Off the Cuff Remarks For Saturday

Everyone who knows me laughs sometimes at my odd attention to irrelevant detail. With Facebook, for example, I’m more interested about what motivates patterns of actions and posts – usually at the expense of what they are posting. Why do certain people post at certain times or omit vital details while obviously begging for attention is interesting to me.What’s NOT posted, even when it is more representative of the identity of a person is equally fascinating.

Most interesting is the tendency of people to self-edit, myself included. Are we afraid that our remarks will be horrendously taken out of context? Or worse, that they will be understood and cast us in a horrible light? I’ve written a couple of posts about how everything a person documents will be taken out of context and in the worst possible way, somewhere, by someone.We should give up the idea of control over this and live a little more peacefully. Make no mistake, we are all going to say incredibly stupid things, sometimes even hateful.

Imagine if every word we uttered were to be recorded and viewed later. Over time, we would be unable to say or do anything as a result of the constant negative attention. People must be allowed to learn and change, including one’s opinions. As we learn and grow, our dumb opinions and values change with us.

If you don’t like gay marriage, at least be honest about it. You can change your mind later. If you think the president to be an ass, say so. Why are we so reluctant to be share our thoughts? (…and later admit we were wrong.?)

I know for a fact that all of us have some outrageous commentary going on in our head. Most of our censor the content so diligently that little of it escapes our filter. Life would be more interesting if we could let some of it out in our regular lives and either learn from one another, or at least be entertained by the results.

Most of the time I’m just disappointed that we aren’t making an effort to let out some of our weirdness, if not our demons, for a little exercise.

Criminal 2nd Chances

Yet more research indicates what I often say: everyone needs a free pass.

Even though my belief is more predicated toward lesser offenses, it still mostly applies.

After 10-13 years of no further offenses, a person with a criminal background is no more likely to commit a further crime than someone who has never been convicted.

I know that flies in the face of conventional logic – but it is worth thinking about the implications.

(I’ve previously talked about DWI laws – if you didn’t hurt anyone and make amends for it, 1 DWI is a pardonable offense.)

12232012 Personalized Calendars

There are a few companies that will allow you to make very personalized calendars. You can add pictures not only to the display page for the month, but also to any day of the year. (So, your calendar can have hundreds of personal pictures.) Also, you can personalize holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, and any other noteworthy days you want to commemorate.

Smaller sizes are less expensive but these calendars are so fun that I doubt you will care about a few dollars difference in cost for larger sizes. The larger sizes are worth it.

If you are interested, you can visit Walmart.com through their online photo department, Snapfish.com or other similar websites. Sometimes, especially around the holidays, you can also get a huge discount on multi-packs of the same same calendar, which makes giving gifts very easy if you’ve got more than one person in the family to buy for. I combined a special offer with a multi-pack discount this year and bought three for the price of one.

Below is a decent idea of the basic version of the calendar. You can use 1, 2, or more “cover” pictures for each month’s face page. You can add text to each month if you want. I’ve never given a calendar to someone who didn’t find it to be a great gift. Even hardened criminals in prison would get teary-eyed at such a personalized gift. When you are compiling and uploading pictures, you don’t have to spend a great deal of time organizing it if you don’t wish to. There is an auto-fill feature on every calendar site – but I’ve never used it.

The picture below is a good indicator of how much fun these calendars can be. They are not only personal, but lead people into reminiscing and thinking about good memories, people they’ve lost, and life’s moments.

12222014 Monkeying Around (Decoration)

This is a 16 X 20 wood frame photo canvas from Wal-Mart. With the holiday discount, it was a steal.

My wife loves monkey-related stuff and an attempt to find a great reproduction from a specific artist feel through. So – I went creative!

Obviously, since I had “The Teri Family” put on the face, it’s supposed to be humorous, too. When I went to pick it up, my canvas was on display so that people could enjoy it.

My wife loved it!

Find A Property Owner’s Address Or Find Out Who Owns a House

Washington Count Arkansas Public Assessor Link for Property
 AR County Data Site

This isn’t just a way to snoop. Your government thinks this is useful information to have available. The lawn service I used goes to public records for all clients to properly size the lots it services for mowing and leaf removal. Do you have a troublesome neighbor but don’t know how to contact the landlord? Do you want to know how your house compares to your immediate neighbors? Lost someone’s address? Do you want to know how your tax value compares? What school district a house is in? There are all sorts of legitimate uses for this type of site.

The above link if for Washington County, Arkansas, but most places have a similar and free method to look up anyone who owns property. In most states, you can also have visit just about any courthouse and look up someone’s information.  Using the above link, by putting in first and last name only, once you get search results, just click on the “more info” button. You get a diagram of the house, a map, all the tax information and much more. You can also look up any address, too, so if you want to know all the information about an address, who owns it, how much it cost, whether it has central heat and air, you can simply look it up.

Using the top menu and the “real property” tab, you can choose a different county, too.

If you aren’t sure if your place of residence provides this type of information for free, then call your local assessor’s office or tax collector and ask if real estate information is provided online. It almost always is.

I’m constantly startled by the number of people who aren’t aware that they have no privacy when it comes to the information about their houses. It’s almost ALL public. Unless you are using a business to conceal your ownership or some other intervening method, your information is out there. Whether you are a politician, a prison security guard or just enjoy your privacy, you really don’t have much in this regard.

Zillow.com and Trulia.com are also great real estate sources.

An Alternate Xmas Decor 2

Sometimes I am accused of going overboard when decorating for Xmas. It’s not the typical way most people decorate. I’m not one of those people who string up 12,333,435 lights, nor do I put up nine trees in my house.

I like to decorate manually, mostly making all the decorations and putting it together myself. It’s very non-traditional and startling the first few times you see it. It has a better effect in person.

Much of what I assemble requires an inordinate number of boxes, hollow cardboard tubes, clear tape, several HUNDRED personal pictures, xmas lights, ribbon, etc. The trick is to use anything and everything in the house.

I stopped counting after using 600 pictures in 2011.

This type of decorating is ideal for having children help. The more creative and involved they are, the more interesting the display turns out to be. At least, for me that’s true.

I usually make several columns of boxes reaching floor to ceiling. I then paper them with different wrapping paper, affix about a hundred pictures to each, wrap them with lights, ornaments and ribbons. A couple of years I made them all intertwined. There’s no reason you can choreograph them to synch too, if you wanted.

Some of it is funny, such as the picture of Zach Galifianakis as Jesus, the zombies, and pictures of the grinch and Colin Firth.

I then also wrap dozens of “fake” gifts and sit them around the room. These “fake” boxes also make great places to hide real gifts, undetected. I also wrap stuff that we store, such as scrabble boxes, puzzles, etc. These then feel like real gifts, further confusing anyone looking for presents mixed in with the madness.

 

I don’t have video of the year from which most of these pictures were from. It’s shame, because the house would light up like a runway when all the lights were turned on.

 

In the above picture, you can see that there are boxes attached to the ceiling, too. There is some safe and strong tape and adhesive to attach this sort of thing so that it won’t cause a lot of damage. I love putting boxes on the ceiling, walls, floor, anywhere you can add color.

Another trick is to take down your pictures in frames, wrap them, and put them back on the wall. It adds another level of color and decoration to your room.

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can see the hundreds of pictures I used in these decorations. The above picture also have the Jesus-Zach Galifianakis picture that tickles me. When people come over, they usually spend a lot of time looking at every display, seeking out the pictures and identifying people, places, and times featured in them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taxes and “Fairness”

Recently, someone I know who worries too much about money was lamenting the issue of taxes.

His comments echoed what I hear from a lot of people: taxes are too high. “Property taxes aren’t fair because they mean that they don’t ever truly own my house outright. Property taxes are thus really just another type of perpetual rent.” For the record, people who know me also know very well that I do NOT complain about paying taxes, whether they are income, federal or property taxes. We have it great here, all things considered.  I am in the minority in this regard as complaining about taxes is almost a national sport. I’ve never understood it.

I am not complaining about taxes now, either, in case someone with poor reading skills jumps to that conclusion. I’m making a point about the hypocrisy of many who constantly complain about “their tax money being wasted” on programs they dislike or don’t agree with.

What really annoys me if think too long on the subject is the entire concept of this type of taxation to begin with. Most people rant about their taxes. These people are also the ones who almost always complain about what their taxes are going for. Whether it’s abortion, subsidies, drug therapy, food stamps, jails, military, etc. Most have their particular ideas about what taxes should be used for.

With the issue of property taxes, though, we really are talking about local schools. Almost all of the funds go toward local schools.

If one were to honestly look at property taxes, the people with the biggest ax to grind would be those who don’t have children in the school system – and especially those adults who never had children in the system and never will. They are being forced to pay for services that result from voluntary behavior. (People having children.)

If people are going to complain about taxes and say the word “fair” without being hit by lightning, they need to stop and consider that those without children are getting hit the hardest of all. How high would taxes be if only people with children paid these taxes that go toward schooling? And why shouldn’t it be this way? Isn’t that “fair?” Would it be “un-american” to require ONLY those with kids to pay taxes to support schools?

They are the ones who decided to have kids. Isn’t it about responsibility? Isn’t that what we hear so often from so many people in society? That people should have to pay for their decisions and be responsible?

I’m making an effort to use this taxation logic against those who would otherwise argue for taxation fairness.

The friend of mine who was ranting about property taxation is also insistent that health insurance be adjusted based on whether you choose to smoke, drink and overeat. His logic is that voluntary behavior should affect how much you pay, which sounds fair, doesn’t it? Why not extend that logic to include children? If I don’t have any, I shouldn’t be paying property taxes. Those who have children should be paying ALL the taxes. Imagine the outrage if such a system were seriously proposed, much less implemented!

Again, I’m just using the ideas as a sample argument to demonstrate the inconsistency people hold in their heads about ‘fairness.’ I’m not advocating a system where only people with children should pay property taxes. But wouldn’t it be interesting to see it tried?

04082012 CLEP for College Credit

CLEP website

I’m a huge cheerleader for CLEP. It is a great way to save money.

More importantly, it can save you a lot of time. I’ve never understood the need to basically take the same class 1, 2 or even 3 times through high school and college. CLEP allows you to take the class at a lower level and then demonstrate that knowledge for college and avoid the wasted time and money taking a class again at the university level.

I took and passed several of these classes. At one employer, I convinced them to shift their academic policy to allow for CLEP exams to be reimbursed the same as traditional college courses. They are much cheaper and in many cases, allow you to demonstrate that you have the required knowledge of the course.

(Sidenote: I am convinced that much of our education system is radically flawed. For many college-level courses there is no justification for the brick-and-mortar system of attendance, traditional study and testing. If you can prove that you know the subject matter, you should be able to get credit for it, regardless of how you have learned it. To insist otherwise is intellectual snobbery, in my opinion. Requiring tedious traditional classroom presence is more of an adherence to sheer methodology and perpetuation of the previous educational model.)

Xmas Wrapping For Kids and Xmas Present ID (2012)

 

If you look on the presents to the right, you can see that each is decorated with pictures, especially of the intended recipient.

Everyone who knows me has seen that I can take anything and make it an interesting wrapping material for Xmas. Anything – with enough creativity.

For those of you lucky enough to have kids…

To get kids into the Xmas spirit, have them color or draw something they like. Or raid their coloring books and desks. Scan the image to a file. If you don’t have a camera, take the drawings to an office/copy store. They’ll scan it for a small fee.

Print the drawings in various sizes, colors, black and white, etc. Use these to wrap presents. They’ll be using paper they made and feel more connected to the process. They won’t be so stuck on how the packaging will look after they’ve wrapped it, either.

(Haven’t you noticed that people spend too much time focusing on how the wrapping looks? That’s just plain stupid in my opinion.)

Likewise, you can also scan stuff they’ve drawn or colored and give copies or paper to your friends and family. They can wrap your children’s presents with their drawings. The kids will be at least interested.

As for the other idea I often use… Print off pictures of the gift recipient. Use these pictures instead of name tags for all the gifts. This alleviates the need for a tag or emblem on the present.

Even small children who can’t read can recognize faces. It also allows for someone very young to be distracted on Xmas with the gift “hand-out” duties. They’ll have fun with it. To add an element to the process, use pictures of people from earlier ages.

If you don’t have a good printer, you can get 4 x 6 pictures for 9 cents each almost anywhere.

If you are feeling very adventurous, wrap presents using nothing EXCEPT pictures. These make some of the most memorable and best Xmas presents. Sometimes, people don’t want to open the presents because it will damage the pictures. Sometimes, presents wrapped totally in pictures are the ones that people remember, regardless of the range of price for everyone else’s presents.

You don’t have to use photo paper to do this. You can easily print off pictures on standard size paper and use it to wrap. Try printing on materials never intended to be printed on – it can be very interesting.

Final note: You can also do a ‘theme’ wrap for everyone’s presents. I personally love the crazy “Pitchforkkreeper” picture for gift wrapping. Nothing says “Christmas Spirit” like a crazy picture repeated constantly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Soapbox Part II, Sort Of…

Another post quite a while ago, I reminded people why I don’t usually have comments turned on for immediate publication on this blog.

Having suffered with the idiocy of the internet, my opinion hasn’t changed. Anytime you put out an opinion, even an honest, reasoned one, many people simply can’t overcome the need to snark and snarl at it. People reading casually don’t tend to think deeply about the content and they then latch on to the most irrelevant details of your thoughts, twist it, and then retort back with the weirdest, least helpful things they can say. That’s the internet. I can’t change it, nor do I want to.

The more honest and personal the content, the greater the propensity for needlessly harsh commentary. Just as your Aunt Kathy will fill every status update on facebook with crazy religious nonsense (even posts about raising money for kittens), you will find yourself spending way too much time trying to get into people’s heads about what they write. (Remember one of my favorite quotes: “Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.”) Give them the benefit of the doubt and just assume that they are bored.

In an ideal world, I would love to leave commenting active for the blog. Many people have some great criticism or helpful advice. Other readers will see this and learn more from the comments at times than the even the writer can convey. The reality is, though, that much of the commentary on blogs is either edited praise or a crazy mashup of hatred and snipe, usually involving politics or religion. I’ve found that people with really great commentary or ideas find a way to get that idea to you in another form. The snipers tend to have a “drive-by” lazy mentality about their ideas. If they can’t lob an easy verbal bomb, they leave more quickly.

Many will criticize but few will take the time to rebut or argue in either a fun or meaningful way.

As always, I recommend that you get your own forum for your ideas if mine at too liberal, weird, or uninteresting for you. X