Sunday, November 30, 2014

And You Thought Wal-Mart Was Crowded!

There were a lot of 4473's filled out on Friday
which means we will soon be accused of killing trees. 
Black Friday Facebook posts seemed to be the norm this past week especially for the local shops in the area that don’t put the money into fancy commercials or newspaper inserts. This was especially true for the small shops around the region. Even the local gun shops took to Facebook to promote the discounts that they were offering this weekend (Tanner’s Sports Center is a perfect example of this). And, as it turns out, my local mom and pop shops were not the only ones cutting prices.

While I kept reading about the lines at various retailers across the country, it didn’t quite click that the same thing would be happening at the local gun shops and big chain stores. Just like last year, I didn’t have the need to go wait in those lines and none of those stores are along my usual commute so I was fairly oblivious to the rampant sales that were happening across the nation. Those thoughts were soon chipped away when I started reading through some of the comments left on the Facebook sale posts.

These demonstrated that there was a higher than normal pace to the sales but the volume was still something that I didn’t fully grasp until additional posts were made by a few of these stores. As it turns out, the PICS system was completely overloaded (no back door gun control theories here just the pointing out of a crappy antiquated system). Something that I cannot remember happening for some time and not this bad since the first few months of 2013. That is when I really began to wonder how many firearms were being sold on Black (Rifle) Friday.

And then I came across a CNN article (via The Blaze) that summarized the mass buying that was taking place across the country and why the system was unable to handle the load. Here is a little bit from the article:

The busiest shopping day of the year also saw a major boom for gun sales, with the federal background check system setting a record of more than 175,000 background checks Friday, according to the FBI.

The staggering number of checks -- an average of almost three per second, nearly three times the daily average -- falls on the shoulders of 600 FBI and contract call center employees who will endure 17-hour workdays in an attempt to complete the background reviews in three business days, as required by law, FBI spokesman Stephen Fischer said.

"Traditionally, Black Friday is one of our busiest days for transaction volume," Fischer said.

Indeed, Friday saw the highest number of background checks ever for a Black Friday, and second in history. The highest day on record was December 21, 2012, with more than 177,000 background checks.

Without any major controversies or political maneuvering currently being considered, it really came down to price this year. While there may not have been great Black Friday deals to be had overall, it seems as though the firearms industry is doing well and the real deals were in the gun shops. Like it or not, firearms are part of our culture and the ownership thereof is our right. Thankfully, there are many people out there who choose to exercise that right and Black Friday was there opportunity to embrace that right… and at a discount.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Gobble Gobble: Part Two

Growing u we always had Thanksgiving dinner at home and while at the time I didn’t think about this annual routine now it has become something that I think back on and enjoy. The last several years, with all of us getting married, having kids, and moving around those dinners have shifted around. Most years our day would consist of a few stops and this year was no different with a couple of stops during the day. Each time it has been a slightly different schedule but the biggest difference had been that we would no longer go to my parent’s house for the holiday.

Thankfully, my wife and I were able to revisit those memories a little bit and have a post-Thanksgiving meal with my parents tonight. It was just the four of us but it allowed us to spend time with them, eat, chat, and just enjoy being there without having to rush out the door to go somewhere else. We have had many meals with my parents as we enjoy being there and catching up on all that is going on, receive great advice, and sometimes plan for the things just around the corner. It really is a home for both of us.

Tonight made me miss a little bit the simpler Thanksgivings without the commotion and the running from place to place when we could just show up and pick up conversations as if we had just seen them earlier that day. I guess you could say that one of the things that I am most grateful for is the relationship that my wife and I have with my parents and the support and guidance that they have always given us. Some may not be able to relate to this statement at all but I consider myself privileged to have been born into my family.

That is something that I hope that we will be able to pass on to our son. I want him to have those memories of family holidays filled with family and know that we are always there for him. I guess you could say that is one of my greatest fears… that he will not look back at Thanksgiving and other family gatherings with the same love and appreciation that I do now. Maybe that is why I am so excited not just to meet our son but to introduce him to his family.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Black Friday Turning Grey

Every year the same pattern persists as Thanksgiving all too quickly gives way to the consumer holiday shopping spree also known as Black Friday. More so than any other year, the emails came heavy and soon filled my inbox with deals. Actually, the digital deluge began on Monday as pre-sales and teasers streamed across the screen. However, the fact of the matter is that the deals are not nearly as good this year as they have been in the past.

A few years ago I was one of those people who, eager to fill a few holes in what we needed for our new apartment, ventured out on Thanksgiving night to try and stretch our money as far as I could go. That trip was a success as lower prices combined with a few coupons I had on hand allowed us to completely furnish our place as well as check off most of the people on our gift list for the season. With the economy still recovering the discounts were deep especially for those of us who took the time to put a game plan together and leverage every discount available to us. This allowed me to get everything done all while not waiting in a single line.

This year was almost the exact opposite as there was nothing being sold that offered the same kind of bargain. Don’t get me wrong, we still spent a few dollars but not like the flurry of activity from just a few years ago. Everything has pointed to a resurgence in the retail environment and the lack of discounts reflects that change… although that fact didn’t seem to stop people from filling the stores and clogging the roads.

So this year my wife and I did exactly what the stores didn’t want us to do… we stayed home and kept our money in our pockets. The few things that we were keeping an eye on just in case didn’t seem to change much in price so why would we buy now? There is plenty of time for us to look for those things at a later date and there are definitely other things on which we can focus our attention. Maybe part of the equation is that we have changed and our priorities have shifted but at the same time if the deals aren’t there it is not worth the time or the money.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Brought Together By The Gobble Gobble

I thought about posting something early this morning for the Thanksgiving holiday but after giving it some thought I decided to hold off until the evening. I made this decision because of the simple fact that the clichés surrounding this holiday have a strong foundation in truth. There were several things up in the air this year and you really never know what situations could have come up to give a little extra flavor to the festivities.

Our plan for the day was straightforward, we headed to my mother-in-law’s house to spend the day there and do our best to create another great memory for her. But first it was time to turn on the oven and create something to bring to the meal. As always, there was no recipe to be followed and once the Brussel sprouts were prepped I just looked around the kitchen for the things that I could add to make it taste somewhat edible. In the end, it turned out to be halfway decent.

We got to the house just after noon with food already out and the marathon of eating began almost immediately. With various football games echoing the background (with the occasional enthusiastic gesture highlighting the action) we all enjoyed the day and prepared the day long dinner. I guess we can be thankful for an uneventful day filled with food and family.

As we finished cleaning and began packing things up to head out the door, we decided to swing by and see the rest of my wife’s family. A slightly dangerous move as we would be walking into more food and an insistence to try at least a few things on delectable display. While we were, for the most part, able to stave off many of the treats that lay before us, we did manage to top off our stomachs.

While food always plays a big part in this holiday, it was a great time from beginning to end when we were able to see family. Both those that we had seen not long ago and those whom we have been unable to connect with for months. It was a warm and relaxing day full of food and family which is all anyone can really hope for. And with so many things to be thankful for, there couldn’t have been a better year for all of this to come together.

There is a heck of a lot to be thankful for this year. More so than in previous years (especially those of recent memory). There have been major changes and minor ones with plenty more on the way. Throughout it all we have had the support of family and friends and that is what I am most thankful for this year.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Ebb And Flow Of Fellowship Nights

With Thanksgiving only a couple days away, attendance was pretty light at the lodge last night. That combined with a little bit of illness and some travel mixed in and the turnout wasn’t what it was last week. However, this is to be expected throughout the year especially during the holiday season. It is the natural ebb and flow of the fraternity.

And sometimes we need night like the one last night when a few of us can get other work done and coordinate our efforts for upcoming events (have you signed up for our blood drive yet?). At the same time, it also forces some of us to take on roles during these evenings that we are not part of our usual routine. This is especially true when you consider that there were a couple candidates that made it out and all the usual instructors were unable to attend last night.

I was surprised at just how much I have been able to retain over the past year and a half. Many of the phrases and much of the ritual is immediately brought to the forefront of my mind with very little prompting. It is by no means second nature and I still have a long way to go but I am making progress and I am confident that my future goals in Freemasonry may not be as daunting as I once thought.

These are the moments that I am not used to experiencing and the conversations that I am too seldom able to have with brothers during their first few months as a Mason. Having spoken with and assisted in relaying the information needed for their next degree last night, I am impressed with these new brothers and I look forward to having them as members of my lodge. Heck, they are picking things up much faster than I did when I first became a Mason (I know that is not saying much).

It is amazing to think about the difference from last year… that is what really struck me last night. On an evening when our attendance was down it was still many more brothers than we would have seen this same time last year at the lodge. While I wasn’t able to accomplish all that I had set out to do last night (I got some things done in the place of others), I was happy to have been a part of the training and conversations at the lodge and I am looking forward to seeing the many more faces during our Tuesday night fellowship. Sometimes it is the best possible way to end a long day.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

A Long Baby Appointment

Here is your obligatory baby photo for this post (old picture from 20 weeks).
For the past several months we have been seeing the doctor every four weeks to check in and make sure our son is on schedule. Last night was the last appointment in that particular schedule as we will now be heading to the doctor every two or three weeks until our son’s birthday. Thankfully, everything has checked out so far and he is developing close to what the doctor expects (he is actually a week ahead of schedule at this point).

However, while the baby is progressing as planned, the doctor was running late last night… very late. We both made our way to the office a little quicker than expected and checked in at the front desk about twenty five minutes early. Once a couple of seats opened up in the waiting room we settled in for the duration as given the mass of people in the office we knew there was no way that they would be running on time. Our appointment time came and went with little expectation as to when we would be seen.

Jeopardy kept us occupied for a little while but our patience began slowly degrading as Wheel of Fortune gradually killed our brain cells. By the time that show ended there were still a few of us fidgeting in the waiting room and what little patience was left quickly vanished once Dancing With The Stars came on. Honestly, I don’t know how people can watch that show. Fortunately, it wasn’t long after the dancing started when we heard my wife’s name being called and we moved as fast as we could to the examining room.

This change in scenery was met with more waiting as we could hear the doctor and nurses scurrying up and down the hallways like mice trying to escape from a trash can. This was accompanied by the sounds of heartbeats from the adjacent rooms. It was nearly 8:30 when the doctor finally opened the door, listened to the heart rate, took the usual measurements, and answered the couple of questions that we had for her. We discussed the net appointment and were on our way out having waited over two hours for a ten minute appointment.

It was a long night that followed a long day but it was well worth the wait as we were able to once again hear our son and watch him as he kicked wondering why he was being poked and prodded. Like many nights, that is what grounds us. But we also learned the important lesson to never again make a doctor appointment the week of Thanksgiving… I think even the baby was not happy about having to sit in the waiting room so long.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Ferguson Fallout

Throughout the day, the media has been hinting at and downright promoting the news that a verdict would be reached as to whether or not charges will be brought up on Officer Darren Wilson. For months, riots, race baiting, and allegations have been regular occurrences since the shooting occurred in August. Every time news was leaked from Ferguson, the same cycle repeated itself: judgments, accusations, and race baiting.

While there was some speculation to the contrary, the decision not to indict was not a surprise. Given the fact that they knew what was going to happen, I give the people in charge of making that decision a lot of credit for sticking to the facts that were presented. They know that while we cannot say with 100% certainty what happened during the altercation, there is simply not enough evidence to support an indictment.

That is something that seems to be lost on those taking to the streets this evening… no one knows exactly what happened and no one has been able to come forth with evidence that would secure and indictment. Even the eye witness testimonies contradicted one another. Like many things, we were not there so we can’t say for certain what exactly happened.

However, there are more disturbing undercurrents to this whole situation. The contempt that many people feel toward law enforcement that has been on display is itself contemptible. People refuse to acknowledge the nature of the job and the risks that each officer takes on a daily basis. These men and women risk their lives putting themselves in the middle of chaos and are asked to make split second decisions in those moments. They should be praised for the work that they do not chastised for not acting fast or slow enough.

While there are undoubtedly ‘bad apples’ here and there that doesn’t mean that entire departments or law enforcement as a whole should be put on trial in the media. And, when it comes down to it, very few people are willing to put themselves in that position. These people are trained to take the best course of action to ensure public safety and to subdue or eliminate threats to that safety when necessary.

But, honestly, all these riots and protesters aren’t really looking for justice. They were searching for an excuse to violently vent their frustrations with the world. Unfortunately, Darren Wilson, law enforcement, their own community, and, as it turns out, Israel are the ones that have already been convicted of causing their lives to be less than utopian.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Another Alarming Evening

View of the cluster from outside.
It was a busy weekend for the two of us as we both needed to just get out of the apartment and do something. We spent all day on Saturday driving around enjoying some new scenery, running errands, and trying to stay warm. It was a slower pace than usual but we still got a number of things done. Today was much of the same for the first part of the day until we got to the point that we just needed to close the door, make some dinner, and try to catch up on all the emails and projects that filled our computers.

While the plan was simple it was not one that we were able to stick with as not long after finishing dinner the fire alarm began screeching throughout the building. Unfortunately, this was not a surprise at it had been nearly a month since the last time we were forced to grab out coats and sit on the bench outside. After spending about 10 minutes trying to get our son to calm down a bit and once the fire department turned off the alarm, I wandered into the lobby to try and listen in for an update (even though I pretty much knew what had happened). Unable to hear anything but with the all clear from the fire chief, we headed back to our apartment to try and resume our routine.

Just as we had begun recovering from the evening detour and had resumed our plans for the night, that same familiar sound pierced the apartment walls. At this point I knew for certain that the same faulty sensor on the 4th floor was not fixed and causing the interruption to the evening. However, even with the false alarm, we repeated the steps from an hour prior, grabbed our coats, and made our way out the door… again.

Moments later, my wife and I were sitting on the bench trying to calm down the baby as we watched the same fire crew pull in (with their lights off this time) and go through the same routine that they had just completed a half our ago. Granted, they were much grumpier this time as they too knew what the problem was. So, we waited another 30 minutes, watching the commotion as the President of the Board finally came down to the lobby (she was nowhere to be found when the alarm went off the first time) and began pointing her finger at the fire chief. I give the Union fire department credit as they remained calm despite the frustration of the situation. 

As the trucks once again began packing things up, I ventured into the lobby where I finally heard the confirmation as to the cause of the evening disturbances. With the lobby now clearing and the trucks pulling away, I decided to ask a few questions regarding the situation and what is going to be done moving forward to prevent another reoccurrence (especially since the fire department already stated that they will not respond to another false alarm without levying a heavy fine). Simply and polite questions where quickly responded to by the President with condescending venom.

I can’t say I was surprised by this reaction as I was not there to kiss her ring so she wanted nothing to do with me and because she didn’t think of those questions or options then they must be wrong. So, we exchanged a few words and I left the lobby simply confirming a common opinion about her which I will not elaborate upon at this juncture but you can figure it out. This is just another example of why things aren’t managed properly in the building, why the residential door keeps revolving, and the reason that small issues have become big expensive problems. I’m just glad it wasn’t another leak or we would still be dealing with it this morning.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Too Soon!

As stores moved their Halloween candy and decorations to the clearance section out came the Thanksgiving items to be put on display. But the turkey day decorations are limited in their shelf space as the Christmas stock was already dominating the aisles. With nearly two months to go, the winter holiday was already on full display smacking you in the face the moment you walked through the door.

Over the past couple of weeks the oversaturation has only gotten worse as the music is filling the stores and the slowly trickling into the radio rotation. And this week is seems as though the weather has joined in on the premature celebration with the cold and flurries filling the air. Even as I write this line there is the Hershey kiss red and green holiday bells ringing in the background. All of this is too much and way too early.

Growing up this was a time of year that I looked forward to… it was a something that I waited for with great anticipation and I could count on the decorations and music to change the world around me the week following Thanksgiving. Now it is an entire season, the same length as winter or fall, that overshadows all the other days that make up autumn. For some this is a welcomed change but, for me, it is robbing the appreciation that we once had for the sow decent into the cold weather and the holidays, events, and transitions that I enjoyed years ago.

But I guess this is to be expected during a time when people want everything right now and want it for as long as possible. With instant gratification found in every corner of the internet and easy access through all means of communication, there is no more patience left in everyday life. That is what I think I miss the most, the enjoyment of the day to day. Each day offered a little change during the fall and built up the anticipation to what we knew was to fall upon us at the very beginning of winter.

While my focus has changed as I have gotten older and the holidays which I embrace are completely different, the spirit that fills this time of year seems to be watered down by extending it over such a long period of time. Now, we find Halloween trees on display in early October and a mix of music filling stores in the midst of the fire that fills the autumn landscape. If only we could go back to the slower pace and patience that came with the day to day enjoyment of the season. Maybe we could enjoy the individual holidays rather than suffering from a merry overload by the time December comes around.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Mike Judge Was Right!

When it comes to firearms, the lack of education in this country is astounding. While the raging liberals want to paint us as the ‘uneducated hicks’, it is all too apparent that these people are the ones that have failed to educate themselves. In fact, when it comes to firearms safety and general knowledge, it is safe to say that we are heading toward what Mike Judge called an ‘idiocracy’.

Recently, examples have been floating around the internet and across social media sites making astoundingly stupid statement accompanied with the hashtag “gunsense”. These nonsensical holophobes have been spewing skewed statements in an effort to sway the uneducated. Below are the top three ridiculous posts that seemed to have gained irrational traction:

  1. A “Full Auto” Bolt Carrier Group is legal!

Just because you put a loud muffler on your Honda Civic doesn’t mean that it is a race car! If you bother to look at the design of the AR-15 (semi-auto) vs that of the M16 (auto) you will know that the bolt carrier group (BCG) is not what determines whether the gun can fire in full auto. A ‘full auto’ BCG is simply a reinforced version of the standard AR15 BCG. There are many other parts that are needed to turn an AR15 into an M16 as can be seen in the following comparison diagram:

Please also note that such a conversion is HIGHLY illegal and the ATF will put you in prison for doing so.

  1. What does AK-47 mean?

Mikhail Kalashnikov (K) designed an automatic (A) rifle for the Soviet Union in 1947 (47). As it is officially known in the Soviet documentation as Avtomat Kalashnikova (AK) and it was designed in 1947 (47) the rifle was assigned the designation AK-47. Also note that the models that you see in gun shops are NOT automatic rifles, they are semi-automatic. While legal in many states, automatic rifles are highly regulated and inordinately expensive.

  1. What does 10/22 mean?

Unless you have a large bore rifle and 22 people lined up in a row, this is simply not happening. All you have to do is look up 10/22 on Wikipedia and you can figure out what the 10/22 designation really means:

“The Ruger 10/22 is a semi-automatic rim fire rifle chambered in .22 Long Rifle. It has a removable 10-round rotary magazine which allows the magazine to fit flush with the bottom of the stock.”

Well, I can’t expect people to be logical so let me break it down for you… the rifle ships from the factory with a standard 10 round magazine (10) and is chambered in 22LR (22). Put them together and you get the designation 10/22.

This is the same kind of crap that has been bandied about for years but now the dissemination of such falsehoods is accelerated by the ignorance found on the internet. It is this kind of crap that pushes countries into a nanny state where even knives are being regulated. The solution is not to inflame ignorance and strip the rights away from law abiding gun owners. The problem lies within the people who do not value life and in those who refuse to assign blame for heinous acts on the individual rather than inanimate objects. Fix the people, educate the public, and change the way these acts are perceived and you will find the results that you desire.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Someone Is Drunk Behind The Wheel!

I'm okay to drive!
So the big speech is tonight and all those watching the Latin Grammy Awards will have to pardon the interruption at the President overextends himself. In an unprecedented move, the President is expected to extend amnesty to roughly 5 million illegal immigrants currently residing in the United States. Contrary to what you might hear on MSNBC or CNN, this is completely different than that of the amnesty granted by Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush in that they were making ever attempt to keep families together in the wake of an ill-conceived piece of legislation passed by congress while still working within the parameters of that law.  

Tonight we will see a President not working within the limitations of the law but someone who is willing to exceed his power and make decisions without bothering to take a minute to listen to the voice of the people. For someone who is supposedly a ‘Constitutional Scholar’ he has not acted in a way that would make me believe that claim. Given the latest vote by the house clearing the way for a lawsuit to be filed against the president on the grounds of exceeding his authority, this bombastic and self-righteous move is not a surprise… especially the PR move to schedule to speech on the same night as the Latin Grammy Awards (you are incredibly naïve if you think this is mere coincidence).

So what is fallout going to be like after this dictatorial declaration? I really couldn’t say as there are so many possibilities and factors that are playing into this whole crisis. However, given the scope of the aforementioned lawsuit and the permissive language used within it, I am pretty sure that this whole incident will be added to the case. Oh, did I mention that the attorney hired to try the case was actually an Obama supporter and has come to the realization over time that he is indeed overreaching his powers? Well, that is the kind of president that we have to put up with for two more years.   

What I can tell you is that this result of the reckless actions will be comparable to slowing down and trying to figure out how it all happened as you pass an accident scene on the highway. Fingers will be pointed, blame will be passed around, and no one is going to have any answers. Just get ready for the traffic jam and potential shutdown of the government highway that may result from the actions of one irresponsible man who decided to get behind the wheel while drunk with power.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Making Improvements

There was a different atmosphere at the lodge last night as the crowd continues to slowly grow during these times of fellowship. No meeting, no degrees, just time to spend with our fellow brothers, prepare those in the process of getting their degrees, and continue planning for the end of the year and the long year ahead of us. It is also a time to talk about all the things that we would like to see done to the building as we discuss changes and improvements to our space.

While we have the brothers now showing up and getting more involved, we would like to make the space more appealing and entice more of the lodge to join us during these nights. This is all part of the resurgence that I have written about previously. We have the motivation and the participation, now we are working on the other things that will accelerate that change. The actual lodge building is only a part of that effort.

Over the past year we have slowly been increasing our presence in the community through open houses, Alex’s Lemonade Stand fundraisers, the CHIP event during National Night Out, and soon we will be having a community blood drive. Each of these things you have read about at one point or another and while they are great events to open up to the community they have also been a great way for the brethren to get involved and have their family join in the efforts. Being able to include brothers, family members, candidates, and potential candidates has been a great way to reinforce the fact that we are all part of the same fraternal family working together to help and support our community.

There seems to be a growing sense of pride among the brethren as well. We are proud to be members of this fraternity and we want to get to the point when we can have that same sense of pride in the building itself. During the many open events and meetings over the past year we have been happy to bring family and friends to take part in the occasions but, at times, there were always those lingering moments when we would have to explain at one point or another that the building itself is still a work in progress. I look forward to the day when no explanation is needed.  

In one way or another, these are issues that all lodges are facing right now. Some may be further along in certain aspects but the general goals remain the same. We want our lodge and the fraternity as a whole to grow, our lodges be places where people look forward to meeting, and our communities to know the good work that is being done both within and outside the walls of our buildings. Our goal has always been to make good men better but we also need to look beyond that principle by making our community better and our families stronger. These are pillars of our fraternity and they remain essential to our future success.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Waking Up To Terrorism

Don't believe everything you read!
This morning I woke up to an all too familiar stream of posts on Facebook as there were ‘news’ reports and updates from friends in Israel letting me know of the terrorist attack that had taken place while I was sleeping. Some reports were accurate while others were, at the very least, skewed. After reading through many of the comments and condolences, I finally pulled up the Reuters article which summarized the events that took place within the first sentence, “Two Palestinians armed with a meat cleaver and a gun killed four worshippers in a Jerusalem synagogue on Tuesday before being shot dead by police, the deadliest such incident in six years in the holy city.

Reuters reported the news while other agencies made their attempts at relaying the ‘news’ to their audiences. CNN was the first to demonstrate a lack of judgment and proper editorial oversight by including a headline that inferred that the terrorists were also victims during the attack. Later in the morning they also referred to the Orthodox synagogue where the murders took place as a mosque. I understand the rush to deliver the story but these kinds of things are not acceptable.

While over the top, one friend in Israel asked how people would have reacted had the 19 terrorists been included as killed during 9/11. Again, he took it a little too far but the message was clear. Also, I give him a lot of leeway as he was one of the first responders at the twin towers.

Of course, over in the UK, The Guardian decided to omit the mention of Palestinians altogether. They took the Reuters story and omitted all evidence of Palestinian involvement. This would be understandable if there were still some questions revolving around what had happened but events did not leave anything to interpretation. This was simply a means of not entering into the debate and placing blame on those who deserve it.

Even with all those ‘stories’ rife with inaccuracies, misleading statements, and omissions, what really bothered me once I finished reading through all of the articles was the Reuters story. In it, the publication included a quote from a statement released by President Obama in which he stated, "I strongly condemn today's terrorist attack on worshippers at a synagogue in Jerusalem, which killed four innocent people, including U.S. citizens Aryeh Kupinsky, Cary William Levine and Mosheh Twersky, and injured several more." There is nothing to disagree with here, the President said what needed to be said and condemned the actions of the terrorists.

However, when speaking to reporters, the President’s words fell far short of reason. On a day when innocent Israelis were slain in their own place of worship, their own sanctuary, the President called for “both sides to lower tensions.” Really? During a time when Israel is the victim of heinous acts of terrorism (there have been a lot recently this is just the latest), Israel is put on equal footing as the cause of these horrendous events? That is, by far, a greater insult than that which was misrepresented in the media.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Hooray For Common Core!

I have been an opponent of Common Core ever since the program was launched. Not only does it force schools to adopt an entirely new curriculum, it is a heavily liberal biased measure that forces many school districts to spend money that they simply don’t have. Simply put it is a program that is detrimental on an educational and financial level. That was my initial reaction and that has only been reinforced as more and more examples have some to the surface from the curriculum.

I was scanning through a pro-Israel Facebook page this past week and noticed an article mentioning Common Core. While the media source is questionable in their own bias, it was interesting to read the excerpts found in the textbooks. Those questions included:

“Was George Washington any different from Palestinian terrorists trying to protect their country?”

“Was Jefferson a hypocrite? Did he really think of a slave as a sub-human while writing the Declaration of Independence?”

The liberal assumptions that are applied to the history of our Nation is clear in the thoughts that they wish to plant in the minds of students. However, this was not the most blatant example that has been found as the following, much longer, musing can also be found in the fraudulent pages:

“What then were the causes of the American Revolution? It used to be argued that the Revolution was caused by the tyranny of the British government in the years following the Seven Years War. This view is no longer acceptable. Historians now recognize that the British colonies were the freest in the world…”

“The French menace was removed after 1763 and the colonies no longer felt dependent on England’s aid. This did not mean that they wished for independence. The great majority of the colonists were loyal, even after the Stamp Act. They were proud of the Empire and its liberties…In the years following the Stamp Act a small minority of radicals began to work for independence. They watched for every opportunity of making a crisis and in Boston it was this group who staged the Boston Tea Party… In the Thirteen Colonies the Revolution had really been a civil war in which the whole population was torn with conflicting loyalties. John Adams later said that in 1776 probably not more than one-third of the people favored war.”

The debate over Common Core has been going on for a few years now with one example coming to mind which I remember reading about in 2012 when parents of students at a Tennessee high school protested the anti-Israel content of one of the advanced placement textbooks. The example that was given during that time from the textbook “The Cultural Landscape: An Introduction to Human Geography” was the following question: “If a Palestinian suicide bomber kills several dozen Israeli teenagers in a Jerusalem restaurant, is that an act of terrorism or wartime retaliation against Israeli government policies and army actions?”

In the end, if you are wondering why the educational system is failing both in quality and fiscally, it is because of the limitations placed on districts and students stemming from Common Core. Things change as we get older and time passes but, as this example demonstrates, it doesn’t mean that things are changing for the better. Maybe we should go back to teaching the facts rather than accusations and encourage self-reliance, continued study, and pride in our history and heritage. Furthermore, let’s focus on teaching common sense rather than common core!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Unhealthy Political Practices

Obamacare has a new poster child... Jonathan Gruber!
It seemed appropriate to follow up my post yesterday with this one. One of the big national stories that finally made its way around the media was the comments made by one of the “Obamacare architects” regarding the construction and passage of this useless piece of legislation. Note that the ‘main stream media’ was much later in picking this up than the “conservative” outlets.

On numerous occasions, Jonathan Gruber has spoken at great length to the deception that was built into the ‘Affordable’ Care Act. He also specifically noted that much of the strategy that was required to gain support for the bill required the left to leverage the stupidity of the American people. As was reported in Politico: “In the three videos that surfaced in the last few days, Gruber says parts of the law, including its insurance subsidies and so-called Cadillac tax on expensive plans, wouldn’t have passed back in 2009-10 if voters weren’t “stupid.””

While few have denied that Gruber was an economic consultant on the bill, there has been frequent and repeated efforts to backpedal and characterize Gruber as someone with limited influence on the legislation. However, this ignores the gross misconduct at hand. While we don’t know how much influence he had on the polishing of the turd, he was at the very least in the room and was privy to the construction thereof. He knew of the shell game that was being perpetuated and this is where his comments come into play.

Equally disturbing are the outright lies that have been told to the media this week specifically those from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi who is quoted as saying “I don’t know who he is… He didn’t help write our bill.” She made this adamant statement despite the fact that she has referred to his work in the past. Of course, what do you expect from someone whose infamous pitch when pushing the bill was “But we have to pass the bill so you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of the controversy.”

In addition to the lies, misrepresentations, and insults that have surfaced lately (although many of us knew that they were there all along) we now find ourselves at a point in time when healthcare premiums have gone through the roof, few new people have been insured, and financial limits have been placed on hourly workers who cannot go over 30 hours per week. We are getting taxes taken out of each paycheck to cover the program, we are required to take on benefits in our plans that we don’t want or need, and the total cost of the legislative cluster is far beyond any of the projections used to pass the law. Now I am ready to say to all those who questioned my opposition to this bill, I told you so!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

The Naïveté Of The Transition

Every time this happens I can’t help but think, well isn’t that cute! Governor Corbett did the same thing when he won the election in 2010 and not Tom Wolf (in sheep’s clothing) is doing the same thing during his transition. In summary, as was reported in The Philadelphia Inquirer on Wednesday, he “announced an ethics policy for transition-team advisers that includes an absolute gift ban, and said he would curb the practice of giving no-bid contracts to private law firms when he takes office.”

Even though this thought process and temporary stance is more prevalent the further left the politician is on the political spectrum, this isn’t a naïve mentality solely associated with one party over the other. Whether they truly believe this or not it all comes down to what the public wants to hear and, more specifically, what their base wants to hear. It is a moment during the political process when they believe in their invincibility allowing their political IQ to take a significant, albeit momentary, dip. I guess you could say that each politician has their Thomas More moment and this statement is just that for many political figures.

This seemingly simple act is indicative of the kind of grandiose politics that is to be expected in the current system and it is the reason why things are so polarized. Too many people now view politicians as a means to escape their current reality rather than changing their own station in life. Those politicians see this and know that the kind of statements and stances that need to be taken have to reflect a means of false hope. And that is all this really is as there is no way that this stance will hold and is probably why the letter released by the campaign specifies that that the ‘gift ban’ applies to the transition team with no mention of the staff that he will have in place once he takes office.

Whether we like it or not, politics is a game of give and take. Gifts and privileges are part of that game both of which are completely legal if they are declared. This give and take is the means to accomplish the political goals. What this distills down to is that every politician, no matter the words they speak or letters they release to the press, plays this game. So those who claim to not take these gifts are the ones that refuse to maintain any level of actual transparency. But they tell the electorate what they want to hear so the façade hold up.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Put Them Away!

Photo from the dedication of the Brad Fox Memorial. 
As many of you have read on this blog in the past, I am not a proponent of gun laws that don’t make any sense. Specifically, laws that go after those who LEGALLY purchase and own firearms. The people that we need to go after are those who hold the law in complete disregard. This is why I was thrilled to read the news this week that a woman was sentenced under the Brad Fox Law. We don’t need ‘gun laws’ we need criminal laws like this one.

Just over two years ago, in September 2012, Plymouth Township Police Officer and Marine Corps veteran, who served two tours in Iraq, Bradley Fox was shot and killed in the line of duty. The criminal behind the heinous act illegally bought the murder weapon in a straw purchase. The law, signed by Governor Corbett in January 2013, establishes a minimum five-year prison sentence for anyone convicted of multiple straw purchases.

This law is a step in the right direction and is already having a positive impact on the judicial system. However, this law, while well intentioned, is tremendously flawed. If we are to honor Officer Fox and all those who fall victim to criminals, we must change this law and truly make the penalties a deterrent.

The first issue that I have with this piece of legislation is that it applies to ‘multiple’ straw purchases. The penalties should be applied to every straw purchase. If you buy a single firearm for someone who is not allowed to legally own a firearm, you should be put away for a long time.

This brings me to the second issue that I have with the law… the sentencing guidelines are too lenient. Five years is not enough. If someone violates federal gun laws (specifically referring to the ATF) there is a minimum sentence of 10 years in federal prison and up to a $10,000 fine. While much of the ATF regulations and NFA laws are outdated and complete crap, the penalties are in line with what should be handed down to someone who knowingly violates laws involving firearms.

In the end, the problem does not lie in the inanimate objects or the law abiding citizen, it is in the black hearts and twisted minds of individuals. These people, those who commit the crimes and, as in this instance, those who help to facilitate these crimes, need to be deal with and done so harshly. After all, we don’t have a ‘gun problem’ in this country we have a people problem and a public that is too willing to blame anything and anyone else rather than looking the problem right in the face and sending them to prison for a very long time.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

It’s Freaking Snowing!

This is what we saw on the news!
When I opened the door to my office at the end of the workday there was no one to be found in the building. The bitter rain had driven everyone from the warm confines of work and the only car in the parking lot responded to my remote. It was darker than I had seen in a long time at this hour and the echo of the heavy rain nearly drown out the traffic just on the other side of the embankment.

As with all unfavorable weather conditions, the commute home was slow with the glare of headlights screaming from the wet pavement. So, like many nights, I pulled onto the highway, slowly accelerated, and waited for the blaring of brake lights to fill the horizon. As I fluttered the gas pedal, the rain began getting heavier, the mist from the trucks denser, and the pace of travel much slower.

Nearly halfway home and I was making pretty good time given the weather around me. Around this time the straight streaks of condensation that I had become accompanied to this evening began slowing their descent and hovering above the road before melting on my windshield. Not even midway through November and the frigid temperatures were already providing us with a wintry mix.

It took me a little longer to get home from that point as the roads remained cocooned with fall leaves forcing us all to slow down significantly on the back roads. Thankfully I was able to find a spot in the parking lot as another day of work was just completely on the perpetual maintenance project in which we live. With the sleet pattering all around me I was finally able to walk through the front door and spend the evening with my wife.

Not long after we finished our dinner we saw the news previews pop up on the screen showing the flurries falling across the region. That was when we noticed that things had grown silent just beyond the windows. Curious, we walked over to the door, cracked it open, and glanced at the light accumulation already coating the cars.

While not a significant weather event and nothing that would hinder our commute in the morning the fact is that we’re not even halfway through November and it is already freaking snowing! Surprised, I couldn’t help but venture out into the sloppy slush so I grabbed my hat, put on my shoes, and stuffed my mail in my pocket. Might as well enjoy the change in the weather before we get tired of it because based on the predictions that is not going to take very long.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Is This The Beginning Of A Masonic Renaissance?

Time seems to be back on our side!
Things seem to be getting out of hand a little bit at the lodge lately. Our extra meetings are going longer, there are more entries that need to be written in the ledger, a lot of campaigns and projects that are running or being organized, and more brothers that are attending meetings. While it is a little more work than in previous years, all of these things are great for the lodge.

Last night was a perfect example of all of these things converging on a single evening as I found myself running around the lodge for about 5 hours trying to keep up with everything that needed to be done. It was a long degree night with three scheduled and completed. The blood drive signup sheet got a few more names listed. And the ledger was filled in a little more than most nights.

I enjoy the nights when we are doing degree work as I am able to partake in the fellowship that eludes me during the stated meetings. Last night was a mix between the two as I was well prepared for the evening but all the other things that we have going on carried from one conversation to another. Some nights, some months, there is just too much that needs to be done to sit down and eat. I remember the meals when I had not yet received my degrees and while enjoyable, I prefer my current hectic routine. Everything has to be on the go right now because I don’t want to be the one to hold things up even for a little bit.

As this was happening I caught a glimpse of a new petitioner helping with the meal and conversing with his future brethren. It is because of this quality of candidates that we are slowly turning things around and growing the lodge not just in the basic membership numbers but with regard to the participation of the brethren. However, thinking about that time in my masonic life, it seems as though that was the start of this new trend and the growth that we are currently experiencing.

While I am certainly not the reason for this shift (far from it in fact), I am proud to play a small roll in welcoming new brethren to the fraternity and welcoming back brothers to the lodge. There are many masons that I have seen come in and I am excited by the quality of character and desire to learn that each one of them has demonstrated. This is why we are pushing forward and working hard because if we can keep things moving forward this could potentially be the beginning of a Masonic Renaissance.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

It’s Not Really Free

Every year I see the countless signs and receive numerous emails about all the discounts and “free” things for veterans. Unfortunately, I have seen the inevitable complaints of entitlement from people across numerous social media streams making delusional statements that they should be getting the “handouts”. What these people fail to realize, year after year, is that despite what the ads might say veterans are not getting anything for free. These people served and sacrificed for us and, if anything, they are still not getting enough from us.

Over the years I have gotten to know veterans of all ages, branches, and length of service. I come from a long line of men who have served in the armed forces and made an attempt to do so myself (no, I am not a veteran). In fact, many of those men whom I consider friends and family were part of the recognition ceremony at my lodge last week… there was a total of over 160 years of service that stood before us that night. All of these men, and all veterans that I have had the privilege to meet during my lifetime, have never asked for any recognition.

In recent years, there seems to be a “veterans day is good enough” mentality with regard to the recognition that is bestowed upon these men and women. Every year, I see fewer and fewer instances of people walking up to a veteran and thanking them for their service. This downward trend is particularly noticeable on this day although it is pervasive throughout the year. People seem to think that they have played the same role in keeping this country safe when that is far from the reality.

Yes, there are discounts today for veterans but one day is never going to be enough. These men and women deserve much more than a coupon on this day, they deserve our gratitude and our respect for doing what we were unwilling and/or unable to do. They are the ones who have ensured that this country continues to exist, they are the ones that have made it possible for us to live our lives without fear. No discount our coupon will ever make up for the sacrifices that they have made ad while our feeble words will not accomplish much more, it at least shows that we have not forgotten what they have done for us.

Thank you for your service!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Changes We Can’t Control

Every once in a while my wife and I will be driving down the street and think about some of the stores that used to be part of the towns across the main line. All the places that we remember going to as kids and even some of the stores that we would shop at when we were in high school. Those places are becoming harder and harder to find the more we drive up and down the local roads.

We were reminded of this fact when we made our way to the King of Prussia mall this past weekend. We had, no surprise, a few errands to run and a baby registry to complete (finally). It was during this trip that we decided to stop by the newly opened Dick’s Sporting Goods (their prices are still too high). Afterward, we couldn’t help but walk next door and head down the escalator to see what we could find during the final days of the Sears store being open.

I can’t recall how many times that I have been to Sears (this location in particular) over the years but it basically has been a place that I would occasionally find myself walking around throughout my life. This trip was completely different and, unfortunately, all too familiar. With the liquidation of stock in full swing, the department store had been consolidated to a small fraction of a single floor. This was, most likely, the last time that I would be walking up and down those aisles.

While I can’t really complain about getting 60+% off on items, it is still a little sad to be in the midst of forced change. The shelves were nearly barren and racks of clothes sprawled across the middle of the floor in haphazard organization. They even had prices on the shelves themselves along with the carts and displays. The world is changing around us and there is no better example of this than the retail shift that we see every day.

It always seems as though it is the places that had the best selection and prices that are closing up and moving out. From Strawbridge’s, Wannamaker’s, and Sears to Borders, Sam Goody, and Blockbuster, all the places that we remember going to on the weekends are nothing more than a memory. And now we can’t help but think of how the same kinds of changes will continue… what are the places that our son will remember from his childhood that won’t be around when he is an adult?

It is going to be interesting to see how things evolve over the next couple of decades and I wonder if it will be faster or slower than what we have already seen. While it would be nice to have these things remain a stable part of everyday life that simply is not the reality of life. Things change and all we can do is enjoy the memories and hope to make even better ones for our son. We may not be able to control the word around him but we can control how much we love him. Everything else doesn’t really matter.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Space, The Current Frontier…

Over the past month my wife and I have continued to stay busy with the growing list of things that we need to get done before the baby arrives and other things that need to be taken care of in the family. Lately there has seldom been a day that we could find the time just to breath and pull back from all of the chaos that is currently surrounding us. Of course, there have been other things and people that have continued to pull us into various situations which was not helping things either.

There comes a point, which we came to last week, when you simply have to pull back and look at the larger picture. We would like to do anything and everything that we can, help in any way we are able, and generally just check things off of our lists of task that we need to get done. However, some of those things are hurting everyone more than they are helping anyone. This past week we came to that conclusion, pulled back from certain things, and refocused on the positive changes in our lives.

The space that we gained, the calmness achieved, and the focus we now have is something that has been missing over the past month. We are finally able to breathe and recover from all that is happening around us. Don’t get me wrong, we cannot fully disengage from those people and situations around us but we can’t let them run our lives either.

We have grown to appreciate the need for space. Both from situations and people but also in the physical area around us. Life had become incredibly cramped and it was time to reset the boundaries, reorganize, and embrace the space that we have in our life. This is necessary not just to protect ourselves but our baby as well. Frankly, we don’t want our child to feel as though they are imprisoned but the situations and people around them.

The freedom that this decision has afforded us finally allowed us to have a weekend that feels as though it is more than a couple hours long. The days seemed to have slowed down and the tenseness has been removed from the simplest of things like driving, texting, and calling. While not a perfect plan by any means and something that we don’t expect to last, it is the best option that we have in front of us and, so far, making that space is just what we needed.