First Father’s Day- without Dad

Father’s Day 2014 was the first one since my dad died, just last week.

I look back and remember the sacrifices both he & mom made for me.  I spent most of my school years at private school, including 4 years at Military School.    We took vacations, I certainly never lacked at Christmas or birthdays.  I had music lessons.  Dad started me on flying lessons.

I remember the vacations.  Several trips to Estes Park, Colorado.  Canoeing in the Ozarks, mostly along the Current River, and in Minnesota.  The USAF Museum in Dayton Ohio.  Disneyworld.  New York City.  Oregon.  The EAA Fly In up in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

He taught me, or at least tried to, about home & car repair and investing.  I wish I’d paid more attention.

I learned to appreciate the outdoors.  The beauty of mountains, forests, rivers & lakes.

I got my political leanings from him.  Probably the first political newsletter I read was Human Events.  Before the print edition stopped publishing a year or so ago, I was a 3rd generation subscriber.  He & mom introduced me to classical music like Bach, Beethoven & Mozart, and took me to the theater for shows like ‘Music Man’, ‘Damn Yankees’ and ‘Desert Song’.  I learned who The Duke was.  I heard Reagan speak at the 1976 Republican Convention in Kansas City.

I know he was proud of me in some ways.  I know he was impressed with the woman I’m sharing my life with.  I know he was happy that I’ve decided to run for political office, even at the precinct committee level.  He was proud of my academic achievements in High School.

But I think I disappointed him, too.  I’ve certainly failed professionally.  I haven’t taken care of myself like I should have.  Maybe he would have wanted grandkids.

I love you, dad.  And I’m going to miss you.  Thank you.

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Are Vulcans Jewish?

Who knew that the Vulcan race from Star Trek might be Jewish?

Star Trek fans all recognize the Vulcan salute/greeting of paired fingers.  According to Leonard Nimoy, who’s played ‘Spock’ since the character was introduced, the origins of that salute lie in his own Jewish roots.  The Vulcan salute first appeared in the original series episode ‘Amok Time’.

Nimoy remembered going to Synagog when he was a child.  When the rabbi started praying, his father told him not to look up.  Being a boy, of course, he looked and saw the rabbi praying loudly & passionately.  His hands were spread out in what Trek fans recognize as the Vulcan salute.

Nimoy later learned that the paired fingers represented the Hebrew letter ‘Shin’, the first letter in ‘Shaddai’, God’s name, and also Shekhina, the feminine aspect of God which was created to live among mankind.  Of course, it’s also the first letter in ‘Shalom’ (Peace).

Most Christians bow our heads during prayer, but I’ve seen people raise both their heads & their hands.  I’d never thought too much about why heads are usually bowed other than it’s a sign of respect or submission.

According to Nimoy, this Shekhina comes in among the congregation during prayer, and its presence is so powerful that you could be injured or killed if you saw it.  Very similar to the O.T. story of Moses (Ex 33:20-23).

When filming the episode ‘Amok Time’, Nimoy thought there should be some kind of traditional greeting between Vulcans.  Westerners shake hands, in countries like Japan & China people bow as a sign of respect, so Vulcans should have their own tradition as well.  He suggested the paired fingers, and a tradition was born.

The Jewish Story behind Spock

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The Call Center

If you’re looking for a job, do yourself a favor- stay as far away as possible from jobs at any call center.  Voice of experience here.

I’m currently working on my 3rd project in the last 3 1/2 years.  The first involved signing people up for Medicare Part D plans (the Prescription Drug Plan).

The 2nd was for a major provider of TV & Internet services.  We handled billing issues, so a day consisted of a steady stream of people bitching about their bills going up.  Of course, we had to try to sell them more services, driving the bill they were already whining about up even further.

And I’m currently doing outbound ‘warm’ sales calls.  This is the best of the bunch, but it’s still a pain in the butt.

So what’s wrong with working at a call center?
1)  Poor pay.  Yes, it’s better than minimum wage, by about 25-30%.  But when you’re told you’re a ‘professional’, you should get paid as one, and treated with respect instead of like you’re in 3rd grade

2)  Poor benefits- Thank God I’m on my better half’s insurance.  The surgery I had to have a couple years ago would have bankrupt us if I’d been on company coverage.

3)  No raises- Ok, this isn’t entirely true, since about a year ago you started being able to earn up to .40/hour more every 6 months by having perfect attendance.  And if you missed 1-3 days, you could still get .20/hour  But this is solely based on attendance, not on performance.  There are performance bonuses, but those standards change regularly, and are harder & harder to attain.  Also- this raise was implemented after at least 5 years with NO raises at all.

4)  Uncertainty- I’ve never worked anywhere with a higher turnover.  Not so much people quitting, but people getting canned for failing to meet standards.  Agents, Team Leaders & others seem to have a revolving door.  The billing project usually has at least 2 classes, with 15-20 agents each, going on pretty much constantly.  It’s a 4-5 week class, if I remember right.

5)  Attitude- it’s like you’re in about 3rd grade with the ‘prizes’ they give out.  Yeah, it can be kind of fun, but it’s just very juvenile.

Now, on the plus side, most of the co-workers I have are good.  Friendly, helpful & you can share some laughs.  But it doesn’t make up for the down side.

Do yourself a favor.  Stay well away from call centers!  Stay on unemployment for another few weeks- come here ONLY as a last resort!

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“Do Not Call”

The federal ‘Do Not Call’ list is, I believe, a mixed bag.

On the plus side, there’s at least a slight chance that the number of telemarketing calls you’ll receive throughout the day will drop.  And under the law, you can ask those companies that call to take you off their list.  Unfortunately, Congress exempted itself and charitable organizations, as well as businesses you’ve done business with from that list.

Personally, I’d much prefer such laws to come  from the state houses, rather than from Uncle Sam.  One state might have much tougher laws, another might have fewer restrictions.  Of course, then you’d have the problem for the call center of keeping track of what state has what laws, and who could be called at what times, on what days, and how often.

My biggest complaint is the sheer number of calls you get from some companies.  You might call them for information, then be inundated with 5 or 6 or 8 calls a day for weeks on end.  That would be the area I’d like to see restricted.  No more than 2 or 3 calls per day, and for no more than about 7 or 8 days.  Anything more than that is a $1,000 fine per call.  And the business hiring the call center would be subject to the fine, not the call center itself.

When you get calls from a charity, you do have the option to ask them not to call you any more, and I believe there’s a fine if they don’t comply.  So many of these charities are, in my opinion, scams.  I asked a caller one time just how much of the money I might give would end up helping whoever it was- Veterans or the Highway Patrol or whoever.  The representative seemed pretty proud of the 20% that went to the group.  That kind of figure is more than a little disturbing.  Sure, there’s overhead, fundraising expenses and so on.  But 80%?  No, thank you.  Some, but not all, charities are evaluated by websites such as Charity Navigator.

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Church reset- new pastor(s). Again.

I know God acts in His own time, and that He has a plan.  But waiting for that plan can be frustrating.

I’ve been a part of my church ‘family’ since the beginning- about 15 years.  In that time we’ve had 3 pastors, worshiped in at least 6 locations including a movie theater, a school (twice) and a Y.  We’ve had attendance in the low 100’s, and had as few as the 40’s.  We have 2 young ladies & 2 couples from the church itself serving in the mission field.  We had a member arrested for bank robbery, a guy die from AIDS, another commit suicide, and a woman wrote a somewhat threatening letter to an abortion provider.  We asked her to leave the church.

We’ve got a community garden that’s a nice outreach to our neighbors-couples & families from different parts of the world enjoyed it last year.  We’ve got a good VBS program, a spring & fall festival we put on for the community, a new men’s group, a great small/home group program, a Bible study in a local school and have taken part in a city-wide clean up program.  We’ve got a great facility.

But it’s frustrating that despite the great things we have, we’re struggling.  We’re not seeing much growth in terms of numbers.  Recently, in fact, we seem to be shrinking.  Money’s tight.  Two years ago our pastor, who’d been with us about 10 years, took a position at the conference level.  We spent about a year with an interim pastor, brought in a wonderful young woman last Spring, and lost her due to some personal health issues last month.  So once again, we’re in kind of a ‘reset’ mode.  It’ll be as much as two years before we get someone permanent on staff.  Fortunately the denomination has a young couple coming in on Sunday to candidate as our interim pastors.  They’re engaged, and fresh out of seminary, so we’d have co-pastor’s like we did when we first started as a church many years ago.  They’ll be with us for about a year, and at that point we’ll start the search process again.  They might submit their names as candidates for the position, or they might not.  We’ll just have to wait and see.

I just got home from meeting them.  The meeting wasn’t what I expected, though.  I thought we’d all sit down & do kind of a Q&A with them, like we did when Bea was here last year.  This was much more of a chat session, getting to know them.  They’ll preach tomorrow, and we’ll follow up with a potluck (yum!) and more time to get to know them.  Next Sunday we’ll take a vote on whether we want them as interim (and if they want to be our interim) pastors.

But despite all the frustrations & the setbacks, we’re incredibly blessed.  We don’t face the opposition churches & Christians in other parts of the world do.  We don’t face the hatred & violence Christians in the Middle East face.  The radical group Boko Haram, for example, has killed 180 Christians, including 60 kids, and destroyed 20 churches in Nigeria.  Churches in other parts of the world are censored if their teachings might offend someone.

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Life Insurance

This isn’t something I’d usually write about, but it’s important.

Life insurance is something everyone needs.  Most people certainly don’t need millions of dollars of coverage, but everyone needs some.

Younger people, especially if they’re supporting a family, are going to want more protection.  They might want to pay off or pay down the mortgage, provide for their kid’s education, or support a surviving spouse for a while until they’re able to provide for themselves & the family.

But the older you get, the less need there usually is for large policies, and the more you’d look for something along the lines of what some people call ‘burial insurance’.

There are two main kinds of life insurance: term & whole life.

Term insurance is a policy that’s good for a fixed number of years, often 5, 10 or 20.  Term life is usually cheaper, but goes up, sometimes dramatically, when a new term policy is written.  Many term policies also start reducing in value for older customers as well.  Most term policies end once you reach 75-80 years of age.  Term policies are the ones you hear advertised with commercials that offer ‘a 25 year old male can get $250,000 of coverage for only $20 a month’.

A whole life policy will usually last a lifetime, with no increases in premium or decreases in coverage.  That’s a great feature, but it means that a term policy, especially for younger people, will be more expensive.

A typically funeral will cost less than $10,000.  A 50 year old in good health, for example, should be able to get a $10,000 long term policy (20 years) for around $20 a month, or a whole life policy for about $30 a month.

If you’re thinking of cremation, that’s usually less than $3,000.  Our 50 year old should be able to find a whole or term life policy to provide that coverage for their family for under $10 per month.

Of course if you’ve got health issues such as diabetes, or problems with your heart, liver, lungs or kidneys to name a few, your options are more limited.  You’d probably have to look for a guaranteed issue policy.  Most of these aren’t available for anyone under about 45-50 years of age, and have a limited benefit period of about 2 years if you pass away from ‘natural causes’.  Accidental death, though, would likely be covered in full from the first day.

If you are someone who needs a large policy, you’ll probably not only have health questions, but a health exam as well.

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The Affordable Horse Act

NOT mine.  I received this as an email, no idea whose this was originally

THE AFFORDABLE HORSE ACT OF 2013

The U.S. government has just passed a new law called: “The Affordable Horse Act” declaring that every citizen MUST purchase a horse, by April 2014.

These “affordable” horses will cost an average of $54,000-$155,000 each. This does not include taxes, trailering, training, feed and farrier fees, boarding, show and transportation fees, veterinarian bills or the occasional hospitalization. This law has been passed, because until now, typically only wealthy and financially responsible people have been able to purchase horses. This new laws ensures that every American can now have an “affordable” horse of their own, because everyone is “entitled” to a horse. If you purchase your horse before the end of the year, you will receive 4 “free” saddle pads; not including monthly usage fees. In order to make sure everyone purchases an affordable horse, the costs of owning a horse will increase on average of 250-400% per year. This way, wealthy people will pay more for something that other people don’t want or can’t afford to maintain. But to be fair, people who can’t afford to maintain their horse will be regularly fined and children (under the age of 26) can ride their parents horse to show on until they turn 27; then must purchase their own horse.

• If you already have a horse, you can keep yours (just kidding – no you can’t).
• If you don’t want or don’t need a horse, you are required to buy one anyhow.
• If you refuse to buy a horse or can’t afford one, you will be regularly fined $800 until you purchase one or face imprisonment. Failure to ride your horse will also result in fines. People living in the inner-city; low-desert, or who live in cities or areas with no access to stables or show-rings are not exempt. Age, fear of falling, no equestrian experience, neither horsemanship skills, nor inability to ride are acceptable excuses for not using your horse.

A government review board (that doesn’t know the difference between the withers, fetlock or tail of a horse) will decide everything, including: when, where, how often and for what purposes you can use your horse … along with how many people can ride your horse and determine if one is too old or healthy enough to be able to ride their horse. They will also decide if your horse has out lived its usefulness or if you must purchase specific accessories, (like a $5,000.00 saddle) or a newer and more expensive green Warmblood from Europe. Those that can afford Fancy Hunters will be required to do so…it’s only fair. The government will also decide the name for each horse. Failure to comply with these rules will result in fines and possible imprisonment. Government officials are exempt from this new law. If they want a horse, they and their families can obtain a horse for free, at the expense of tax payers. Unions, bankers and mega companies with large political affiliations ($$$) are also exempt.

I was going to order a new horse today, but the website was down, I’m sure they will fix it, I will try again tomorrow!

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