Testing testing 1...2...3

It's been soooo long since I have blogged. It took several guesses to get my password correct. No excuse, or apology, or promise to blog more often in the future. I don't think I could provide a recap of everything that has transpired since my last post, so I won't try.

I'm currently at work in the 911 call center of my fair city. I have not been here often over the last few months. My dispatching skillz (yeah that's a Z) are rusty. It is late and I am tired, but I'm getting paid sucka!

My "other job" does not pay. Well it pays, just not in money. I'm working as an intern in a Human Resources department. Great experience and 3 credit hours. That plus 1 other class this summer will complete my degree. Now someone give me a job!

We had a garage sale a few weeks ago. Not sure what was the larger benefit. Making a few bucks or getting rid of some clutter.

We're in a bowling league. We have some SWEET looking shirts!

I want a dog.

I'm going on a cruise in September to Alaska.

My wife is still smokin hot.

Those are all my thoughts for now. Possible future rants could include:

The immigration issue.
My bowling prowess.
The comedy brilliance that is The Office.
Potential names for my potential children.
My favorite breakfast cereals, sandwiches, soda, and uhhhh cookie.
My new found love of camping.

Later gators! I will write again some day. Until that time you shall be the falcon and I shall remain......The Falconer!!


J-Mac is THE MAN!!!

I love sports for stories like this. A 17 year old high school senior named Jason McElwain serves as the team manager/trainer for the boys varsity basketball team at Greece Athena High School in New York. Jason has been diagnosed with high funtioning autisim. He didn't speak until he was 5. He loves sports though and has been involved in track and the basketball program for the last few years under head Coach Jim Johnson. Jason rarely misses practice. He sits on the bench during games in a shirt and tie. To reward Jason's dedication and show appreciation for how he has helped the team, Coach Johnson decided he wanted to let Jason get into the final home game of the season, which was also "senior night." The coach said his dream would be to just get him in the game, and maybe get him a basket. So after building a 20 point lead in the fourth quarter, coach called Jason's number. His teammates looked for him, and got him the ball. Jason quickly fired up a 3 point shot that missed completely. Then he missed a layup. But his teammates kept looking to get him his basket. His next three pointer...nothing but net. Then another. And another. AND another. In an interview later he said,"As soon as the first shot went in that's when I started to get going." He described himself as "hotter than a pistol." His final stat line for his only high school basketball game: about 4 minutes, 20 points, 6 for 10 from 3 point distance. Check out some of these pics from the game.

I can't decide which person I admire most. Which part of the story moves me (and I'll freely admit, brings tears to at least the backs of my eyes). Is it Jason himself, who overcomes (daily, not just in this game) the challenges his life holds for him. Is it Coach Johnson who not only gave Jason the opportunity to be involved with his team, but then rewarded his dedication by putting him in the game? Sure they were up by 20. From what I have heard and read, they had locked up the district title, and were headed to the playoffs. But Coach Johnson didn't have to let Jason play. I think lots of coaches would never have considered it, let alone actually been brave enough to do it. How about the teammates who kept finding Jason and feeding him the ball? How about the players (high school kids remember) on the other team?!? They were already losing by 20 points to a powerful team, when the team manager comes of the bench to pour in 20 more points. But from all the clips I have seen, none of those guys tried anything unsportsmanlike or unwarranted towards Jason. It looked like several of them could have easily played better defense on him, and blocked or at least contested his shots. But they didn't. They knew what was going on it seemed. They knew what was more important. The students in the stands had made pictures and posters for Jason, and went wild when he got in the game. It only got louder with each shot. They rushed the court after the final buzzer, and lifted this kid on their shoulders. Awesome.


Who's next?

I go grocery shopping at least once a week. I wouldn't say I enjoy it, but I certainly don't mind this errand. I usually go to the store close to my house. When the contents of my cart allow, I use the self-checkout registers. I'm pretty quick and as a child I often dreamed of being a checker at a major grocery chain. (The first part is true) The self checkout is an easy choice over the traditional lane for me...When there is no one else at the self checkout. If there is not an open scanning station, there could be problems. I understand that it's still a relatively new application of technology in the retail food stuff environment. BUT....come on people. I should not have to wait 20 minutes to buy my can of shaving gel. None of you should either! Part of the blame falls on the store, part on the employees, and part on my fellow shoppers. So to clear things up, here are a few rules, or ideas, or observations regarding the self checkout registers, and the expected behavior when using (or planning) to use them.

In every store I have seen, there is a sign indicating something like "Express self checkout 15 items or less." After midnight when all the other lanes are closed, it is obviously OK to ignore this sign. But at other times too? What's the point of the sign? Do people not see the sign? Do the employees not see the people with 2 full shopping carts in these lines? Do I ever break this rule? Yes, but I'm really fast. Solution: take down the sign or enforce it. Don't leave it up there teasing me with unfulfilled promises of speedy "express" checkout.

Since we have licenses for driving, registration for voting, examinations for professional titles, etc. I propose a test before you can use the self checkout. Stop laughing. LOTS of people would not pass. Someone could make money hosting seminars on "How to Pass the Self-Checkout Exam." Sure it takes a few times to become well versed in the process. I didn't know what to do the first time I used it, or bought produce with no barcode, or wanted stamps. But the basic procedure should be understood before you get in line ahead of me and make me wait. Pick up the item, scan that item, put it in the bag, THEN pick up the next item and repeat. It is WAY too difficult for some people. And that is OK. That's why they still have checkers at the other registers. Solution: You must be at least as smart as the equipment in order to use it, smarter is preferred.

The problems do not start at the registers however. In the traditional checkout line, an orderly system easily develops: one shopper behind the other. I have never seen anyone cut in line at register 7. If Joe gets in line after Larry, then Larry gets his purchase processed before Joe. This is NOT the case in the self checkout area. Most setups include 4 stations for scanning. Confusion seemingly abounds when it comes to determining who is next. Among my observations: choose 1 of the 4 occupied stations and walk right up behind (the closer the better) the person currently using it, OR choose a side and wait for 1 of 2 people to be finished, OR join the group of people standing around the area and wait for the next spot open then try to run over there before someone else gets there paying no regard to the fact that they were there before you. The configuration breeds this confusion, but some common courtesy should prevent someone from waiting for 20 minutes (at one station, or side, or in the mob) while 3 people walk up and checkout at another station. Right? "You were obviously here before me, and are following the posted guidelines of having no more than 15 items. Please go ahead of me since I have 47 items, and just walked up here." Solution: standardize this queuing process. Reconfigure the stations, design clearly marked waiting lines, or have an employee act as a register usher.

But that's asking a lot of the employee right? It would seem so. I'm not sure if working the self checkout registers is a reward or punishment for the employees. Are these the best checkers they have? Or trainees? If I push the "call cashier" button, and there is no cashier there to hear it, does it make a sound? Actually I don't think it is designed to make a sound. I pushed it the other day for the first time because the scale did not notice that I had indeed placed the greeting card I just scanned in the bag, and not my pocket. The employee was right there watching me. I looked at her for about 15 seconds before pushing the button. We stared at each other for another 30 after I pushed it. I said,"Can you help me out here?" She quickly did so. The button does nothing. Solution: I don't know. I'm sure they are trying hard at what is probably one of their first jobs ever. Get rid of that button I guess, and fine tune the scale.

If everyone would follow these guidelines (at least when I'm trying to checkout) the world would be better. People would have more time to spend on other errands or with their families. Customer satisfaction would rise. Kroger stock would soar to new heights. The economy would improve. Gas prices would drop. The Rockets would go on a 20 game winning streak. The Texans would do the right thing and draft Reggie Bush.


Status Report

Still haven't seen Narnia. Looking like it might be a future rental.
Haven't learned how to (and therefore haven't installed) wood flooring. Also haven't saved enough to buy the wood flooring just yet.
Finished past "24" seasons and enjoying the current season. Don't mess with Jack!
Did some painting of the entryway.
There ARE feet on the chairs. You can sit in them, just don't wiggle around a bunch.
Did not read all of Genesis, but my weekly bible study has begun again, so I am making progress.

I'm currently between classes at UHCL's scenic campus killing time before my 7 o'clock class. There is an interesting student body here at UHCL. More like an airport than a traditional college campus. Most people come here to do their thing (finish a degree, get another degree, improve their employabilityness) and leave. Not many groups of students sitting around discussing current events or the lecture from class. We are more like employees. That's the way I approach it at least. I'm here to do a job. To get a piece of paper that will make someone want to hire me, and pay me enough money to do things I want to do. I do enjoy some classes. Others not so much. But all in all it's good. I'm very blessed to be here doing this. I know that. I just wish I could fast forward to the end. Then I could tell my wife she can quit her current job, and try this one again if she wants.



I took 18 hours this past semester. That's a lot, but God (often via my beautiful wife) took care of me. Perhaps the biggest blessing...I don't have to take any more accounting.

I have, deep done inside of me, the Christmas "spirit." I have a real tree for the first time ever. It smells good. Kara made it look great.

I don't understand the Happy Holidays v. Merry Christmas debate. If you are against Merry Christmas because you don't want other's views imposed on you...why are you making me say Happy Holidays. Hypocrite!

I have a few things on my "want to do" list before classes start in mid-January:
See the Narnia flick.
Learn how to install wood flooring.
Install wood flooring.
Finish watching the 3rd season of 24 before the 5th season starts in early January.
Paint the entry way. (not really on the want-to-do list, more want-to-be-done list)
Put feet on the chairs.
Read Genesis.


God The Creator

I go to a Bible study once a week, where we are in Genesis. We obviously covered the creation first, and I gained a new appreciation (still not a complete understanding) of God's power, artistry, and majesty. Kara and I recently went camping with some friends to Pedernales Falls State Park. It is beautiful there, and God created all of it.

These are the "falls" themselves. Not what you traditionally picture when you hear waterfall. More of a series of small pools connected by a flowing river. There are signs posted everywhere warning about flash floods that can raise the water level dramatically in mere seconds. My photography skills do not do this scene justice. It's neat to walk and explore the river area, and see the impact the water has had on the rock over time.

Here's one of the many pools that are formed along the river. The water is clear enough to see that there are some pretty serious drop offs creating some surprisingly deep spots. It was a gorgeous clear day with perfect weather. Look peaceful and calm? It was.

At night it got a little cool though so I used some of God's creations and the knowledge and skill he gave me to build....
the raging inferno displayed here. It kept us warm while aiding in the building of smores.

This last pic is my favorite. Again my skills with the camera do not capture the true impact of the scene. Actually any still picture would lose some of the impact. I could stare at this scene all day. God is truly a master creator. The beauty and power combined here are simply breathtaking. This is the prettiest most inspiring sight I saw the entire trip...

and the waterfall is neat looking too.


A voice from the majority.

I will not claim to (nor do I wish to) represent everyone who voted the same way as me on Tuesday. That would be silly. I don't think every Democrat is like Ted Kennedy. I don't think every Republican is like Bill O'Reilly. Like most of you I had no doubt that Prop 2 would pass in our state. I too was surprised at the actual numbers. I was initially surprised the margin wasn't bigger. I shouldn't have been. Before and after the actual vote, I heard and read opinions from more than a few people. It seemed most of the people wanting to discuss the issue were opposed to Prop 2 for various reasons. And yet the actual vote was somewhere close to 3 to 1 in favor. What gives? I think there are many reasons for this. Media coverage (of all topics) springs to mind. Some have been vocal in their support of Prop 2. Everyone knows where the "Religious Right" stands on the issue. I'm not sure who those people are exactly. I never hear someone proclaim themselves a member of that group. I usually hear it from talking heads or politicians as a way to marginalize an opposing view. A tactic used from both sides of the aisle I recognize. I'm getting off my intended topic.

I voted for Prop 2. I take voting seriously. I did not vote on every proposed amendment on the ballot because I simply did not know much about some of them. But I had spent sufficient time in thought and prayer to confidently support Prop 2. It was not a slam dunk decision. I considered many of the issues I have read and heard expressed from others. Should this be added to the Constitution in addition to the existing statutes? Is this a role our government should fill? Is this discriminatory to someone who would be affected?

I'm not sure if this is a role for our government to play. This point gave me greatest pause before my decision, and I'm not sure I have it fully resolved. I decided I had no problem with what some call a redundant addition. As some have pointed out, this makes it harder for someone in the future to circumvent the existing laws. I have no doubt that someone eventually would, so the redundancy is fine with me. I do not think it is discriminatory. There are other legal avenues to gain the rights of a married man and woman if that is what someone wants.

So I based the decision on my personal and religious beliefs. (Is there a difference? Is that an entirely new topic?) I am not able to separate my faith from my political views. I try, but fail, to make every decision in my life based on my faith. I have had varied levels of success in that. But past failures to not relieve me from the responsibility to make correct choices now and in the future. I believe that leading a homosexual lifestyle is a sin. I believe that is clear in the Bible. Our society is moving farther and farther away from the values and beliefs taught by Christ. I don't see how anyone can argue that. I decided that this vote was an opportunity to slow that progression. It may not last. It may not even last long. But I felt it was important to say that I agree.

I agree that marriage is a sacred union. The Bible uses marriage as an example of a close, loving, special, holy relationship. The Bible describes marriage as consisting of one man and one woman each forsaking all others. I know, I know. People get divorced all the time it seems. People do not view marriage in that way anymore. They should. We should. I don't buy the arguments of high divorce rates and promiscuity as reasons to oppose Prop 2. Yes, those actions are not what God want for marriage. That does not mean other violations are OK, or that we shouldn't oppose them. We should stand up against all actions that oppose our Lord and his commands. I think it should be harder to get married and divorced in our country. It seems such a flippant decision for so many. That would mean revisiting the government's role which I still don't have a firm handle on.

I agree that some times the minority of America needs to prevail over the majority. Voting rights for women, voting rights for racial minorities, and several other civil/equal rights issues are prime examples. I don't think this applies to Prop 2 however. I would vote for those other issues to pass because they align with my faith. Those changes made our society better.

I agree that defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman protects the sanctity of marriage (yeah I used the phrase) and our society. As I stated earlier I realize the sanctity level of the institution of marriage is low in our culture. I don't think that means it's ok to further tarnish it. Forget the legal and governmental aspect of it for now and consider the cultural traditional role marriage plays in our society. Ideally a man and a woman commit to each other(and only each other) for the rest of their lives. The union is respected. The couple raise their family together. They are examples to their children. I guess that's just the perfect goal in our imperfect world. Doesn't mean we can't and shouldn't strive for that goal though.

I agree we should hate the sin and love the sinner. I do not agree that condoning or being indifferent to a sinful lifestyle is truly loving the sinner though. It doesn't seem like that is what's best for the sinner. If someone I cared for was living their life in a way that was a detriment to their salvation, it would be my responsibility to call them on it. Sure it would be an uncomfortable confrontation and discussion. Sure they could ask me what right I have to tell them that when I sin daily. Sure it would be easier for me to decide to ignore their choice (yes choice like any other sin) of lifestyle and hope and pray that they find Christ and repent. That seems unlikely to me though. I'm not saying it is impossible to find Christ when you are daily living in sin with no thought of repentance, but it is much easier to make Christ your savior and leader when you aren't.

I agree I don't know all the answers. I agree my outlook might be different if someone close to me was homosexual. I'd like to think it wouldn't be though. I heard something a week or so ago that has stuck with me: We aren't sinners because we sin, we sin because we are are sinners. So I'll pray for all of us, and ask you to do the same.

Important voting opportunity

There is a vitally important campaign under way. The outcome of this movement will shape not only our future, but the future of our children, and our children's children. In this culture of apathy and indifference, I feel it is my responsibility to inform as many people as possible about this issue which will determine the very fabric of our society. I speak of course about................
the McRib.

It is my contention that the McRib is the greatest fast food sandwich ever invented by humankind. It is in a word: scrumtrulescent. Since it's creation in 1982, it's lack of full time status on McDonald's menu serves to infuriate me, and yet I understand. We simple humans do not deserve access to the McRib year round. It is to be reserved for the holiday season. It is to be anticipated and missed. But for some reason, the powers that be at McD's are considering the retirement of this Hall of Fame delicacy on December 31st of this very year. I urge all of you to go here and add your voice to mine and others in protest of this potential catastrophe. We must band together. All of us. Men and women. Young and old. Republicans and Democrats. The north and the south. Even Canadians. People who eat meat and even vegans since I don't really know what makes up the rib in the McRib. And I don't care! Let your voice be heard! (unless you are not a fan of McRib then shut up!) I have to go McDonald's now. I'll see you all there.