Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Life's most lasting gifts don't come in boxes

Sunday morning, children around the world woke up and ran to the Christmas tree, anxious to see what Santa brought them.

Maybe they got toys. Maybe they got clothes. Maybe they got gift cards. Who knows. But surely they got memories. And over the years, they’ll get lessons. The toys they’ll forget. The lessons will stay with them.

A couple weeks ago, I was making Kool Aid. I got the Kool Aid packets, put them in the pitcher, added sugar and asked my girlfriend Heather to get me the wooden spoon out of the drawer.

Handing it to me, she asked, “Why wooden?”

I had no answer for her other than, “Because I always use the wooden spoon. I always have. I have no idea why.”

In short, I do it that way because I do it that way.

I asked my friends on Facebook if they had any similar oddities, explaining my wooden spoon Kool Aid story.

Oddly, most of them stirred their Kool Aid with a wooden spoon, too. More odd is that no one really knew why either. There were theories, but no hard science.

A quick Google search was sure to find me a reason that I always use the wooden spoon. I turned up dozens of search results for how to make Kool Aid. Almost all of them said “stir with wooden spoon.” None of them said why.

Thinking about it further, it occurred to me that my mom always made Kool Aid with a wooden spoon.

“Mom, why do I stir my Kool Aid with a wooden spoon?” I asked her.

She said she had no idea why I did, but said that she always used a wooden spoon when I was growing up.

“So why did you use a wooden spoon?”

“Probably because it was longest spoon that I had,” she answered.

So in essence, I use a wooden spoon because mom did. And no other reason.

It’s just one of many “gifts” that I’ve gotten from my mother over the years. I might not know when or why I got them, but they’ve stuck with me a lot longer than tinker toys or a “Red Ryder BB gun with a compass in the stock and this thing which tells time.”

Some of life’s best gifts aren’t wrapped. They aren’t given to you on your birthday or Christmas. And many you don’t even remember getting. But you keep them forever.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas ...

From our home to yours.

Liberty is excited for Christmas ... and wanted to see the Christmas cards we've gotten this season. Usually she's not allowed on the dining room table, though. :) Find me on Google+ for more Christmas photos.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

9-1-1 upgrade needed

I have a tendency to view most laws as either an incursion into our freedom, feel-good legislation created to make the lawmaker look good, or both.

Very seldom do I hear an idea for a new bill and say to myself, “How does this not already exist?”
But that’s exactly what happened Friday when I got an email from Congresswoman Kathy Hochul heralding her new bill before Congress, called the Allowing Local Emergency Response Technicians to Accept Cellular Texts Act, or A.L.E.R.T. A.C.T.

In short, when you send a text message to 9-1-1, it doesn’t go anywhere. It just heads out to the ether, never to be heard from again.

Hochul’s bill would push for cellular service providers to alert users who text 9-1-1 that their message did not go through, allowing the party in need to at least know that texting 9-1-1 doesn’t work and help is not on the way. This way, the person in need of help isn’t waiting for nothing.

The bill would also push for funding to go to improve existing 9-1-1 call centers to enable them to receive text messages, so that in the future help would come.

Considering the amount of communication done by the youth of the world, I can’t believe that it’s currently not possible to text 9-1-1. You can text in your vote to “American Idol,” but you can’t text for help if you’re in trouble.

I’m not an engineer, so I certainly don’t understand the complexity of the cellular industry or phone service. I’m sure, though, that 9-1-1 call centers are even more complex than cell phones.

However, it seems apparent to me that our nation’s emergency response infrastructure should get with the times and add texting capabilities so that people who are unable to call 9-1-1 could text the system and get the help they obviously need.

It’s not 1991 anymore. Cell phones are not an extravagance. They are the norm now. I know more and more people all the time who are forgoing their home phone service and going with cellular only.
I also know more and more people who use text as their primary means of communication. On any given day, I may get a handful of phone calls and more than 100 text messages.

So adding texting capabilities to 9-1-1 is a necessity. And until that happens, asking cellular providers to inform their customers that their text did not go through is something those cellular providers should do — with or without the A.L.E.R.T. A.C.T. in place.

The next step, in my opinion, would be to allow Voice Over Internet Protocol, or VOIP, services to call 9-1-1. Anyone with a Magic Jack, Skype or Vonage phone simply can’t call 9-1-1.

Again, I’m not an engineer, so I don’t fully understand the difficulty, but I know that when people need help, we as society should make it possible for them to get that help.

I’m rooting for Kathy Hochul on this one. Her bill isn’t intrusive and it’s meaningful. Sure, it will cost money — to both local police departments and the cellular industry — but that money may actually save lives.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Intelligent discourse?

Nah ... Just hate mail.
"I remember christmas trees in every school I went to and Wednesday afternoon early dismissal for religious education. I would say things have changed. Please don't reply, your an idiot."

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Getting back to business

Check out the following on the Washington Post:
Production of commemorative coins scrapped to save money:

Are you waiting desperately for that dollar coin with the face of Warren G. Harding or Calvin Coolidge? It may now be harder to find.

The U.S. Mint is suspending production of commemorative presidential one dollar coins as part of a government-wide plan to cut wasteful projects and reduce fraud.

Vice President Biden and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner made the announcement Tuesday at a Cabinet-level meeting that touted the progress of the White House’s Campaign to Cut Waste, an effort launched at the height of the summer’s federal debt negotiations to demonstrate the Obama administration’s commitment to curtailing federal spending.

I'm confused. I thought the reason the mint was making these commemorative coins is because they made money doing it ... like the USPS does on commemorative stamps. Oh. Maybe the postal service isn't the model quasi-government agency to follow.

Personally, I'd like to see the mint do only what they have to. And I'd like them to scrap pennies. And I'd like the postal service's monopoly on mail to go away. And I'd like a million dollars. I'll probably get all those things at the same time.

Rick Perry adds hate to the mix

Last week it was Herman Cain. This week, we’re focusing our attention on the reincarnate of George W. Bush — Rick Perry.

I want to like the Texas governor for his folksiness. I want to like him because he’s simple and down to earth. But I can’t. He comes across as an unintelligent thug. And last week he added hate to the mix.

Perry’s latest campaign gimmick is his latest television commercial, which he entitled “Strong.” It’s a 30-second ad summing up what is wrong with America in the following fashion: Gays can openly serve in the military, and kids cannot openly pray in school or celebrate Christmas.

First of all, to think that the problem with America is that everyone, no matter their sexual preference, can serve in America’s armed forces is foolish. It’s also divisive and hateful.

The Republican mantra on gay marriage is that it shouldn’t be allowed because it affords homosexuals special privileges and everyone should be equal. If equality is the issue, then how can anyone say that gays should be barred from the military because of their sexual preference? It’s blatant hypocrisy.

The second problem with Perry’s ad is the imaginary war on Christmas. I’ve been complaining about the pretend war on Christmas for years. There seems to be a theory among the Bill O’Reillys of the world that inclusiveness is bad. Somehow asking people to say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” is an affront to their delicate nature.

Perry says that kids can’t openly celebrate Christmas in school. I know of no schools that bar children from saying “Merry Christmas” or wearing Christmas-related T-shirts, sweatshirts, whatever. I also am unaware of any public school in America that has school on Christmas. I’m pretty sure they all have the day off —even on years where it doesn’t fall on a Sunday.

Sure, maybe the school doesn’t put up a manger scene or even a Christmas tree. And I understand that some people — including Rick Perry — would have a problem with this. I don’t, however. My children get their religious instruction at home. And, frankly, that’s where I want them to get it. They go to school to learn. In theory.

Lastly, Perry’s claim that kids can’t openly pray in school is also hogwash. When I was in school, we didn’t have daily prayers. But there was plenty of praying. Silent pleas to God for good test grades, the right food to be served in the cafeteria and Friday night dates. The fact that those prayers were most often not answered tells me God didn’t want to be in school, either.

I’m pretty sure that kids still pray for exactly the same things. And even if it were illegal for them to do so (which it’s not), they’d still do it anyway.

Last week, the Cain Train derailed. This week it’s Rick Perry’s turn to find greener pastures. Anyone who so openly uses mistruths and divisiveness is not fit to hold the office of the presidency.

I wonder whose campaign will implode next week.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Olive the other reindeer

Easily one of my new favorite Christmas specials. I've never seen it as a book before, but, of course, it makes sense that it is.

If you see this on TV this year, watch it. You won't be disappointed.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Cain's departure makes GOP field less entertaining

The field of Republican presidential candidates narrowed slightly over the weekend as Herman Cain “suspended” his campaign.

For Cain fans, don’t let that fool you into believing he may unsuspend it at some point. He’s done like dinner.

And honestly, that’s a shame. I liked Cain. He added some entertainment to this race, and in truth, I thought he had some good ideas.

But he also had some really bad ideas — like being “friends” with a woman for 13 years and giving her what amounted to an allowance for that period of time without telling his wife.

What is with these candidates and their inability to understand that they can’t have these “friendships” with women who are not their wives? You would think that after all the outrage displayed by both parties with the whole Monica Lewinsky thing, politicians would have learned that they just can’t get away with that sort of behavior — especially with the limelight that is cast upon them in a presidential race.

Personally, I’m inclined to believe that a politician’s personal life should be allowed to be kept separate from his or her public persona. As long as they can do their job, what they do when they’re not at work shouldn’t much matter — except their belief that they could keep anything like that hidden displays a delusion of grandeur that should cause concern.

With Cain officially out of the race, that makes Newt Gingrich the latest not-Mitt Romney. It’s hard for me to believe that as hard as Gingrich fell following the Contract with America, he was able to get back up. His rise should give hope to the Eliot Spitzers, John Edwards and Herman Cains of the world. In politics, apparently, nothing is unforgivable — with the appropriate amount of time.

That’s both heartening — knowing that in time, wrongs can be righted — and disheartening — knowing that there are apparently no better candidates than the ones we have before us.

Personally, I continue to have my eye on Ron Paul. Yeah, he’s quirky. And a lot of people don’t take him seriously. But he may be the only one of the lot that’s actually read the Constitution and has any plan to follow it.

The GOP primaries start in less than a month. And when they do, that list of candidates will whittle down quickly. I imagine it will whittle down to Romney and someone else. I don’t think it will be Gingrich. Nor to I imagine it will be Paul.

Of course, I won’t be voting in the Republican primary. It may be hard for some of you to believe, but I’m not a Republican. I also won’t be voting for Obama. Because I’m also not a Democrat.

I’m always amused when those on the left tell me I’m a crazy right-winger. I’m equally amused when those on the right tell me I’m a crazy left-winger. This just goes to show that both extremes of the political spectrum agree on one thing: I’m crazy. And I’m OK with that.

Happy Holidays.

From my family to yours, I hope you're having a great holiday season.