Monday, September 29, 2008

The "Bailout" Fails

The Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 did not pass the House of Representatives today, and I think that is a good thing. I'm one of those folks that thinks that the economy will right itself. The big drop in the Dow and other stock indexes today was in reaction to a bailout that they expected but didn't get. If the bailout wasn't expected, the damage wouldn't have been as bad. The "experts", the administration, and congressional leadership told us last week that if we didn't pass this bill on Monday, last Monday, the country's financial system would collapse. Well, the bill didn't pass last week, and nothing really abnormal happened, and then the bill failed today, and the markets did what markets do.

What really needs to happen is that people need to pay their bills. Despite the economic crisis, there are still plenty of folks with full carts at Wal-Mart, the mall parking lot is still packed. Are these the folks are carrying too much debt and can't pay their bills? I suspect some of them are. There are many Americans out there that don't have their priorities strait, they have houses or apartments full of electronics, DVD players and other gadgets, but their debt is going bad. Costing the rest of us money in our IRAs.

They say the root cause of the problem is the decline in home prices. Did anyone stop to think that these houses may have been overvalued in the first place? I over paid for my house, and even with the recent declines, is worth more than it was when I bought it, and it is still over priced. Of course, I didn't overextend myself to buy it either. I don't have a BMW 7 series parked out front (seriously, someone in my neighborhood does) and while I would love a bigger house with some land, I knew I couldn't really afford it, even if I could have been approved for the loan. It is that sort of common sense that more Americans should have used, which they didn't that got us into the financial crisis.

The best part of this scam is that "nobody saw this coming", well, it was pretty obvious if you ask me. I remember that several years ago my grandfather was talking about mortgage backed securities, and how they used to be good safe investments, but they are more risky now, and more people won't be paying off their loans. This was at least 4 years ago. The entire United States government couldn't figure this out back then and make some simple, and cheap, adjustments to prevent this. I'm OK with minor government regulation of items of national importance, that is a good role for government, to be a guiding hand, but not to be in the middle of everything micromanaging it completely. So we know that the government isn't the best at managing financial matters, but if they couldn't figure it out, surely the smart folks on Wall Street could, right? Sure they could, they knew what was going on, the just figured that there would be always be another sucker to pass these securities to after they made some money. What others have called, the "last sucker".

The 700 billion dollar Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 make taxpayers the "last sucker".

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Joe Biden Rumor

The main stream media is reporting on a “rumor” that Joe Biden will somehow be replaced as the vice presidential candidate for the Democrats. It is interesting that I was thinking about this since shortly after the Republican convention. I’m pretty sure I’ve brought it up in conversation a few times. I don’t see Joe Biden in the picture, almost as if Barak Obama has deemed him as an insignificant part of his campaign. Of course, the rumor also says that Senator Biden will be replaced with Senator Clinton. This could really work out well, or it could blow up into a huge mess. I wonder if it will really happen, well, if it does, it sure will be interesting to watch on TV.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Thank You Mom

My mother has hemmed many pairs of pants for me when I was a child. Today, she hemmed Alex's Cub Scout uniform pants. I was thinking about doing it myself, but when I looked it up on the Internet, I wasn't sure I could do it well. I didn't do a very good job sewing the insignia patches on his shirt. While the council strip and den number look pretty good. The world crest is a little crooked, as is the 8 in is pack number, which makes the entire 285 look crooked, even though the 2 and 5 are pretty good. So thank you mom for hemming Alex's Cub Scout uniform pants.

His first pack meeting is on Tuesday night. I hope to get a good picture of him in full uniform. Well, at least with everything he has so far. I really wish he had the belt, it is a pretty important part of the uniform as far as looks go. And once he starts earning belt loops, they'll need a place to go. The good news is that his belt should be here before the October pack meeting, which is when he would have his first chance to be awarded a belt loop.

Great Frederick Fair 2008

It was another great year at the fair. This year we added our nephew Aaron to the group for the final day. Going to the fair with all of the kids is a lot of fun. But us adults sure do miss out on some good stuff. Like some of the real thrill rides. But Rides aside, I really felt like we missed out on something when we passed Hemp's meats. They had the longest food line at the fair, and I've also heard through word of mouth that they have the best meat sandwiches, like, roast beef and ham. But with the children in tow, where we eat has to meet some certain standards, like, having a place to sit down, having french fries, and either chicken nuggets, hot dogs, or hamburgers.

So, we ate at Layton's concessions, just a little stand that had stools, everyone got a seat but Zoe, she was just too short!

Of course, there are rides too!

We are missing some critical pictures. Well, they aren't missing, we just didn't take them. One of the great things about the Great Frederick Fair are the agriculture exhibits. At first, Alex and Aaron, especially Alex, didn't want to see the animals, in their mind, they just didn't compete with the rides. But they saw cows get milked, an alpaca competition, more cows, goats, pigs, various fowl and rabbits. There were no animals giving birth while we were there, but there were some new born piglets and calves. They also saw a miniature donkey and a miniature horse. The best part was that once we got started, Alex and Aaron got into it!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Template Change

I moved my the Twitter updates section above the previous posts section. I think it works better that way. Since I can go for quite a while without an actual blog update, but I'm likely to update twitter more often, I wanted it to be near the top. Twitter will probably be the best thing that has happened to my blog since I can remember!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Scouting Service Stars

While I’m not planning on being a Cub Scout leader this year, it is definitely on the horizon. Later on in my Scouting career I learned to embrace the uniform, and that has stuck with me through the years. Now that I see myself wearing a uniform sooner than later, I want to be sure I do it right. While it might be a bit on the obsessive compulsive side, I want it to be just right.

While thinking about the uniform that I will probably be wearing by this time next year, I thought about the service stars, which are a way display your years of service to Scouting. My first year, I was a Tiger Cub, after which I spent three years as a Cub Scout. The regulations say that I have the option of wearing a 1 year service star with an orange background and a 3 year service star with a yellow background. This is clear, but I haven’t figured out which I plan to do on my adult uniform. It gets a little more confusing from then on, as I was a Boy Scout for seven years, and Explorer for five years, and an assistant Scoutmaster for three years. But those terms overlap. The last two years I was a Boy Scout, I was also an Explorer, and my last three years as an Explorer, coincided with my tenure as an assistant Scoutmaster. I was wondering if it was wrong to wear a 7 year service star with a green background, a 5 year service star with a red background, and a 3 year service star with a blue background.

I consulted the official Boy Scouts of America Insignia Guide, which didn’t really cover the subject of overlapping service. So I consulted the Internet. The site was quite informative on the subject, but still didn’t cover my specific question so I e-mailed the author, a Scouter with 47 years in the program. His answer was that I should wear the 7 year service star with a green background for my time in Boy Scouts, a 5 year Service Star for my time in Explorers, and a 3 year Service Star for my time as an assistant Scoutmaster, along with my choice of Cub Scout tenure service stars. In fact, he even said that it would be OK to wear a 10 year and 9 year service star with a blue background, even though the total number of years I have in the program don’t yet add up to nineteen.

The advice seems good, but when the time comes, I’ll also check with the local leadership to see if they have any specific standards.

After some thought, wearing these might seem like showing off, and while it is nice to have recognition for things, my hope is that the boys I will lead look at them and ask me questions like, “What does the green backing mean” and I could answer, “that was for Boy Scouts”, or “What does the red backing mean” and I could answer, “that was for Explorers and while Explorers isn’t a Boy Scout program anymore, they have added Venturing to replace it.” The hope is to get younger boys thinking about what they can do in the future.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Scouting Regrets

Most of us regret decisions we made when we were young, some more than others. I regret not advancing to Eagle Scout when I was a boy. I stayed in scouts until I was eighteen, and then beyond in Explorers, the Order of the Arrow, and as an Assistant Scoutmaster, but I didn’t earn the rank of Eagle. I also regret not earning the religious emblems for my faith, the Parvuli Dei and the Ad Altare Dei. Now that Alex is about to start Cub Scouts, I see that there are things that I will ask of him that I failed to do myself. And since I fully expect to become an active leader in Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts, I’ll be asking the boys I lead to do the same. As a boy, I looked up to my leaders, and I hope the boys I lead look up to me, and I’m sure they will, even without these achievements. Maybe it is just in my head, but somehow, having earned these recognitions, I would have made a better Cub Scout and Boy Scout leader.

Even with my regrets, I do not consider my Scouting experience a failure, in fact, nothing could be further from my mind. While I didn’t spend much time working on requirements, I spent a lot of time on service projects and the scouting organization itself. While I didn’t obtain the rank of Eagle Scout, I worked on many Eagle Scout service projects for others. I was also one of the most active members in my Order of the Arrow chapter, which during a typical month required much more time than troop and patrol commitments. Most of that time was spent doing things for the district, council, and troops beyond my own. I think I earned the backpacking merit badge, but even if I didn’t, that was my favorite troop activity, and I spent a lot of time as an older boy helping the younger boys learn the ropes of camping and backpacking. This was my scouting experience, and while I have regrets, I’m not sure I would have done it differently. Maybe it will prove to be valuable experience in mentoring boys who may have interests other than advancement and recognition.

Cub Scout Academic and Sports Belt Loops

I think I remember earning a few belt loops when I was in Cub Scouts. I was looking at the requirements and I see that Alex will probably earn one for Gymnastics right away. I was reviewing the requirements further and found something a little discouraging. Many Webelos requirements include earning the belt loop, but it is specific that the belt loop must be earned while a Webelos Scout, even if the belt loop was earned while a Tiger, Wolf, or Bear. While I see some reasoning in this, specifically, to keep the boys from advancing too quickly, I think the negatives outweigh the positives. I really don’t remember if the requirements were the same when I was a Cub Scout, but knowing me, I would have put off earning belt loops until I was in Webelos, because who wants to do the work twice, or not get the most they can from a particular effort. While I’m sure Alex will have no trouble earning a belt loop like gymnastics again without even thinking about it, others could encourage him to simply redo something he has done because it was easy and discourage him from trying something new, or simply frustrate him and create some resentment, thinking that time was wasted earning the belt loop when he was younger.

They could improve the requirements by adding the ability to substitute the academic and sports pins as a substitute for boys who have already earned the corresponding belt loop. While pins require a higher level of knowledge and participation to earn, that option would enable the boy to earn belt loops while a Tiger, Wolf, or Bear, without concern that he’ll just have to redo it when he graduates to Webelos.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Alex's Cub Scout Uniform

I ordered Alex's Cub Scout uniform tonight. There is a lot more to it than a shirt and pants.

-Cub Scout Long-Sleeve Shirt Polyester/Cotton, Blue, Long-Sleeve, Small, Youth
-Cub Scout Uniform Pants Polyester/Cotton, Blue, 06, Youth
-Tiger Cub Cap Small/Medium
-Tiger Cub Crew Socks X-Small (5-7)
-Tiger Cub Web Belt with Buckle
-Tiger Cub Neckerchief
-Tiger Cub Neckerchief Slide
-World Scout Crest Emblem
-National Capital Area Council Shoulder Patch
-Unit Numeral 2
-Unit Numeral 8
-Unit Numeral 5
-Cub Scout Den Numeral Den 5

Grand total, $97.31 including tax and shipping. I should have just made a list of what I needed and stopped by the Scout Store in Bethesda. I will pass by the area a few times this week. I would have saved $10 shipping. Oh well, if I forgot something, thats what I'll do.

Ravens Bye Week, Sept 14

Talk about lame. If the Ravens end up going for a playoff spot, a bye week in November would be much better! I know you can't control the weather, but you can plan for it! The league should have been ready to move the game to another location. They've been talking about Ike heading for the Texas coast for a week now, and the Huston area has been talked about as the area most likely to be hit. The NFL said "Short notice made it logistically impossible to play this week at alternate sites." Sure, short notice if you just found out about this today, but since we knew the storm was on its way, the logistics could have been in place before the storm. What a mess.

Added Twitter to my Blog

I've added my twitter updates to my blog. It looks pretty nice over there on the right side. I also updated my template a little bit. Early on, when I only had a few months worth of updates, they worked well higher up, but now I have 49 months worth of archives, it really takes up a lot of space. I wish there was a way in the script to link entire years for years prior to the current year, and only link the months for the current year. That would make it look a little better. I'm sure I could do something manual, but one of the reasons I use blogger is that I don't have to do much when it comes to managing the actual site, it is all done for me. I have made a few customizations to the default template, but in general, it manages itself. That being said, I really need to update some of the pictures in my header!

They should play in Baltimore

It looks like the NFL will postpone the game between the Huston Texans’ and the Baltimore Ravens due to the damage to Reliant Stadium in Huston caused by hurricane Ike. I wasn’t too thrilled that they postponed the game until Monday night, but that is understandable under these conditions. Postponing the game shouldn’t be an option. After hurricane Katrina, the Saints played their first home game away, and since there is nothing wrong with M&T Bank Stadium, why can’t they play there? If there is concern about the home field advantage, why can’t they play in a neutral stadium? We’ve known that Ike was coming, and that it was possible that it would hit Huston directly and you would think that the NFL and the teams would be planning for this sort of thing.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Shrimp in Oklahoma

Why is it that every time I order something with shrimp in it on the state of Oklahoma it ends up tasting, well, not good at all? I don’t know what it is, but they just can’t cook shrimp out here. I’ve had some great meals, don’t get me wrong, but with shrimp, it is a different story. First, I think they over cook it, which is easy to do. More importantly, I don’t think they season shrimp when they cook it. Even if shrimp is going into some sort of dish, it still needs to be seasoned to some degree. I think I’ll stick to steak and chicken dishes when I’m in the Sooner state.

Palin’s Earmarks

I cannot fault a mayor or governor for supporting, requesting, and spending federal government earmarks. It is, after all, one of the few ways that states and towns can get the money that their citizens have sent to Washington back. In fact, if a state governor would not use federal earmarks, it would be a disservice to their citizens, as their money would be used for some project in another state.

That being said, federal candidates and elected officials, especially the president and vice president should think differently. I think their focus on this matter should be on how to lower spending overall and lower taxes for everyone. Instead of sending money to Washington, it is in our pockets, and we wouldn’t need earmarks and other federal spending to get it back. Now this might make state and local taxes go up, so that these important projects can be funded, but I would much rather see this money under local control than in Washington (even though I live just 40 miles from Washington!).

I just think that in general, keeping your money local will lead to better government services over all while sending it to the federal government funds the bureaucracy above all else.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Virtual Machines

Running virtual machines really kills the battery in the notebook computer. It isn’t surprising, as running several virtual Exchange servers really uses a lot of processor time and memory, but what I suspect is most draining is the constant swapping to hard drive and the constant reading and writing to the hard drive by the virtual machines. After only about thirty minutes, the battery is down from one hundred percent to forty-five percent which it tells me is about thirty-five minutes.

I have five virtual systems running in Microsoft Virtual PC 2007. Two are running Windows Server 2003 with one being an Active Directory domain controller and the other running Exchange Server 2003. The other three are Windows Server 2008 with two configured with Exchange Server 2007 mailbox roles and the other soon to be running Exchange Server 2007 hub transport and client access roles, although I doubt I’ll get through setup before the battery dies. It isn’t even finished setting up Windows Server 2008. Even if I have to shut it down before it has been installed, it isn’t a big deal. I was able to use an otherwise wasted hour on the plane.

Thinking about it a little more, I should probably save a little battery life, just in case I need something from the computer between my arrival and check in to the hotel.

Airport Food

I grabbed a slice of pizza, a salad, and a Mountain Dew at BWI airport and I must say, it was about the worst meal I’ve ever had. I think I would have preferred to go hungry. While I was shopping today, I saw some of those tuna salad and cracker packs that I like. For a moment, I thought that I would buy a couple to take with me. Then I thought, they might not let me through security with a can of tuna salad. I would much rather have had the tuna salad than the awful slice of pizza I ended up eating.

I started to think about the airports and airlines pushing the whole “get to the airport two hours early” line. Of course the would like you to get to the airport 2 hours early, that way you are stuck inside security with very few food or entertainment options. I’m surprised that they don’t charge you to use the bathroom. For that matter, I’m surprised that the airlines don’t charge you to use the bathroom. Maybe next time I’ll push my luck with security. I know I can’t bring any liquids with me, so, a can of Mountain Dew would be out, but maybe I could swing a decent meal. If I was really lucky, it would be something that Amy made for me and I could find a microwave!

Southwest Airlines and Children

This is a good thing to remember. While I was waiting to board my flight to Oklahoma City, a family was preparing to board for family boarding and they were in a discussion with the person at the gate about their carry on luggage. It seems that the younger children were not allowed to carry on two bags, even though they all had tickets. I could see that if the child was under two and didn’t have a ticket, but not for ticketed children.

Amy and I have never flown with our children, but traveling by car, we do our best to make sure that they have plenty of things to do and snacks to eat. We would probably so the same thing if we were to fly somewhere as a family, and this would add to the carry on luggage. Since checking bags is a pain, I try not to check any bags, but this has been more difficult after September 11, 2001, but even then, I think we could manage for all of us to take a short trip with two bags each. I guess if we do, I’ll want to be sure to check with the airline about their carry on policy.


So, I’ve signed up for a Twitter account. I’m really not sure what it is all about, and I don’t really know anyone else who is using it but it does seem sort of neat. I sent my first meaningful text message update to it from my mobile phone this afternoon, an update that said I was onboard my flight to Oklahoma.

I signed up to follow Barak Obama and John McCain, as well as just about anyone who mentioned ham radio or had a call sign. One of the skywarn groups is on there, but not the one that is local to me. It was interesting though, I got to see the updates from the southeast Virginia coast.

What I’d really like to get from Twitter are updates about things I’m interested in in relative real time. For example, I heard that some firefighters and EMTs use Twitter to send updates on serious incidents. It sort of reminded me of a service that I was on a while back that send e-mail summaries of fire calls in progress.

Right now I don’t have it set to send updates to my mobile phone. Mostly because I pay per text message, but also because I’m not following anything that I feel like I need to know in real time. Now, if Amy did Twitter, I’d have her updates sent to my phone.