Saturday, May 26, 2007

9 Years Ago

A long, long time 9 years ago, in a galaxy state far, far away, I graduated high school. This was on my mind this weekend as Jeni and I are in Indiana for my step sisters high school graduation. A couple thoughts from the graduation last night:

-Does anyone ever remember anything from their valedictorians speech? Heck, I can't even remember who gave ours, much less anything that was said. I would like to meet the person who claims, "My life was going nowhere, until I heard my valedictorians speech, it inspired me and changed my life".

-The song the band played in the middle of the ceremony, "Pirates of the Caribbean". This class loves Johnny Depp. Jeni suggested that the next speaker swing in on a rope. I expected graduates to start swashbuckling at any moment, for some entertainment.

9 years ago. Wow, seems like just the other day and so, so, so long ago at the same time.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Our Garden

Our garden is finally all planted. This year, we put landscape timbers all the way around it, two high. Amazingly, we bought this timbers dirt cheap at the end of the season last year and just guessed at how many we would need and had only 3 feet leftover when we were finished. Had we measured it all out, we would have had more waste than that.

So, good news for me, I have something else to weed eat around! Most of the other planters are completed too, we had a productive weekend.

Official garden inventory:

3 tomato plants (2 Big Boy, 1 Rutgers - in honor of Sean)
3 cucumber plants
2 dill plants
1 Sage
2 Chives
1 rosemary
1 oregano
1 parsley
1 Greek basil
3 rows (20 ' long each) of Top Crop Bush green beans
3 hills of watermelon seeds
18 landscape timbers
countless hours and blood, sweat and tears. And more sweat to come.

See pictures of them prior to them dying, click here. Enjoy.

To bee or not to bee

Albert Einstein once predicted that when bees disappear, humans will only be a few years behind. It makes sense when you think about it. Bees pollinate about 130,000 types of vegetation. Without vegetation, animals have nothing to eat, which in turns leads us to having nothing to eat.
Why do I bring this up? Because I just read an article about bees. Did you know bee population is at an all time low? There's this thing called Colony Collapse Disorder than is killing off a massive amount of bees. The drop in bee population hasn't been this bad since 1896 when they started keeping track. Why we were keeping track of bee population in 1896? Previous documented population drops have been large, but none as global the most recent decline over the last 7-10 years. Anyway, you are probably wondering to yourself right now, why am I reading about bees and is Phil off his rocker again? Why is he writing about bees?!?
Two things I found interesting about this.
The first is that the cause is unknown. But, some scientists are hoping that instead of some other factors, that the cause is a disease. Why? Because researchers at Vita (world's leading bee health company [yes, you read that right, bee health companies exist]) are confident that if its a disease they can cure it. Seriously? Maybe we need to get these guys researching cancer. What makes them so confident that just because its a disease that we can cure it? I'm just as nervous its a disease we can't cure as anything else. We can't cure all human diseases, what makes us thing we can cure all bee diseases?

The second is that one possible cause is cell phone radiation. There is big push in our culture right now to be 'green'. But right now, it isn't really costing us anything to do so. What if we all had to give up cell phones to save bees? Would we? How would we explain that one to future generations? "Oh, we used to be able to call anyone anywhere, but the bees couldn't handle it. They got all stressed out about it." The cell phone industry is large, and I'm sure billions would be invested in changing the technology, but what if it wasn't quick enough and we had to give up cell phones for 3 years? 2 years? Could we even make it a year? I don't think it will come to that, but it makes me curious to wonder if we as a society would make that change to save ourselves and I wonder if there would be resistance. And how much resistance. It would literally involve a massive shift in the way our society worked.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Movie Idea

I heard a good movie idea the other day, I thought I would share. I can't take credit this, its Adam Carolla's idea just with my slight modifications. I hope you find it as hilarious as I did.

The name of the movie is Pedof Isle. The year is 2027. June 2027. We all know pedophiles are an issue in our society now, feeding off new technologies like, the Internet. But by 2027, we've shipped them all off to an island off the coast of the Pacific. I don't know where we'll find this island, just that we'll find one. Maybe Lost will be done by then and we can use that island.

So, there's this plane full of boy scouts on its way to Australia for a scouting expedition. But the side story is that there's this older kid that's coming along, an Eagle Scout because his dad is the troop leader. But he resents his Eagle Scouting days and hates the scouts now, he's in this goth phrase and doesn't want to go, but his dad makes him. One last scouting expedition for the road. So, he's riding along not paying attention, has headphones on, hating every minute of the trip. Just then, the plane crashes on Pedof Isle.
The dad dies, but before he dies, as he's trapped under the wreckage he delivers a monologe (there's always time for one last speech, even dying under smeltering plane wreckage) to his son that 'this is his troop now!' and how he has to lead them to safety. As he dies, he opens his hand and in it, there's a bloody merit badge for leadership, the one badge the Eagle Scout son never got.
So, the son, the reluctant leader, starts leading the boy scouts to the top of the mountain out of harms way from all the pedophiles that are now starting to surround the plane wreckage having not seen a boy in years. Along the way, they must use all their scouting skills like tying knots, pitching tents, making fire, etc. The Boy Scouts of America need to have this movie made to save their organization. It could be the epic turning point.
Meanwhile, the government has disavowed all knowledge of Pedof Isle, so the search for this boy scouts is top secret. Ever notice how the government always disavows all knowledge of stuff like this in the movies? One Navy Seal with a checkered past knows about Pedof Isle and when he volunteers for the mission, he's denied, they say, "There's no such island, it doesn't exist." But despite the reject, he forms a rag tag team of ex-military friends and they head off to Pedof Isle under the cover of darkness. You know they are guaranteed success because they are a rag tag team, whenever you need something done, rag tag is the way to go. It's the only way you can be sure there will be a happy ending.
I won't give away the ending, but you get the idea.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Mashed Potatoes?!?

Jeni and I have been practically bent over in stomach pain for almost 24 hours now. It has been a sad state of affairs in the Townsend Mansion lately. We both have felt like we were just punched in the stomach since about 2 hours after dinner last night.
We can't really even figure out what went wrong. Only thing we had was ranch crusted chicken and mashed potatoes. The chicken didn't sit out long, the ranch dressing didn't sit out long, and the corn flakes were a bit old, but I don't think corn flakes can do this to someone. Jeni thinks its because she thought about having ice cream and her stomach rebelled at the very thought of it. My guess is that we were out of milk and I had to improvise on the mashed potatoes. I substituted heavy whipping cream and watered it down a bit (at the advice of Jeni, mind you, I would not have come up with this on my own). In hindsight, I'm thinking each of us having ~1/4 cup of cooked cream was not the best thing we could do for ourselves.
I write this to warn all of you. Heavy whipping cream is NOT a substitute for milk. I won't be trying that one again, that is for sure. Trust me on this one, I haven't felt this bad since the last time I was quoted as saying "3 weeks isn't that far past the expiration date, is it?"

Monday, May 14, 2007

Homeless and Less Fortunate

Tonight at the gas station, I was pumping some gas when some guy comes out of the store and gives me his story about how he's out of gas and miles from home and needs a few dollars to get home. Well, I'm feeling generous and give him a $5 bill from my wallet.

Now, I don't relay this story to make myself look good. In fact, it's quite the opposite. As he came back out and starting pumping some gas and I pulled away, I guess I felt good in one regard that hopefully I was able to help him out. But in a larger sense I felt bad for two reasons. The first is that I could have done more. I could have filled up his tank. Secondly, I kept thinking about all the people I hadn't helped. Why him? Why today? I feel like part of the reason I helped him was because this is the South and I feel like I can trust people more here. The biggest thing I dislike about travelling for work (aside from being away from home and the "Table for 1" embarassment) is that most of our offices are in large cities and I know I'm going to be constantly asked for money. Sometimes, just walking 1-2 blocks from hotel to office, I'm asked for money 3-4 times. And you know what? I never give. And I feel horrible about it. Seriously. It makes me feel sick to turn down so many people, so frequently. I feel like I'm a generous person, a good person, and a Christ follower. And Christ commanded us to give to the poor, he goes so far as to say in Matthew 25 that to not feed the hungry, to not give the thirsty drink, etc is to do the same to Him. Which is one of the reasons why I end up feeling horrible by the time I get to the office. Now, I try to justify to myself that this is a different ballgame. In the inner city, people are just trying to take advantage of me. In downtown LA, I was trying to walk 4 blocks to get breakfast and after just 1 block, I'd told two people 'no' and now I had a guy walking beside me pressuring me to give him money. I felt I was 1/2 block away from having an LA mugging story to tell, so I darted in a cafe just to get away from him as he stood at the door yelling at me. I think "surely that's not what Jesus meant" and then hold that guys forceful begging and attitude against all of them. Heck, I even looked around before leaving the cafe that day to try and minimize the number of times I'd have to say 'no' before I got back to my hotel. Isn't that horrible? So, I don't tell you that story to make myself look good, but to hopefully get you thinking. It got me thinking anyway.
Why is it that we give to some and not to others?
Are we called to help out all of them the best that we can? Even when we feel threatened?
What holds us back? Greed? Feeling of unsafety?
Am I the only one that feels bad about this? Should I feel bad about this?
Just a couple hypothetical questions to ponder.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

God Bless America? Hasn't He already?

In thinking a lot about greed lately, I was re-listening to a sermon by Rob Bell that is simply amazing. His previous series had discussed helping the oppressed and less forunate and then in this series called "Calling all Peacemakers", he explored that much more. This sermon even led to a Nooma video called "Rich" about greed in America. You can listen to it here:

Some interesting stats he mentions:

12% of the world's population uses 85% of its water.
40% of the world lacks basic sanitation facilitation (which contributes to disease and all kinds of other factors)
1 billion people in the world are without safe drinking water, but Americans consume 26 billion liters of bottled water per year

The US spends more on trash bags annually than nearly half the world does on all goods combined.
The US GDP is 21.4% of world capital, but its population is only between 5 and 6%.
Average wood consumption per day worldwide is 4 lbs, average US consumption 14 lbs/day. (Wood consumption includes all paper products).
Every 16 seconds someone dies of hunger, 2/3rds of Americans are considered overweight.

8% of people in the World own a car, 33% of American families own 3 cars.
Only 1% of the world owns a computer.
The US accounts for 25% of global oil consumption.
We use 20 million barrels of day of oil and have 5-6% of world population, China is in 2nd in terms of millions of barrels per day with 5.6 million, but has almost 20% of world population.
In 2001, 22 million people died of preventable diseases, meaning diseases that you or I could go to the doctor or ER and be cured of.

The US holds 42.8% of weapons worldwide and in 2002, the US spent more on defense than the next 18 biggest spenders combined.

1 out of 4 children worldwide have to go to work everyday instead of school, but 85% of Americans are high school graduates.
1% of the world has a college education, but close to 30% of Americans have a bachelors degree.

Average new home square footage:
US 2349 sq ft
Japan 1000 sq ft
Ireland 930 sq ft
UK 815 sq ft

Could you even sell a 815 sq ft home in the US? 700? 500?
80% of the world lives in what is considered substandard housing. Meaning it lacks running water, electricity, sanitation, etc.

There's more, but these were most interesting to me.

The 4 Curses of IT

I found this today online, it's so absolutely true. For any of you who work in iT, you are very familar with the curses:

The four curses of the IT biz are:

1) If you do a great job, nobody notices. They only notice when things go wrong.

2) Nobody outside of IT really knows what you do. They don't know the difference between a junior PC tech and a senior network security expert, or between a kid who has learned some HTML and a seasoned programmer who can handle large-scale, multi-platform development efforts.

3) Anybody who's unafraid of their home PC knows as much as you do. Just ask them. Corollary: Why doesn't our entire corporation do things the way I do them at home?

4) Your friends, neighbors, and relatives can ask you for free help on whatever computer problems they're having, big or small.

And another one that just missed the cut "All techies can do all tech jobs". Webmasters can troubleshoot network problems, Database guys can troubleshoot email server problems, etc. But that's more of a myth than a curse.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Top 10 Signs Your HOA is a wreck

Back in college, I used to make Top 10 lists for my radio show. So, I'm bringing them back with another recurring feature of the blog (We now have 3: "Top 10...", "When I'm President", and "Stupid Real Life Conversations". More coming soon).

(All of these are based on my real life HOA, I wish I could make this stuff up).
Top 10 Signs your HOA/Community is in shambles/chaos:

1. Your pool area is occassionally trolled by a local gang called the D25's.
You never want a gang that names themselves after a BINGO square taking over your neighborhood. Rival gangs are the C19's and the E32's. If you ever see them together and someone yells "Bingo", you better run, a gang war is about to start.
2. Only about 20% of home owners pay their dues in any given year.
This year we are at 25%, that's what we call 'success'.
3. You have a cop at your annual HOA meetings because the lady in charge of the HOA has had repeated threats of "bodily harm" and "loss of limb".
4. The head of your HOA submits her voicemails to the FCC.
Here is where her claims really start to be unbelievable. I'm pretty sure the FCC does not regulate voicemails. Really sure, actually. In fact, I'd be surprised if they even cared. I don't even think they would accept them. If she thinks they regulate voicemails, what else does she think they regulate? Phone calls? Water cooler conversations? The voices in her head?
5. You have a hard time getting volunteers for the pool committee because it requires them to "risk your life" and there are just some things for which a person will not "put your life in your own hands"
Do you (insert name) solemnly swear, upon this copy of the pool rules, to defend this pool area from hoodlums, those who have not paid their dues, and all other riff raff, no matter what harm may come to you or your family? Do you swear to do whatever it takes to keep the chemicals regulated .... There's not really an oath, but that's what it would be like.
6. You have a committee thats sole purpose is to oversee other committees. And it is not out of the realm of possibility that you could soon have subcommittees.
Actually, none of the committees ever accomplish anything either, we should call ourselves a government instead of an HOA.
7. Your annual HOA meeting is basically a bunch of senior citizens complaining about how they sit on their porches and can't concentrate because of all those darn kids down the street playing basketball and making too much racket! They petition to eliminate basketball goals, kids playing in the streets, riding bikes, playing loud music, and other such nonsense. They wonder why we are not on their side.
Did you know I live in a proposed retirement community. Those darn kids and their racket!
8. Someone brags about how an engineer is almost over qualified to lead a committee simply because they are an engineer, not knowing that in fact, engineers come in all shapes and sizes and specialties. While another person was asked simply if he had a pulse and was then deemed to have the proper credentials to be on the steering committee.
It's like saying, well, 'he's a cook, obviously, he's overqualified to make Sweet and Sour Chicken'. What? He only speaks Spanish, you say?
9. You've ever been penalized for using your garage door for something other than egress or ingress.
Don't even think about it. If your garage door is up for more than 10 minutes at a time, your property value just dropped $20.
10. You routinely wake up to Mexicans waist deep in a hole in your yard with a shovel and a yard full of bulldozers and back hoes and your house isn't under construction.
And in fact, it doesn't even faze you anymore.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Derby Day

Today is Derby Day. The day to sit on the couch for 10 hours and watch horse racing. Place a few bets on the ponies and sip mint juleps. However, this year, I will not be able to do that. Why? Because I have a wedding to go to. It could be worse, there are plenty of other sporting events I'd be more ticked if I had to miss, but it got me thinking. What days of the year should no one get married? Before I get to that though, let me say that I am not against marriage, I'm absolutely for it. However, I just think you should keep your guests in mind as well. Therefore, my list is:
-Super Bowl Sunday (if you do this, you are basically say you don't care about the thoughts of 75 million people, it's all about you) and all NFL Playoff weekends
-Any weekend during March Madness.
-Kentucky Derby day (first Saturday in May)
-Any football Saturday (esp. home games of your alma mater - they should revoke diplomas for this at BCS schools) if you know that you or several of your friends (possibly even your future spouse) would rather be there than at your wedding. I mean, do you really want the thoughts of everyone to be somewhere else? Do you want people to regret and bemoan having to come to your wedding instead of the game? I think this is one of the primary reason guys don't like weddings, no one takes this stuff into account. Once you have to miss one big game for wedding, you dread the next 5. More if you any of those 5 involving missing a game. That's my theory.
-Masters weekend

Is that too much to ask? It's like 12-15 Saturdays a year, that's it. We don't ask for much.

Leave a comment, I'd be curious to know which days are off limits to my readers.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Beware the Atom

This is Day 1 of my attempt to blog much, much more. In fact, I plan on expanding this blog to cover more ground, not only with what I write about, but with links and recurring features. Sports takes, politics, computers, the life and times of what it is like to live in South Carolina.

Which is what today's is about. Life in South Carolina while waiting in line in Dollar General. In fact, if you want a laugh, I advise that experience. Long story short, this low IQ redneck was discussing her rowdy kids with the cashier. Basically, she makes a big deal that her kid is not named after a biblical name, but is instead named "Atom". Pronounced "Adam". She said, "Atom, A-t-o-m, you know, like the Atom Bomb". Um, you mean the atomic bomb? I've never heard of an atom bomb. Is that when one atom blows up? Does it make that much of a difference if one blows up? Would anyone notice?

It bewilders me why someone would name their kid after something they had no clue about. I seriously doubt she even knows what an atom is. Atom. Named after something that doesn't exist, the "atom bomb". I feel sorry for the kid. No wonder he's rowdy, he looked like he'd lost a few protons. He's unstable. Atom. This is why the naming of kids should go through the same process as naming horses. You have to submit it to an organization with a worthwhile reason for chosing that name, it has to be meaningful, it has to make sense, etc. That's why "Atom Bomb" will never win the Kentucky Derby. "Atomic Bomb" might though. Out.