would make my company liable for a $3000 penalty.  Not surprisingly, the increase of my share of the premium is nearly $2500, almost the entire amount of the premium.  Coincidence? I think not.

My point is, that going into 2013, there are two plans that my share of the premium would be below the 9.5% of my salary threshold as set forth by Obamacare, neither of which is palatable to me and my family situation.  One option would be to switch to Kaiser Permanente which would mean we would lose the family doctor we have had for 16 years.  The other would be to go to a plan with a high deductible and out of pocket expenses that I just can't afford.

I do not know what the future holds.  All I know is that in 2010 when Obamacare passed,my share of my health insurance went up 20%.  This year, it is going up another 30%.  All told, my share of my health care has gone up 67% in 4 years.  As a percentage of my salary, the share as gone from about 9% to almost 14%.  Needless to say, that doesn't leave much room for much else.  So I end by asking, is Obamacare "affordable" or not.  Not from where I sit.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012


I decided to take a little walk around my neighborhood to get a little exercise.  On my walk, I discovered some mushrooms growing on the side of the road.  One tip that I had read recently for improving your photographic technique is to try taking photos from a different perspective.  So rather than photographing these mushrooms from a standing or squatting position, I got down on my stomach to take the shot.

The photo was taken with my NikonD40x with an 18-55mm zoom lens set at a focal length of 19mm.  ISO was set at 100 with a shutter speed 1/100s and an aperature of f/5.

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Planning for the Future

Ever since my son turned 18 years old earlier this year, my wife and I have been busy trying to accomplish several things to benefit him.  Since he is completely disabled, the first thing that we did was to start the process of trying to get him Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits through the Social Security Administration.

That adventure took a couple of different turns.  Our first visit to Social Security was scheduled for two months prior to his 18th birthday.  We were originally told that we should apply prior to his 18th birthday so that by the time that it was approved he could start to get benefits right at his birthday.  Once we were in our meeting with Social Security, we were told we should wait until he turns 18 because otherwise they would consider our income when determining his eligibility for benefits.

A couple weeks after he turned 18, we headed back to the Social Security office to apply.  We had filled out the application and answered all of the required questions.  A few short weeks later, we received word that our son had been approved for SSI benefits, which he started receiving in June, albeit at a one third reduction due to their determination that he was receiving in kind support from us.

There are a lot of rules involved with SSI.  One of them is that in order for my son to continue to receive benefits, his total assets have to remain below $2000.  For that reason, we have also had to take some steps for estate planning should anything happen to my wife and I.  As part of that planning, we have had to set up a special needs trust so that any assets would not go directly to our son so that his assets will remain under $2000.

One of the things I was not aware of is that all wills have to go through probate.  I had always heard the horror stories of dying without a will and having your estate go through the probate courts.  It turns out that even with a will, the estate must go through probate in your state.  So, if you are in Texas, you have to through texas probate, and in Maryland, Maryland probate.  Having a will that specify how you want your estate handled makes the whole process easier.  For the sake of your loved ones, be sure to plan for the future.
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Monday, October 8, 2012

Music Monday-George Strait "Chill of an Early Fall"

In my previous post, I used the phrase "chill of an early fall."  That was the title of an old George Strait song.  Happy Music Monday!


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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Fall:Cooler and Darker

Have you noticed that it is starting to get dark a little earlier each day?  It has been much more noticeable for me when I am out driving around on Friday and Saturday nights for my part time pizza delivery gig.  I have to turn my headlights on much earlier in my shift than I was just a week or two ago.

In addition to it getting dark a little earlier each day, it is also starting to get a little more brisk temperature wise.  I have had to start breaking out the long sleeve shirts and sweatshirts.  The last two days, we have had low temperatures in the 40's at night and it is forecast to be in the 40's the rest of the week.  As I sit here this evening, I am considering fixing myself a steaming mug of hot chocolate.

To be perfectly honest, I don't mind the chill of an early fall.  In fact, I prefer the cooler weather to the oppressive heat of summer.  My way of thinking is that I can always put more clothes on to feel comfortable in the cool weather.  There is only so many clothes that you can take off in the summer, and even then you can be pretty uncomfortable.

While I like the cooler weather, I am not so jazzed up about it getting darker earlier.  Then, when you combine the shorter daylight hours with setting the clock back in a few weeks, it makes pizza delivery that much harder.  A lot of the house numbers that I deliver to are hard to read from the street because the street lights and house lights don't light the numbers very well.

It is when I have difficulty seeing some of these numbers that I end up having thoughts that might be a bit out of the ordinary.  I think it would be nice if some of these houses had some airport lighting to make it easier to see.  I mean if an airplane can see those lights, then it will help me to see the house numbers.  Who knows, with the Christmas holidays not that far away, maybe there will be some decorations put up similar to those put up by Tim Taylor in the Home Improvement television show.
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