Thursday, December 31, 2009

We saw this one.

A few years ago, I rented the movie 28 Days Later. When I asked Diane to watch it with me, she said that she didn't want to watch some horror movie. I told her it was more of a thinker, with people working to defeat a virus and all that. She lasted about 1 minute into it when all the chasing people down then violently mauling and eating them. So, she was very reluctant to go see this movie with us.

Zombieland, coming soon to DVD, did have it's share of Zombies chasing people down and eating them, but it was much more fun than 28 Days Later.

It is the story of 4 misfits...and not only because they were the only ones that were not zombies, and their adventures in a world of zombies. They made them characters that we can all identify with, from the tough guy who used his guns and bravado to mask some hurts he had in the past to the guy who always felt like he missed out on life. from the girl who couldn't trust anyone so she ended up messing up relationships that could have helped her to her sister who never really got to grow up. Oh, and Bill Murray. Bill Murray played himself, so if you are Bill Murray, you could easily identify with that character.

We went to the cheap theater with some friends and had much more fun watching this movie than we would have had by ourselves. So, if you can get past the occasional foul language, the gruesome but almost cartoonish violence (one guy I work with said it wasn't too graphic at all. Of course, he is a paramedic) , gather some friends that enjoy seeing zombies gunned down and obliterated in a variety of ways and check out this film.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Post It

Recent comments and complaints about my blog have led to this post. Not to justify or explain how I pick the topics I do, as much as to give me another topic to write about...and for you to enjoy, or not.

One friend recently told me that when I write posts that are political in nature, they usually glaze over them and totally skip them. Others generally disagree with my political points, so it encourages them to point out my flawed thinking. Actually, it is more fun to get someone angry than it is to be ignored, so when I post something with a political bent, I have to weigh the concern that some might totally tune it out against the idea that it might fire someone up. Usually, the fired up part wins.

Besides, I typically agree with my political blogs and they are typically about things that fire me up.

Sometimes I post stuff about my family. If you don't know my family, then hopefully you will learn that even though we can be a bit quirky and eccentric, (wait, we can't be eccentric until we are rich; we better stick with quirky) we are some of the most interesting and enjoyable people around. Tune in to find out more about us, what we are doing, reading, who we are meeting and where we are going.

And not to be missed are the reminiscing I share of the small town I grew up in, the small church I pastored, the larger church I started, the people who have made me angry, sad, happy, etc. and the places we have been. Usually I put in some sort of principle or moral or whatever. You decide if it fits.

So thanks for checking this out over the past year and I look forward to helping fill the coming year for you with new and exciting stuff.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!!!

On this blessed morn, it is good to remember that our hope is found,
not in the decisions of our national leaders.
Although they can help make things better (or much worse) for a while, they can not make a lasting difference in our lives.

Nor is it found in our entertainment.
Our games and distractions can make us feel better for a time or take us to a better place, but they can not make a lasting difference in our lives.

Neither is our hope to be found in what we can do for ourselves.
We can pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and make our lives more comfortable and enjoyable, for a time, but all the things we do can not make a lasting difference in our lives.

In a feeding trough in a small stable in an overcrowded town in a has been country that doesn't even have it's own government, is lacking so many of the things we would call fun and has few opportunities for even fewer of the amenities we now work so hard for is where the hope of humanity is found.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Another Adverse Effect

In addition to the billions of dollars of debt the current administration and majority party is adding to my children with all their free wheeling spending, their is another adverse effect en-route with the new health care legislation.

We currently have what they call a Health Savings Account, or HSA. The HSA is basically a tax free savings account that is used in conjunction with a high income deductible insurance policy. We put pre-tax money into a special account reserved for medical expenses and a much smaller premium is paid towards our health insurance.

This is a winning situation for our employer, who pays a much lower premium and for us, as we pay a much lower amount and put aside money towards future medical expenses. The reason that it is much less expensive is because much of the money spent is need based. A large arbitrary amount isn't spent needlessly just to cover insurance that we may or may not need. But, it is still insurance, so if the need does arise, we will have it paid for and the HSA will pay for the higher deductible.

Here is something nice:
The current health care legislation, which just passed in the Senate, will do away with HSA's.

Since the legislation will be ending high deductible insurance policies, HSA's will go away. According to a Treasury Department Fact Sheet, there are many as 21 million policies which cover up to 40 million people. These will all be done away with so everyone can pay more for health insurance.

Here are some reasons I think they want to do away with HSA's:

- It takes the decision making out of the hands of government and places it in the hands of patients and doctors.

- It takes decision making out of the hands of insurance decision makers (which is soon to be, once again, government) and puts it in the hands of patients and doctors.

- It is cheaper.

Basically, the party which passed the current healthcare legislation is obviously in favor of taking the decision making in your life away and placing it in the hands of government. At least when it comes to your health.

And, they want to go with any plan that costs more money. I think that is just because it is fun to spend money.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Now we are just negotiating price.

An old story tells us that once a man asked to have relations with a married woman. "Of course not!", was her shocked reply. His offer then included several million dollars thrown in, to which she readily agreed.

He then asked, "How about for $25." Indignant, she said, "What do you take me for?".

His answer: "We have already established that, now we are just negotiating price."

Some of our favorite Senators showed their colors again as the health care legislation chugs down the line.

Ben Nelson of Nebraska (D) (who promised he would support no bill that funded abortions) got a hold of the "Cornhusker Kickback", worth around $100 million in government funding. That's even better than not funding abortions.

Mary Landrieu (D) of Louisiana was able to secure $300 million in spending for her state. The "Louisiana Purchase". Score!

Carl Levin got his state (D-MI) off the hook from a $7 billion dollar tax, Chris Dodd (D-CT) got $100 million for the University of Connecticut and the list goes on.

Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) put it well when she said, "I know I'm not as important as Senator Nelson. I didn't get the money for my state. I was too stupid."

I think more States should have held out for more. California could have got tort reform for their state, Minnesota could have gotten free ellipticals for every household (it gets kind of cold to go out walking or running there in the winter), China (who has a large financial interest in our country) could have asked for some carbon credits in exchange for their support of health care legislation and Arizona, my state, should have promised support if we had a guarantee of more rain once this administration sorts out the weather.

Maybe you have seen this place.

Admittedly, it is not the same as the Hotel Del Coronado on Coronado Beach on Coronado Island sitting prettily next to San Diego. But, it is still a cool looking historic hotel in an area that the City is hoping will be revitalized.

So, what is this hotel used for? It is currently section 8 subsidized apartments for low income people. The owners, The Downtown Development corporation, recently announced that it would be selling the facility. Starting the bids at $670,000, it seemed like a bargain. You could imagine a cool bistro there in the front, some sort of store inside, maybe some trendy offices upstairs or some remodeled rooms right in the middle of the hip 4th avenue area. I think this could be a money maker for the new owners and a great addition to the tax base.

The county didn't seem to think so. They tossed in a bid for $700,000 to try and make sure the place stayed a low income housing facility. I know we need low income housing, especially for disabled and elderly who are unable to work. But, isn't there a less expensive option? Not only would it cost the $700,000, but the lost revenue to the local municipality, not to mention the possible addition of a gem to an area that needs nice new places in order to upgrade.

I know that some may not agree with me that a nice and profitable establishment in a cool old place is better than a income apartments in that same place. But I really do think low income apartments can be placed in other, less expensive places, and more benefit for all could be derived from a nice and profitable establishment.

The latest is that the County has lost the bid, but no word yet on who did get the winning bid. Contrary to an increasingly popular rumor, I was not one of the bidders.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Here Ya Go.

Had to share this cartoon, in case you hadn't seen it over on Andy's Blog.

I did see one of the houses at Winterhaven decorated with a Festivus Pole. I guess we don't want to leave out the folks that celebrate Festivus.

Here are the traditions of Festivus:
1. "Airing of Grievances", which occurs during the Festivus meal and in which each person tells everyone else all the ways they have disappointed him or her over the past year.
2. After the meal the "Feats of Strength" are performed, involving wrestling the head of the household to the floor, with the holiday ending only if the head of the household is actually pinned.
3. An aluminum pole with no decorations.

Yes, this holiday was made up by George on the Seinfeld show when he was trying to cover up for making up a charity in lieu of giving Christmas gifts to his colleagues. But, there are people who actually celebrate this now, so I think we have to make room for them at the table of comfort and being politely quiet. Don't you?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Lost Tradition!!!

Every year we watch "It's a Wonderful Life" together as a family. Last night was it for us this year.

If you are at all familiar with that film, make sure you watch this, the lost ending:

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Done Right, Right here.

Here in Tucson, of all places, near the now empty El Con mall (which has experienced a revival on the outside due to the highly popular retail chains on the property but still sits largely empty on the inside), sits the Basis Charter School.

This school boasts a 100% college acceptance rate and has been the plantiff in a lawsuit against the state board of education to set their own curriculum standards for social studies and teach at a higher grade level than the set standards. It has also been the subject of the documentary film 2 Million Minutes, which compares the educational standards of the U.S. with that of Asian countries like China and India.

Detractors say that the Basis model wouldn't work in a regular educational setting, citing the higher standards as being impossible to attain for the average student. It also does some other things that most public schools would never do. For one thing, it is funded with about $1,000 less per student than the typical public school. Other than a Charter School, no public school would dream of doing more with less.

Another thing it does that other schools would not is that it hires teachers that would never be accepted as public school teachers. People like George Rising, who has his PH.D. in philosophy and an M.A. in history and has taught for 7 years at the U. of A. Rising is unqualified to teach at any of the local T.U.S.D. because he is not certified by the Arizona Board of Education.

Interested? Here are a couple of articles about the School.

Learning the BASIS for Advanced Placement Courses

Desert excellence

Gingrich, Sharpton praise charter's innovation

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Up in Arms, Pt. 2

No more IOU's from the State of California. Do you remember how they were issuing state income tax returns in the form of IOU's? Well, now that you are able to redeem those, in a limited way, they have thought up a new way to take everyone's money.

As of November 1st, employers are required to hold out an additional 10% from employee's income. Not to worry, the money will be repaid in April. Somehow.

Arizona is on the list of States that are in California-like financial straits . Unlike California, Arizona is furiously working to cut spending.

Although, one wonders why we are in serious financial straits if we were spending considerably less (even in inflation adjusted income) 15 or 20 years ago and the state was still functional. What is it that government does today that costs so much more than it ever did in the past?

Up In Arms, Pt. 1

This ad campaign by Dockers is getting people up in arms. How dare they call men to return to manhood? Some of the complaints are accusing Dockers of wanting to return to a time when women couldn't vote, etc., etc.

I am curious, are women really offended by someone holding the door for them or by a guy helping a little old lady cross a busy street?

Of course, they also come in the color, "Oregeno".

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Do ya have to?

Diane is currently reading this book, Giants: The Parallel Lives of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln by John Stauffer.

While she finds it very interesting and informative, there are several things that are entirely unnecessary. Among them:

The author makes it clear that he believes Lincoln had homosexual relationships with a friend of his. His only evidence is that Lincoln had a close friend that, for a time, shared a bed. While this might sound strange in our time when we all have our own bedrooms, it was very common for people to do this at that time. Oh, wait, he has other evidence. He says that other people had homosexual relationships during that era. So, of course Lincoln had to have had them.

Do we really need to hear about that?

Another item that disturbed my wife - Douglas married a woman who was a free woman but had worked as a domestic for several years prior to their marriage. His wife didn't have a job outside of the home and was responsible for looking after the children and taking care of their house. The author, John Stauffer, said that they may have called this love, but it was clearly a lopsided relationship.

For all you women who have ever stayed home and taken care of the house or children, you are a kept woman. Free yourself from the shackles of tyranny. If you haven't yet, go get a full time job and be glad you don't have to stay at home.

Clearly, history is often interpreted through the lens of our own opinions and agendas.

Here are a few books that I am reading through now that I am enjoying. And yes, I do read several books at a time. I don't know why.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

You don't handle this sort of thing so well, do you?

Several years ago, well, I guess it was about twelve years ago, I was on a trip with a friend from our Church. We took the long way back, though the white mountains and then down to Globe, Miami and some other similarly obscure northern Arizona towns near where he grew up.

On the way, the radiator started to spring a leak. we had to patch it up and add water every few miles. He was clearly concerned, both because he might not be making a good impression on the Pastor and because he really did want to get home. He commented on how I was really keeping my cool in spite of the problems we were having. I told him that since it wasn't my car, it really didn't bother me so much at all.

Fast forward to Friday night. we were invited to watch a movie with some friends that we hadn't hung out with for a while. We had the movie and we loaded up the kids, my Mom (visiting from Denver) and Diane(my wife) and I into our car. Diane noticed a light was on inside the car and wondered aloud how long it had been on.

After two hours of unsuccessfully trying to jump start it with my truck, we finally decided to check the battery. We don't like to do this, because we have to take apart several pieces of our car before we can get to the battery. The last one to take out the battery was the shop, so they had apparently tightened it down with some sort of pneumatic drill, or a muscle bound mechanic training for the next Mr. America contest. So, we decided to ask Diane's Dad is we could get some better tools to take it apart.

After he came, he tried to jump start it again. Fortunately, it worked. We were too late to go to our friends, but at least our old car is still chugging along, even though I vowed to walk to the nearest car dealership the next day and buy a new one.

Apparently I impressed my mom. Even though I was more than a little upset, she said she thought I really kept my cool. according to her, I didn't swear once. I guess she can't read my mind like Diane can.

Just a thing.

When we were in Sacramento, we wanted to do some remodeling on our house. We had a bathroom that was reminiscent of a dark, dirty and narrow facility on a dark, dirty and narrow fishing boat that had been out to sea for three days too long. We also wanted to put a deck and a sliding glass door off of our back family room and close up a spot where the old door was.

Since we didn't have the skills for all this and since I had scaled back to part time at the Church and took a full time position as director of marketing for an assisted living facility, we decided to get some out side help. One of the guys at our Church was a skilled contractor who was in between jobs and stuck in the middle of some union dispute or some such thing, so we brought him over to have a look.

He was a go for all our plans and was soon sawing, cutting, tearing, building and overall doing a nice job. When people at our church heard he was working on our place, we did hear a bit of grumbling. "Must be nice." and "We never could get him to come and do stuff at our place." and"Maybe if I was the Pastor, he would come work on my house too."

I am not sure if they did, but I think I figured out why he came and worked on our place and never seemed to have the time to get to theirs. The difference was, we paid him a fair and generous rate for the work he did. I think a few of the others were hoping he could come help them in his spare time. I am sure he would have liked to, but, at the time, he was trying to find extra work to keep his family fed and in their house.

Helping out others at no charge is a good thing, but it is nice to be able to pay the bills. I guess that is one reason why paying someone for the work they do is an important part of life.