Robb Allen Provides Perspective
Busy Week at Babble!
Three posts this week covering several topics, one of which features an old picture of me as a young boy celebrating First Communion.
Yes, they had cameras back then.
This week, I covered Obamacare and the lawsuits over its infringement of religious liberty, whether children should be taught about religion, and the idiocy of New York's soda ban, and how it is merely a symptom of a pervasive attempt to coddle us into subservience.
Go check them out here and let me know what you think.
First Babble Post Is Up!
Fiddle Dee Dee, indeed!
Exposing Myself on Babble
I did some prep work before hand, looking up some facts and figures about Obama's spending and the unemployment situation, as well as a few other policy issues so I was fairly comfortable when we started. You can watch it below.
I think it went fairly well; it certainly didn't seem like we were talking for an hour, and it was a lot of fun. Kristin was the self admitted left of liberal representative, while Diana was a moderate leaning left, which left me as the
Lissa watched it live and told me to stop swiveling in my chair, turn down the ringer on my phone, and "For goodness sake, clean up your office!"
Next up, getting the blog set up so I can start earning my paycheck.
Excitement! News! Money!
Last week, Katie Granju asked if I would be interested in taking on a paying job, blogging as a conservative/libertarian dad. As a conservative/libertarian dad, anything that generates income is automatically interesting, even more so when it involves something that I've been doing for free for over 10 years now.
She gave me the details, and set up the connection, and the result is that, starting this week, I will be blogging for actual money at Babble.com! Like Katie, I'll be blogging as part of Babble voices, and while I'm free to write about any topic relating to parenting, kids, etc, my area of concentration will be conservatism/libertarianism and how politics affects my family, with the obvious focus on the upcoming election. As regular readers can imagine, I'll have quite a few things to say on the subject!
I expect that we'll get the details worked out this week, and that the blog will be set up and running by Friday at the latest. Then again, this is a short week, so we'll just have to see. In the meantime, I have to come up with a blog title, a biography, a good picture for the byline, and a couple of topics to get things rolling.
One thing will be new to me. In all the years I've blogged, I've never done a lot of self promotion. I don't do a lot of cross posting; I don't leave links on other blogs, and I very rarely ever send out "for your consideration" emails. That just isn't my style.
But Babble is a professional outfit, which means they expect page views for the money they pay out, so I will have to start working to drive traffic to my posts there. So you can expect to see some Self promotion going on, especially during the first few weeks as I try to build an audience. For those of you who don't like to read posts that link to other posts, I apologize in advance. On the other hand, for those of you who want to see me succeed, please click through and read!
As I was telling Lissa about this last Friday, it struck me that this is my second real freelance writing gig. I had a couple of submissions to the KNS, but those were more or less one shot deals, not a long term thing. I've been covering high school football for The Mountain Press for several years now, and adding Babble into the mix, assuming I last more than a month or two, that is two, long term, paid writing gigs.
I think that means I qualify as a professional writer!
Which means learning to type is probably a requirement now.
But the possibility has gotten my mind working in a new direction, so I'm going to start something new here and see if it takes off.
"Letters to my Grandchildren" is going to be a new category here. My kids are now all young adults, and beginning to make their own way through life, and as they grew, I did the best I could raising them. I made a lot of mistakes along the way, and there are many things I would do differently if I could do things over. As I watch them move through life, I think of opportunities I missed to speak to them directly. Although I am certain that they are probably happy that there weren't more Dad lectures, I see choices they make and wonder if I couldn't have done more to prepare them for the realities they are all facing.
Don't get me wrong; I'm very proud of all of my kids and how they are moving on with their lives, but like any parent, I wish I had done more. I regret opportunities I missed. But they are young adults now, and while I can still advise them, I can't really teach them. And several of them are parents themselves now (Have I told you about my grandchildren?) and I am sure they will come to me for help in raising their kids.
At least, I hope they will.
And I know that their kids are not my kids, no matter how close I feel to them. I don't have the right to raise them, and just like I did when I raised my kids, I was determined to to repeat the mistake I believe my father made when raising his kids. And I am absolutely certain that my kids feel the same way.
At least, I hope they do. We all want our kids to do more and be more and do better than we ever did.
But I know I have a lot to give to my kids and grandkids, a lot of lessons learned from life, and study, and quiet contemplation at 4am on watch at sea, or during an hour and a half commute to and from work. I want to pass these things on. I want them to know just how much they mean to me, and to show them what I've learned and with any luck save them from some of the many mistakes I've made.
So, starting next week, once a week, I will be writing a letter for my grandchildren. Their parents will be able to decide whether or not to let the kids read it, so I won't be interfering with their parenting decisions. But I will be telling them the things that I consider to be important, what I think is valuable. And hopefully, giving them a look inside my head and my heart.
Rocky Tops vs Home Depot: Homer Takes a Beating
That's what happened to us at Home Depot.
We started out our search for new materials for the kitchen with the counters. Our existing counters are particleboard covered with plastic laminate. While it has the virtue of being very cheap, it also looks very cheap. It isn't very durable either, so we wanted to upgrade. We looked into different materials, trying to find the best value. Not necessarily the cheapest, but the one that gave us the most bang for our bucks.
We went out to our local Home Depot to look at some of the different materials and color choices. While we were there, the sales person came up to us and started talking to us about the "Big Sale" they had coming up in a few days on Silestone, a manufactured quartz counter top. The Silestone came in several different color groups, starting at $42 per square foot and going up quickly after that. You also have to pick the edge treatment you want. The basic edge include with the price is okay, but boring. The edge upgrades started at $16 and went up, particularly for the built up edges. The Silestone slabs sold at Home Depot are only 2 cm thick, which works out to about 3/4 inch. Without building up the edge, it looks thin and flimsy. The built up edges are 1 1/2 inches and started at $28 bucks per foot, with an upgraded edge costing $40. Our kitchen design includes a lot of counter space so the edge charge was significant particularly when added to the cost of the slab itself.
The sale was a color upgrade, an edge treatment upgrade, and a free sink. With a kitchen as large as ours, that could save us a ton of money and since we have a tight budget anyway, every little bit helped. He told us that the sale started in a few days, and only lasted 5 days, so we had to hurry and decide. We chose a color, and an edge treatment and then came back to the store once the sale began.
That's where things went bad. The vendor changed their pricing scheme on the same day the sale started. The edge treatment we chose went up significantly in price, and the edge upgrade we received didn't fully offset the increase, meaning we were paying $3 more per foot than the original pricing scheme. Also, the color we chose wasn't eligible for the color upgrade, so we would end up paying full price for the slab. Finally, we were told that while the sink was free, the mandatory installation fee was an extra $225 dollars. All in all, our projected savings went from about $1200 to $600.
Now I don't mind saving $600, but the way everything changed on us left a bad taste in my mouth. Add to that the total cost was in the realm where I had a hard time spending that much for a quartz counter top.
So Saturday, we went investigating other options. I called several shops around town, and while several were closed or closing for the day, when I called Rocky Tops Marble and Granite, the phone was answered by Frank. He said the shop was getting ready to close down for the day, but that he would be happy to stay late if we wanted to come out and take a look at their stock and their facility. His energy and enthusiasm impressed me and put Rocky Tops at the top of my list of places to check. I told him about my experience with Home Depot, and he told me right up front that wasn't how they did business. The quote would include everything, fabrication, installation, polishing, edge treatment, the whole nine yards. No deceptive add ons or exclusions, or anything like that. The price was the price, period.
Lissa and I drove straight out there and met with him and another Rocky Tops employee, Jerry(?). Frank was busy with another late customer, so Jerry took my drawings of our kitchen and began writing up an estimate for us, while we walked around the cavernous storage and fabrication area. We looked at slabs of granite with the most amazing colors and figures. We picked out several that we liked, and when Frank was done with his customers, he came out to meet us. The estimate was done, and for about $500 more than what Home Depot was going to charge for the 2 cm Silestone, Rocky Tops would sell us 3 cm granite. With a finished edge and installed sink.
In fact, they were willing to bring the price down even further for us if needed, although they couldn't match the Home Depot price. But I didn't really want them to match that price. In the first place, we were getting an upgraded material, from quartz to granite. In the second, we also upgrading the size of the slab, from 2 cm thick to 3. While that doesn't seem like much, compare 3/4 inch to 1 1/4 inch. It really makes a difference on the edge. You get the feel of solidity, of real weight. 2 cm seems almost fragile, which is why so many people pay for a laminated edge.
Long story short, the difference between the two establishments was like night and day. It wasn't just that the price was competitive for a better product, it was that there were no surprises, no up selling, even though they do work on commission. Better products, sold by a local company, and at a competitive price, by people who are enthusiastic and professional. What more can you ask for?
We'll be going back this week to put the deposit down on the counter top slabs so that once I've finished the cabinets, they can make the template (which is what Frank does when he's not selling) and machine the countertop.
I've never spent that much for a rock before. Not even for an engagement ring!
Our Kitchen Nightmare: The Beginning
In 9 days.
Yep. 9 days from kitchen pathetic to kitchen fantastic, and we're doing all of the work ourselves. Well, except for fabricating and installing the countertops; we're letting professionals do that. But everything else, we're doing.
- I'm building custom cabinets.
- We're doing all of the demo work ourselves.
- We're taking out a wall, one sliding glass door, and a window.
- We're installing a larger window, a smaller door, and not replacing the wall.
- We're rewiring the kitchen to bring it up to code, and improve the lighting, which right now sucks.
- We're replumbing the sink, garbage disposal, dishwasher and refrigerator.
- We're moving the stove to a more useable location.
- We're repainting, installing a new subfloor, and new flooring.
And we're going to do it all in 9 days.
We will be doing some prep work ahead of time. Obviously, I'll have the cabinets built and finished prior to the day we start, and we'll remove the appliances and empty the cabinets before we begin. I'll also clear out the attic over the kitchen and pre-stage some of the electrical wiring for the job, Other than that, and the 2 week wait for the fabrication of the counter top after we install the cabinets, everything else willo be done during the nine days from March 17th to March 26th.
Follow the link to see some images of what we have now, and where we're going to be soon.
Dark. Dingy. Dated. Cramped. Boring. Other than that, what could be so terrible?
Counter space is lacking. Counters are a Formica woodgrain laminate straight from the big box home improvement store and ugly.
By the way, did you notice the floor? The tiles looked good when they went down, but they tended to spread out pretty soon afterward.
Note the cheesy 70s paneling? And the unfinished sliding glass door?
Unfinished book shelves and stuff stacked everywhere.
So, how are we going to change things? Well, here's the new floor plan:
We've opened up the space in the kitchen and increased the counter space. We've added additional counters and cabinets along the lower wall, moved the stove up against the outer wall, installed a much bigger window over the sink and replaced the sliding glass door with a french door.
This is a rendering of the floor plan showing the main area of the kitchen.
And this shows the new cabinets and the refrigerator on the inner wall.
We're updating the materials as well. We're replacing the vinyl tile on the floor with a hardwood floor and we chose Brazilian Koa, AKA Tigerwood for the flooring. And yes, I've already made the jokes about Tiger Woods laying in our kitchen. Lissa was not amused.
This is the countertop material we chose; Called Peacock Green or Labrador Gold. It is granite and gorgeous.
This is what we're going to use for a backsplash material. Maybe; Lissa is still working on that.
As for the cabinets, they will be plywood with a maple face frame, and we're probably going to go with a natural finish, although the red tones in this kitchen look good as well.
So, that's the plan. I didn't talk about the lighting, or adding internet access, but don't worry; I will.
The last part of this nightmare is that we will be posting pictures and videos of the work in progress. DIY has a show called Renovation Realities and we're going to do our own version of that, so that should be interesting. Of course, since we're shooting it ourselves, we can edit out all the embarrassing stuff. Unless of course DIY wants to come in and shoot the project. I'll take some embarrassment for some help meeting the budget on this job!
« Close 'er up!
Amazon and Tennessee Sales Taxes
That being said, I'm more in favor of consumption based taxes than income taxes since a progressive tax system is inherently inequitable (notice I don't say 'unfair.' 'Fair' is relative and impossible to define while inequitable is a qualitative measure.) to the people at the higher end of the scale.
When Tennessee first started negotiating with Amazon to collect the states sales tax, I was irritated. I order a lot from Amazon and I got used to saving the money.
But then, I started thinking about it from a different perspective. I support a flat, consumption based tax system to replace our current progressive income tax system; to oppose Tennessee's efforts to collect proper sales taxes for items sold is inconsistent with that position. Tennessee voters, myself included, have made it absolutely clear that we have no interest in a state income tax, and that means out governor must look to existing revenue streams to meet our budget. Convincing Amazon to collect state taxes for goods shipped from Tennessee is one way of accomplishing that objective.
So, even though it will cost me more money, I'm supporting the new agreement. On line sales should be taxed at the same rate as brick and mortar sales, and on line retailers should collect those taxes just as brick and mortar retailers do.
The rain came down, well, not really because it was blowing horizontally from west to east. Visibility fell to about 2 feet. It was fairly impressive, but I didn't get concerned until the rain changed direction 180 degrees, again, almost instantly.
That caught my attention.
Pea sized hail fell for about 2 minutes, then as suddenly as it started, it was over. The wind and rain shut off like a somebody flipped a switch.
So here is my question. How close was that to a tornado? What has my really wondering was the change in direction of the rain. I've seen it switch gradually, over a few minutes, but this was within a second or two.
In any event, we didn't get any damage that I can see. A few twigs and branches in the yard and that's it. This has certainly been the most active storm season I can remember.
I Love Living in East Tennessee
Sure that the load wouldn't move, I drove home.
I went up hill; I went down hill; around curves and through bumps, dips, drops, and occasionally stretches of level roads and no problems.
Until I got to the last intersection where I had to cross Highway 66, the main route from Sevierville to I-40.
I was stopped at the light, waiting to cross 66 and get home to start work. The light changes. The truck went forward into the intersection; the load of plywood, shingles, roof felt, siding, and kitty litter did not. It slid slick as you please right out of the back of my truck and landed with a loud thud in the perfect place to block two lanes going south and one lane going west.
I pulled over and swung back around so I could get to the shoulder and grab all the stuff but I didn't feel too good about it. There were 15 4X8 sheets of plywood, 5 bags of shingles, a roll of felt and none of it was light. With all the Sunday traffic leaving Sevier County, I expected to here from disgusted drivers already tired of sitting in traffic for 45 minutes trying to get out of town.
Instead, 5 different guys pulled over, none of whom were stuck behind my mess, and helped me get the stuff back in my truck. All in all, the stuff was in the road for less than 5 minutes. These guys were already past the intersection. They could have gone on their way without being slowed down for a second, but instead, they stopped, both to help me clean up the road, and to make sure that other drivers could get on their way as quickly as possible.
Like I said, I love living in east Tennessee!
That attack continues today, but like a magician, our enemy has used the distraction of a physical attack to attempt to distract us from the real one, the attack on our culture, our ideals, and our freedom. Sadly, our enemy has been almost completely successful in this second front. What he could never achieve through military might, he is easily accomplishing using the apathy, lethergy, and weakness of the modern American citizen.
Our president stood before the nation and baldly lied to us, and we save our outrage for the one man brave enough to call him on it. A friend of mine posted all day yesterday about the consequences Wilson faces, and how much money has been donated to his opposition since the speech, yet when called on it, tries to hide behind a sense of humor. "I get amused..." It must be coincidence that all the things that strike him as funny show Joe Wilson in a negative light.
Even worse than his apparent inability to stand squarely behind his beliefs, when presented with hard facts demonstrating that Obama was lying, my fired decides, without doing any research, or looking at anything, that there's more to the story and he fabricates a hypothetical problem. He would rather make things up in his head than look at the facts.
That's why we're losing this battle for our country. Our friends and neighbors would rather believe in warm comfortable fairy tales than the cold hard truth.
I've come slowly and reluctantly to a painful realization about the nature of most people. Given the choice between citizenship with an uncertain future, and subjugation with security, all too many of them are choosing to be servants.
Most people don't want freedom. It's hard work. It's risky. It's uncomfortable. Instead, they want security, and if having that security means they aren't allowed to choose for themselves, for many of them, that's a bonus. No choice means no responsibility. When things go wrong, they are free to blame somebody else. They want to be taken care of.
That's human nature and our enemy is making great use of that nature.
All of this leads to the very interesting question, "Who is our enemy?"
Without putting on my tin foil hat, Barack Obama received more money through untraceable small contributions than John Kerry spent in his entire presidential campaign. Let that sink in for a moment. Obama spent enough money to fund an entire presidential campaign without anybody knowing where that money came from. Somebody with a tremendous amount of resources, both monetarily and organizationally, may have purchased the White House. Who in the world has that kind of resources? It's a pretty small list. It gets even smaller when you add in the ideological viewpoints that would want an Obama presidency.
But what is really important here is that this tactic fails the very instant that Americans decide to be citizens and not subjects. If enough of my friends and neighbors shake off the lethergy, wean themselves from the government teat, and decide that they will stand on their own as free men, to succeed or fail by their own efforts, then the enemy's strategy fails.
Free men know that the government exists to serve them, not the reverse.
Free men know that they have no right to the labor of another man.
Free men demand honesty from their leaders.
Free men understand that diplomacy is not another word for compromise.
Free men work hard, just for the chance of success, and are willing to make sacrifices and take risks to achieve great things.
Free men stand up for themselves, and encourage those who cannot stand to accomplish all that they can.
Free men know that character is more important than success.
A man or woman who lives by these principles cannot be a tool of our enemy.
But there are too few of us. America is sinking under the weight of its own complacency. We can't reverse the process; there aren't enough of us. All we can do is stand our ground, speak the truth, and see how many of our fellow Americans we can pull to safety before the coming collapse.
Viewsonic Monitor issues
I fired up the computer to start my day off checking me email, and my primary monitor stayed dark. At first, I though the display had died, or that the graphics card might have been the culprit, but Windows recognized that the monitor wasn't working and switched the primary display to my second monitor. (That's very cool programming, by the way.) I did some basic troubleshooting, including pulling up the device manager and discovered that the computer didn't see the monitor as a plug and play compatible monitor and had loaded a generic driver for that monitor. The second monitor was still recognized as the Viewsonic monitor and it was using the right driver.
I swapped the monitors between ports on the graphics card, and the problem moved with the monitors. I swapped the primary with the secondary monitor using the Windows controlpanel, and then using the nVidia control panel and the problem stayed with the same monitor. At this point, it was clear to me that the problem was with the monitor so I called tech support.
First there was the communication gap. I speak English as a first language. The nice young man on the other end of the call did not.
Second, I understand basic troubleshooting. The nice young man on the other end did not.
He tried to tell me that the problem was probably with the driver and wanted me to download the most current one. I explained to him that I had two identical monitors on the computer. Both monitors were using the same driver. One monitor worked; the other didn't. Obviously, it wasn't a driver issue. Following his script, he insisted that I download and install the latest driver.
I called back and got another tech support rep. This time she was a nice young woman who had trouble with the English language. I explained the situation to her, including the fact that I had updated the drivers, swapped monitors and cables and that the problem followed the monitor. Her suggestion was to try the monitor on another computer. I explained to her that I had already accomplished that step of trouble shooting by placing the monitor on another port of the video card. She insisted that I had to try the monitor on another computer to verify that it was a monitor problem.
I did it.
The monitor still didn't work.
I called tech support again and got the young lady again. I explained what I had done, and said I needed to return the monitor for service since I had proven beyond all reasonable doubt that the monitor was defective. Apparently, I hadn't done enough. She wanted me to get another cable and see if that fixed the problem.
Seriously? A cable?
I explained that I had already changed cables when I changed computers, and again when I had changed ports on the graphics card earlier, but the cable must have been the next thing in her script because she wouldn't move off of it. I finally asked her to escalate the call because it as clear that she had no understanding of the situation, and relatively little knowledge about how a computer works. She agreed to escalate the call and promised that I would hear from Viewsonic within 48 hours.
Two days later, and nothing.
So I called tech support once again, and told the person, who spoke American English very well, that I wanted a return authorization number so they could fix the monitor, and asked him why I hadn't heard from them within 48 hours as promised. He read through my file, agreed that I should have gotten a call back, issued the RA, and asked me a serious of specific,detailed questions about the symptoms and my system configuration. I gave him the operating system, the CPU, the graphics card,and the monitor model. I told him I was running two identical monitors on the system, the one worked, and the other didn't. I told him that I had moved the monitor between ports on the graphics card, and onto another computer running a different operating system. I told him that I had downloaded the most current driver and installed it. Through all of this, the problem stayed consistently with one monitor.
He listened carefully, took good notes, and said he was going to put this problem to the senior tech support guys, because it was something very unusual. He promised an email within a day or two to let me know what they came up with. That was on Sunday. Wednesday, I got the following email:
Dear Mr. Hailey,
Thank you for contacting ViewSonic Customer Support.
In regards to your current case number C987318, we have heard back from our technicians about the issue of your monitor not being identified as a plug and play monitor. What they suggested is to uninstall all the monitor drivers on your computer and restart the system to install the actual drivers for this monitor.
If this does not correct the issue please contact us again so that we can further assist on this issue.
Thank you for allowing us to assist you.
John ViewSonic Customer Support.
This from the best guys they have. Once again, for the slow students in the room, I have two identical monitors running on this system. One works no matter where it is plugged in; the other won't work no matter where it is plugged in. This cannot be a driver issue. Period.
I'm shipping the monitor back tomorrow.
Now here's the best part. My other monitor? It did the same thing about 8 months ago. I called Viewsonic tech support and the guy I talked to recognized the problem instantly, said it had happened on a lot of monitors of that model, and gave me an RA instantly.
I guess he left the company and took all the brains with him.
So, when it comes time to replace my monitors, it's a fair bet that they won't come from Viewsonic.
One of them is very upbeat and supportive. He tells me that I can meet any challenge that comes my way, that I have the capacity to succeed, and to excel, as long s I'm willing to work hard to overcome the obstacles in my path. He tells me that no matter what comes, I have the ability to survive it, and to prosper. He tells me that I am strong, and that I can stand on my own. I know he has my back, because he's been there when I've needed a hand, but he always let's me make my own way. Sometimes I get tired, and I complain that other people don't seem to have to work as hard, and he tells me that it doesn't matter what other people do or have; I can make my own fortune regardless of their wealth.
My other friend always tells me how much he cares about me, and how much he wants to help me succeed. He doesn't say it out loud, but the way he acts shows me that he doesn't think I can do it on my own. He "helps" me before I ask, and sometimes in ways that aren't really helpful at all. He insists that I do things his way because he knows what works best for people like me, and he can get very angry when I try to go my own way. He tells me that he's here to help me because I need his help, that the obstacles in my path are too big for me to overcome on my own. Sometimes, he tells me that I have to forget what I want and do what he wants, so that somebody else can get what they want. I'm never exactly sure how that's supposed to work, but he talks really fast and it's usually easier to go along than to argue. Other times he tells me not to work so hard, that other people have it much easier than I do, so they owe me something. He says I have value and worth,. so I shouldn't have to prove that value or worth by producing anything. In fact, because I have value, I should have my needs met without any labor on my part. He tells me I'm entitled to everything I need, and I should stand up and demand my rights.
The first friend makes me feel strong, independent, and capable. The second friend makes me feel weak, envious, and afraid.
Tell me why I should keep hanging out with the second guy. He's kind of a downer.
What’s the Worst That Could Happen?
You might live through it.