Tuesday, February 22, 2011

How can I live without you?

This year has proven to be very expensive so far. After purchasing a new car and preparing to pay for knee surgery. We needed to review the Stark family budget to see where we could cut back. Jen and I both decided that we did not need satelliteTV to survive. We had recently starting getting instant downloads from Netflix via our Wii. We figured that Netfilx combined with the free over the air broadcast would be enough for our family.

So yesterday marked our first full day without satellite. I spent the morning crawling in our attic trying to connect an antenna to our home cables. Was surprised to find a very good antenna already in the attic left by the prior owners. The problem is that the satellitehad so many cables and strange connections that I'm not sure if I have the right cable connected to the antenna. Still cannot get channel 11 on one TV. But after I was done I felt confidant that we were now in a position to live without our ESPN, TNT, Disney & G4 channels.

The one thing that we already miss is the DVR. We really enjoyed being able to pause live TV and record and then watch whenever we wanted. But it is good for our kids to experience TV the way Jen and I did while we grew up. We had always felt that our kids had gotten very spoiled by having instant TV to enjoy and the ability to fast forward commercials. But because we miss it so much, we will purchase a DVR that works with over the air TV. Once we ensure that we really can survive without all those channels you pay 70 bucks for. :)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The fire will be coming around the mountain when it comes

Sunday certainly proved to be an eventful day that is screaming to be blogged about. Around 4 pm I walk out of a neighbor's house and notice a large orange cloud to the north. I look at it and exclaim "What could cause such a unusual cloud?" Someone yells while pointing to the south, "That Fire!" My jaw dropped at how huge the smoke cloud was from the now called "Machine Gun Fire." (Don't like that name.) The smoke was so thick that the only sun light that could get through was bright orange light. It made it appear like we were in Hell. (And not the one in Michigan.)

Turns out that the military, while doing some machine gun practice, started a fire on the south side of the mountain that our town lives on. Because of strong southernly winds the fire began climbing the mountain and headed north to where our town is. By late evening we could then see the fire's glow reaching the top of the mountain.

I serve as the Community Emergency Response Team leader (CERT) for our neighborhood. So I knew I had to be prepared to help. But seeing a fire running down a mountain towards your neighborhood is quite scary. So to easy our kids and Jen's mind. I sent them to my parents house for the night (voluntary evacuation) and prepared to help with the fire. I got my family out just in time. Because just as night fell, evacuation orders started coming into the selected neighborhoods (not ours yet) and the streets became more crowded than a Chinese traffic jam.

At this time, both Jen and her sisters called as they could not contact another sister who lived in Herriman and was closer to the coming fire. So I ventured forth (On foot since the roads were so congested) to check on them. That became the closest I've ever came to a danger. The closer I got to their home and darker it became. Ash started to get into my eyes and smoke was growing stronger. This part of town had received an evacuation order and people were scrambling to gather up belongings and get out before it was to late.

I found my sister-in-law's place dark and a car missing. Neighbors reported not seeing them all day so I assumed they were elsewhere and safe. Turns out they were visiting family and were trying to return while everyone else was trying to get out. They ended up returning to their family's home to wait and hope that their home would still be standing when they returned. Thankfully it survived but because of some open windows they have a strong smoke smell to contend with.

I returned to my neighborhood and went to a neighbor's house that had a HAM radio. Together we listened to city's communications and watched as the fire kept coming closer and closer to the town. To look at a mountain you look at daily and have it look like an exploding volcano can be a beautiful and scary thing. From a mile away we could see flames that had to be over 20 feet tall.

Hours went by and the fire came closer without anything hindering it. We knew from listening from the emergency communications that there were only 100 firefighters working to save us. Would there be enough?

All eyes focused on large house on the highest point of the mountain. It was rumored to be Jerry Sloan's house and was the first to meet the fire's approach. I was worried that if the entire city watched that home go up in flames, panic would ensue and more people would try to flee making evacuation a living nightmare.

I must admire those fighting the fire because they arrived at the home just as the fire did and was able to save it, twice. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5XA18ITjtyw

More evacuations were ordered as the fire began crawling towards us. By 3:30 am it finally had reached the bottom of the mountain and had a clear path towards our homes. But God smiled on us and the winds, which had been strong and forceful all night, changed direction and started pushing the fire back up the mountain where it had already consumed everything. Our town was saved by our hard working fire fighters and answered prayers.

It took a couple of days to get the fire contained enough to allow all the evacuees back in. My family was able to return the next day and we were thankful to have each other and our home safe. It was an experience I hope to never have to go through again, but feel stronger because of it. There certainly is nothing like home sweet home. (Which now smells like smoke. :)

Friday, January 8, 2010

BCS Elections

With the recent success of the Bowl Championship Series crowning their champion last night. The US government has decided to follow their example and award the office of President in the same fashion. Here is how the new BCS elections for President will work:

1. Only the top 6 states in the union can provide someone to be President. Sure there may be many talented and smart people from the other 44 states. But surely they cannot be better than anyone from the top 6 states. So there is no need to allow them a chance to run for President.

2. Only 2 people can truly be considered for the office of President. No more needing primary elections to narrow the field down to a candidate from each party. Just 2 and no more.

3. We will use polls that consist only of people who want to be president, former presidents, congress members, election judges, political commentators, reporters and any surviving signers of the Declaration of Independence to find the two candidates. Even though some of these people could receive a direct benefit from the outcome of the election. We feel sure that they will continue to provide unbias votes.

4. We will use computers as 1/3 of the deciding vote to narrow the canidates down to two. We will not require these computers to give us details of what creiteria is used to rank the canidates from the top 6 states.

5. Once the 2 candidates have been selected. We will only provide them access to public funds, air time on all media outlets & participation in debates.

6. People who wanted to run for President but could not because they were not in one of the top 6 states or were not voted 1 or 2 by the polls or computer rankings can still feel good. Because they are still Americans and that should be good enough and there is no need to feel bad about not being able to be President.

7. If anyone feels that this is unfair and want to petition congress, the justice department or the the courts for a redress of their grievances. They should realize that these departments have more important things to do than help provide justice or fairness on this issue. Justice and fairness is only given on important issues and this is not considered to be important enough to spend any time on.

With this new BCS election, everyone can feel good about the Presidential selection process, especially on how it will prevent anyone from some of those small states from even having a chance to be president. Besides, they can still compete to become the Speaker of the House or Senate majority leader. That should be enough for them, right?

Monday, September 21, 2009

I've given in

So the whole world is on facebook. I recently found out that my parents are on. So I've given in and have been assimilated into the collective. You can find me on facebook. If you are already on, please send me a friend request and let's get connected.

I now have a facebook account, blog and twitter. Along with all my other websites I like to check: like homestarrunner.com. Not sure if I will be able to keep up on all of them.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Obamacare, because Obama cares

After a summer of hurry to get this passed, then a pull back after Americans complained at town hall meetings. After taking a beating in the polls and seeing public opinion decline, President Obama finally gave us some details on what he wants to do with health care. I was thankful to finally gets some information as all I had gotten so far was commercials from pro-Obama groups saying, "don't believe what anyone says about Obamacare, except us."

I am grateful that Obama wants to increase some regulation of the health care industry and make changes like preventing non coverage due to pre-existing conditions. I am like the idea of tax credits for health insurance.

However I don't like the plan to require every American to have health insurance. There was a time in my life when I did not have it and did not want it at the time. I know that we require car owners to have auto insurance. But someone could choose to not own a car and therefore not purchase auto insurance. But someone could not choose to purchase health insurance. Is it right for us to require all people to purchase some thing they may not want?

This leads me to the public option issue. Requiring people to purchase health insurance will drive them to the government provided insurance. How is this different from England requiring our forefathers to purchase English tea before the revolutionary war? We as Americans did not want to be forced to buy something government provided, or encouraged, then. So why should we buy it now?

And since when did the Constitution stipulate that the people's government needs to provide health care to the people? That is not the reason why the government exists. Why would I trust the government that cannot correctly run a cash for clunkers program and bankrupts social security, medicare and the post office. The government is not the correct organization to run any of those things.

And I'm not buying the tale that the public option will not increase taxes, but instead will be paid for by more effectively running medicare. If the government is already ineffectively running medicare? Then how could we trust them to run anything effectively now?

I do hope that Obama is serious about working with both parties to improve our society. But lack the faith that this could be done when the Democrats in the house will not even let any non-democrat offer any amendments on the house floor and require all legislation be approved by them before it even gets the courtesy of debate. Looks like we are back to politics as usual.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

MCSA finally achieved

Almost 2 years ago, I decided to improve myself by taking some classes and seeking a certification from Microsoft. Doing so would help me know how to perform my job better and make myself more marketable if I ever needed to re-enter the job market. So I began working towards my Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator(MCSA.) It required me to take 4 very difficult tests from Microsoft, each that took a number of on line classes, practice tests and a lot of studying.

The first test was about the XP operating system and proved to be very difficult. I had to take the test twice before I passed it. Microsoft tests in a very different way than any school test I've taken. It is multiple choice but tricky as heck. You need to read every word in the question to ensure you don't miss any details. Because if you miss just one word, you could misinterpret the question and get the answer wrong.

The last test was about using the Microsoft email system and I took it this last week, hoping to pass but if not, leaving time to retake the test to make my goal of passing it before October. Turns out I passed it on the first attempt and have now earned the following certification: