Currently Reading

Considering it’s been about 4 years since my latest update, you can guess that I’ve read a few books.  I can’t say exactly how many I’ve read and which ones, but let’s just say that on Goodreads.com, I have set a yearly goal of 36 books on average to read per year, and I’ve hit my goal for at least 2015 and 2016.  That’s 72+ books!  I can’t even recall all that I’ve read, let alone comment on them all, so I’ll just start anew with my current reading obsessions.

If you’ve heard of “Bones”, the Fox TV series with Temperance Brennan and Sealy Booth, you may know that the show is based of a series of novels by Kathy Reichs.  I’ve read the first in the Tempe Brennan series, some time earlier this year.  I plan to read more in that series.  The current Kathy Reichs series that I’m reading is a young adult/teen series.  I admit, I still refuse to grow up!  The series is about “Virals” – 4 kids who get infected by an altered parvo virus.  After they recovered from the ill affects of the virus, they found they have canine-like abilities, since they contracted the disease from an infected wolf-dog.  The abilities include exceptional hearing, sight, smell (Tori can literally smell fear and other emotions), strength, and speed.  Anyway, I just started “reading” the 4th book in the series.  Yeah, you may say that I’ve been enjoying the series.  One thing I find especially refreshing about the young adult series that I read is the fact that since the authors aren’t trying to hook in as many adults as possible, they avoid the typical hooks of graphic violence, sex, and profanity.  There is plenty of adventure in the Virals series, but reading these books doesn’t leave me feeling talked down to.

The other book I’m currently reading is H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine.  I’m almost done with it, and I have to say it is nothing like I expected.  (Which is probably why I’ve been almost done with it for over a month now.) 🙂  This book is mostly a narrative of the main character who invented the time machine and traveled forward in time something like 80,000+ years and it’s his monologue of what he experienced in the “future.”  Even though the book was originally published in 1895, Wells had a good ability for describing the imaginary ability to travel through time.  The dialog/monologue of the text doesn’t feel like other late-19th-century works, which honestly surprised me somewhat.

I should probably clarify – when I’m “reading” multiple books at the same time it is usually because I listen to some books in my car while I’m driving and other books I am actually seeing words on paper (or Kindle screen or iPhone screen – you get it).  I’ve actually found it easy to keep the stories separate from each other, even when the books I’m reading in tandem aren’t a teen series and a 19th century novel. 🙂

I’ll probably come back at a later date and talk about some of the other series that I’ve read in the past year or so, as well as some really good standalone novels that I’ve read (such as Stephen King’s 11-22-63 – one of my favorite most recent books.)  11-22-63 is what inspired me to read The Time Machine, and it also served somewhat as inspiration to King to write his novel.  If you didn’t already guess, 11-22-63 revolves around the time of JFK’s assassination.

More to come!

Recycling

In order to be “green”, everyone is supposed to be recycling. I get it – we have a recycle bin at home that gets picked up by our trash company every other week. My rant, however, is not with this service. My wife and I both own home-based businesses, and lately, that means we get a lot of boxes shipped to our home/home office. We end up with lots of cardboard boxes in our garage.

Today, I decided it was time to get rid of the latest batch. They’re all broken down flat and sitting in the back of my car. I’ve spent probably close to an hour trying to find a location where I can drop them off for recycling. Keep in mind, I live in the Denver area. I was surprised at what I found.

* there are very few locations that I found online that accept cardboard
* none were close to where I live or near my office
* most of those that I found had unaccommodating business hours (I work until 5, yet have to have these boxes across town before 5)
* I can pay to have someone come by and pick up the boxes

I don’t necessarily want to get paid for recycling my cardboard, but I don’t want it all taking up space in a landfill.  And I’m not going to pay a company lots of dollars to pick up my cardboard and then turn around and sell it.

If we are supposed to be “green”, and Denver and Colorado want to be eco-friendly, it shouldn’t take hours of searching to find a recycle location that is accessible, only to find out that the convenience factor is non-existent.  This round of boxes is headed for landfill, once again.

What is wrong with our nation?

Is it just me, or has our nation, collectively, gone off its rocker?

First, let’s discuss all the recent violence. It seems you can’t turn on the news without hearing about a local shooting (in Denver, shootings were rarely reported on the news, presumably because they rarely happened), stabbing, beating, or some other form of violence happening in what used to be a relatively safe metropolitan area.

Second, public voting. I’m not talking politicians or their lame excuses for bills, I’ll get to that in a minute. Last November, both Colorado and Washington voters decided they didn’t need to worry about federal laws, and voted to legalize marijuana use in these states. Since when can we voters vote to “override” a federal law just because we don’t like it? If we can do that, why don’t we do something productive, say like vote to ignore the IRS and their crooked laws? Nah, it’s funner to just get stoned.

Third – politicians. My most immediate beef with politicians is Colorado’s governor, John Hickenlooper. (Yes, that’s really his name.) Mere minutes ago, Hick decided to give clemency to a man who has been sitting on death row since the 1990’s for the murders and attempted murder of 5 Chuck E. Cheese’s employees as they were closing up one night. He used to work there, and I think the story was that we was upset for getting fired, so he came in one cold night in December and executed the kids and manager that were working there. My friend (and babysitter), Sylvia, was shot in the back of the head, execution style, and since she was vacuuming, hadn’t heard the previous gunshots. Many news articles I’ve been reading state that Colorado’s death penalty is “unfair” to the three men on death row. UNFAIR??? REALLY!?!?! Unfair is this person changing many families’ lives forever by removing their loved ones from this earth way too soon. Since when does one man, regardless of his position or stature, think he knows better than a 12-person jury of one’s peers on what the punishment should be?

While we’re talking about Hick and other “interesting” people serving on Colorado’s Capitol Hill (I changed the word “morons” to “interesting people”). In the wake of the recent gun violence, they passed laws to restrict Coloradans’ ability to exercise their 2nd amendment rights. Before signing one of the bills into law, Hick knew he’d be driving a profitable business out of Colorado, taking many well-paying jobs and tax dollars, by signing one of the bills. Even though he was a profitable business man before becoming governor, he decided to sign the bills and boot that company out of Colorado. Good business decision! Hick is showing that he got to his position in life by being a people-pleaser. Hey, I even voted for the man (even though I was a registered Republican at the time and he’s a Dem) because I thought he would bring some business sense to the office. I was obviously wrong! So his job over the years has been to simply sign every bill that’s come across his desk. I just googled Hick’s veto record, and was taken to colorado.gov, which states in the five main press releases that Hick has signed 26 bills and “several bills” in releases dating back to May 14, 2013. Yes, that was just 1 week ago yesterday. I think the man needs to go to dictionary.com to look up the word “veto” – you can’t tell me everything coming out of our politicians is worthy of being signed into law! I’m not saying veto everything, but once in a while, the man should show some backbone by saying “hold on a minute…” But that obviously doesn’t happen with our current Gov. (How soon do we get to vote him out?!?)

I’ll probably save my rants against national politicians for another post. I’m sure there will be plenty to discuss in that blog post. BTW – I plan on posting more often on my blog – I used to share my opinions on my Facebook page, but certain people have started insinuating that I get all my information from Fox News (which I don’t watch, and I can’t tell you the last time I’ve been on their website), and I’m tired of having to defend my opinion on Facebook to people who refuse to consider any opinion other than their own. (To borrow a quote, I refuse to have a battle of wits with an unarmed man!)

Recent violence, consequences, and our Constitution

There have been many public acts of violence recently. The Aurora, Colorado theater shootings and the Sandy Hook Elementary School are the two that come to mind for me – Aurora because it happened in my back yard (figuratively speaking) and Sandy Hook Elementary because it happened mere days ago. This also reminds me of another shooting that happened many years ago, ironically on December 14, like the Sandy Hook shooting. This past shooting took the life of the a sweet young lady who we had used as a baby sitter on several occasions, she was the sister of my wife’s close friend and the daughter of good friends of mine.

I find these acts of violence abhorrent, and take comfort in knowing that the perpetrators will be held accountable, if not in this life, then surely in the next. What I also find disgusting is the focus the media places on those responsible for such horrific acts. Ask people familiar with the Chuck E Cheese shooting, and many will be able to recall the name of Nathan Dunlap, the shooter. How many people remember any of the victims, like our babysitter Sylvia? How many people can tell you the last names of the Columbine High School shooters from 10+ years ago? How many names of the victims are remembered?

Why is this? I believe it is because of the attention the media places on these perpetrators. They become sensationalized and household names. Those sick and deranged people who pull off these acts of violence typically have other villains whom they have idolized. Klebold and Harris were fascinated with Hitler, and shot up Columbine High School on the anniversary of Hitler’s death. Who knows how many of these people decided to pull off their acts of violence after seeing reports of other violent events? Are they trying to be more sensational than their predecessors?

How much is said about the mental health of these violent individuals? Surely one must have something going wrong in their brain if they decide to take several lives of innocent people without provocation nor warning. As almost a side thought, our local newspaper mentioned that the Sandy Hook shooter may have had a form of autism. If you have heard of the shooting, have you heard of this kid’s mental deficit? The blame and focus of these events typically turns to the devices used to kill their victims. Guns and lawful gun owners then become the target of new and tougher legislation, because obviously guns are the cause of this violence.

Using this same line of thinking, I propose we put the same scrutiny on other methods used in mass murders in the recent past. Oklahoma City in the 1990’s saw the slaying of many, including children in a day care facility. We should therefore place restrictions or perhaps outright bans on fertilizers, household chemicals, and UHaul trucks. September 11, 2001 – I don’t need to recount details of this infamous day – but using this same line of thinking, I think we need to restrict access to or ban the use of commercial aircraft. With this same date in mind, I think we should also outlaw box cutters, as they were allegedly used by those who flew the aircraft into buildings. Last year in a suburb north of Denver, a woman was driving in a way that no one should be, and in the process, landed her car on top of another car carrying a family of 5. Perhaps cars need stricter legislation. Obviously, what I am saying is ridiculous. We didn’t focus on the weapons of destruction in those events, but when a firearm is used to kill, instantly we hear that guns are evil and need to be removed from this country.

In a recent Facebook post, I mentioned that firearms played a huge role in the formation of our nation and the liberation from the monarchy of England. If the early colonists had not possessed or had not used firearms, we wouldn’t call this land The United States of America, we would still be paying taxes to the monarchy of England, and we would all be speaking with British accents.

That brings me to the 2nd amendment. Our founding fathers must have felt that having the right to keep and bear arms was important enough to make it the 2nd amendment to our great constitution. I have heard so many people saying the 2nd amendment has outlived its usefulness. To this I ask, what would be our option if our government stopped being of government of and for the people? (Yes, I know we are quickly getting to that point!) We would simply become the subjects to whatever tyrant that was able to destroy the constitution and take our rights away from us. Obviously there are many people who seem to be ok with that. If they want to live like that, perhaps they should find a country with such ideals and move there.

Personally, I believe the constitution was written by inspired men and is timeless, in that we have not outlived its usefulness. It has been said by leaders in my church that the constitution would “hang as if by a thread.” We are rapidly approaching this point! All it takes is subtle attacks on each element of the constitution until we, as Americans, accept these attacks as part of our progression or we throw our hands in the air and say “What can I do?” Those who have flown commercially in recently have experienced the destruction of the 4th amendment. How many people realize that? Wikipedia’s summarizes the 4th Amendment by saying “Protection from unreasonable search and seizure.” How many of us have posed such a risk to our fellow passengers that warranted a virtual strip search? The actual text of the 4th Amendment states:

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

How many people feel “secure in their persons” knowing that someone in a little room in the airport is looking at essentially our bodies as seen with x-ray vision? How many people feel secure knowing that they have been subjected to radiation over our entire bodies to satisfy “air travel security?” But what are our alternatives? If we decline the virtual strip search, we will have the pleasure of being groped over almost every inch of our bodies in order to “prove” that we are not going to harm our fellow passengers. This is not to mention TSA rummaging through our luggage randomly, whenever they desire. This, in my opinion, violates my right “against unreasonable searches” in my “effects,” this being my luggage. It almost makes you want to launder all your clothing upon arriving at your destination, doesn’t it?

Let’s talk about the 5th Amendment. Everyone has heard someone say, whether under oath or in jest, “I plead the 5th.” They cannot be forced to testify against themselves. But do you know that the 5th Amendment also protects abuse through Eminent Domain? What is Eminent Domain? It is when a government decides they need your property more than you do, and they take it. The 5th Amendment states “nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” I guess the “just compensation” value depends on who you ask. If a home is taken under Eminent Domain, I can guarantee an appraiser is not brought in and the homeowner is not given fair market value for their property.

I could state more examples of constitutional rights and federal laws being mocked, and perhaps I will post a some later time on my feelings on this. So what can we do to preserve the constitution? I don’t have all the answers, but I do know that if we sit idly by and wait for others to “fix it,” it will never get fixed. There are simple things that can be done – pay attention to what is happening in Washington. Write your senator or representative. It’s easy to do – they all have forms on their websites. I always get replies whenever I write. Granted, they are often form letters, but it lets me know my email was seen by someone. Call them on urgent matters. You most likely won’t talk directly to your senator or congressman or woman, but your voice will get back to them, especially if their phones are ringing off the hook from constituents calling to have their voices heard. Sign up for email lists for causes that you believe in.

I don’t care if you have the same beliefs that I do or we are polar opposites, but I do care that we Americans need to wake up and stop being “sheeple” – going through life like lambs to the slaughter. To quote a country song I once heard, “You’ve gotta stand for something or you’ll fall for anything.” We’ve been falling long enough, it’s time to be heard in Washington and to remind them they work for us, not the other way around.

A Dutch oven lesson learned

To light my charcoal, I use what is called a “chimney.” It’s basically a sheet metal tube with a “shelf” inside, about 3/4 the way down. On the bottom of the chimney, under the shelf, are holes in the side of the metal. The way it works is you put newspaper in the bottom of the chimney, set it on the cooking table, put charcoal in the top, then light the newspaper through the holes on the bottom of the chimney. (I may take pictures of the process the next time I cook.)

The first time I cooked with my Dutch oven, my chimney worked like a champ and my charcoal was ready in no time. Yesterday, however, I was not so lucky. I “lit” my chimney, then went indoors to prep the apple crisp while the charcoal heated up. When I got done and was ready to put my creation on the heat, I found that maybe one or two briquets had caught and were hot.

I learned that you can’t stuff too much newspaper in the bottom of the chimney, or it doesn’t breath well, hence it doesn’t burn well and the charcoal just sits there waiting patiently. After a little bit of playing and experimentation, I reset the chimney using only one full sheet of newspaper, and the charcoal was ready in short order.

So if any of you use charcoal chimneys, remember the old standby saying….”Less is more!”

A New “Hobby”

I’ve been thinking about survival techniques recently, and one of the things that came to mind (with the help of a mission buddy of mine) is backyard cooking. Dutch ovens, specifically. Our church teaches that would should keep food storage on hand in case of need. But if there were a need that included having no power with which to cook your food, a hot meal might seem to be a luxury. With Dutch oven cooking, no electricity (or gas) is needed. Just a Dutch oven and something combustible – I use Kingsford charcoal.

I’ve made two dishes since I started. I had a setback for a while, when there was a state-wide burning ban, which included charcoal. But that’s now lifted, and I’m cooking again. My first item was a peanut butter chocolate swirl bar. I didn’t do well with the swirl part, so it basically turned out as a peanut butter chocolate chip bar. You can see the picture of how it turned out.

Yesterday, I made an apple crisp – basically it’s apples (10!), lemon juice, sugar, brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, butter, oats, and raisins. The picture is what’s left after having it for dessert with our Sunday dinner yesterday.

Next, I will be venturing out into an entree – some kind of meat. Oh, by the way, when I cooked the pbcc bar, everything that was cooked was cooked outside. It was fathers day, and I cooked burgers and dogs on the grill, boiled some corn on the side burner of the grill, and dessert in the Dutch oven. It’s a good way to have a hot meal without heating up the kitchen! (But then, Dad gets to slave away over a hot grill and Dutch oven table.) 🙂 It’s a nice way to give mom a break, though.

Update to my latest news

I know, it’s been a while, but I’m going to try to blog more often. So, the update to my latest news is that as of July 1, 2012, I am a papa! (It’s what my kids called their grandpa when he was still with us.) Lia Ashley was born on July 1, 2012, and mom, dad, and Lia are all doing well. I’ll post some photos periodically as I get them from my son, but I’ll start out with a few that I have right now.

Awesome News!

The awesome news of the day is that I learned yesterday that I am going to be a grandpa for the first time! My son and his wife just found out they are expecting their first child. How cool is that? We don’t have any specifics yet, but should learn more this coming week. Stay tuned for more details!

Birthers

I’m just as tired of the “birthers” argument as the next guy.  However, I am as skeptical as the next guy regarding Obama’s birth certificate.  My first question was why it took two years to finally produce the birth certificate.  WhiteHouse.gov states,

“At a time of great consequence for this country – when we should be debating how we win the future, reduce our deficit, deal with high gas prices, and bring stability to the Middle East, Washington, DC, was once again distracted by a fake issue.  The President’s hope is that with this step, we can move on to debating the bigger issues that matter to the American people and the future of our country.”  (Dan Pfeiffer – White House Communications Director)

OK – this wording reminds me of the misdirection we have seen in a few previous administrations, both republican and democrat, but that’s for a different time.

The reason for this particular blog post is that I saw a video on YouTube that showed “proof” that the birth certificate posted at WhiteHouse.gov is a fake.  I don’t take major statements like this on blind faith.  I rewound the video, which by the way is at http://youtu.be/7s9StxsFlly, and followed the guy’s steps with my own copy of the birth certificate I downloaded directly from whitehouse.gov.  If you want to see some basic stuff without any special software, zoom up to 300% in your Acrobat Reader.  Look at box 1a – you’ll see that the “R” in “BARACK” is different than the rest of the word “BARACK.”  My first thought was that perhaps the typewriter had a bum “R” key, but if you look at the “BARACK” in box 8, the R looks like the rest of the word.  The “S” in “STANLEY” in box 13 is the same way.  The word “None” in 17a has two different tones of the ink color – the “Non” has a green hue, but the “e” is black.  Next, look at 18a – the name “Ann Dunham Obama” is “signed.”  Note the hue differences in the word Ann and the “D” in Dunham and how they look different from the rest of the signature.  The first half shows differences in hue, which is expected with writing – different pressure with different letters causes thicker and thinner lines in the writing.  Everything after the “D” in Dunham is consistently solid black, as it would be if created on a computer.  Next, look at box 20 – the date is greenish, but the last “1” in 1961 is black.  Box 22 shows similar differences – in “1961” the”19″ and “1” are darker than the rest of the date.

That’s all done with no special software.  But wait, there’s more!  If you’ve ever scanned a file (or examined a scanned file that was turned into a PDF), you’ll notice that the file created is like a picture – a single layered picture.  I opened the birth certificate with Adobe Illustrator, and guess what I found?  Several layers – two of which had nothing in them, and 7 layers of other stuff.  I’ll explain what is on the various layers:

1)  The first layer in my new document contains the green background, a little bit of text (labels in boxes) , the signatures in 19a and 21, and “(Stanley) Ann D” in box 18a.
2)  The second layer shows the majority of the text on the document, as well as “unham Obama” in the signature block of 18a.  Box 1a does not have the “1” before the a.  Also, the “R” in Barack is missing.  The date in box 20 only has a “1” in it.  The date in box 22 has “19 1” – note the space between the 9 and the second 1.
3)  The third layer has the rest of the date for box 20
4)  The fourth layer has the rest of the date for box 22.
5)  The fifth layer has the date of “APR  25 2011” in the lower left of the document
6)  The sixth layer has “Non” in box 17a.
7)  The last layer has the state registrar’s stamp and signature.

I have these seven layers as well as the complete birth certificate in a single PDF file, which I can email to you, if you’d like.  I will eventually upload the file to my server and put a link in this post.

Section 1 of Article Two of the Constitution states that a candidate for presidency must be “a natural born Citizen.”  At this point, I’m not saying that Obama should be booted from office.  I’d like to see him banned from running for a second term, and possibly have a few years in Club Fed.  
What this makes me wonder is why it was so important for Obama to win the Oval Office that he had to fake his nationality to run.  I know part of it has to be an ego boost – it’s obvious when watching him speak that the man exudes egotism.  Yes, there is a huge difference between arrogance and confidence.  What agenda was important enough to fake documents and break federal law to accomplish?  What other lies and deception (beyond the typical crap that comes with every election) were perpetrated to win the election?  What lengths will this administration go to to accomplish its agenda?  What else has been done that hasn’t been discovered?

I’m not naive enough to think there is little corruption in politics.  But why should we, as an American public, turn a blind eye to such a blatant disrespect for our constitution?  I wonder which other pieces of the constitution are going to be ignored and/or obliterated.  How much life does our constitution have?

Dishonest Politicians?

Is it just me? This time of year, we are inundated with political ads. In Denver, we just finished the primary race. What I don’t understand is this. How can two candidates of the same party, who have been mudslinging for the past several months, turn around after the primary is over and stand side-by-side with the loser supporting the winner? Shouldn’t we be believing candidate B’s ads that ran just last week saying that candidate A is a dishonest low-life? Or should we be believing what candidate B is saying now, which is that candidate A is the best choice for the elections in November? Which lie are we supposed to believe?

“How can you tell when a politician is lying? His lips are moving.”