Posted in current events, perspective

License Debacle

A week ago, I got a letter in the mail telling me that I need to renew my driver’s license, but this time I must bring proof of citizenship.  God forbid the local government upgrade to email, like everyone else, instead they rely on people being chased by the neighborhood dogs to not drop the letters while running like Usain Bolt.  You would think for important documents they could at least send it certified mail, then at least there is a little more motivation for the mailman to deliver it.

Now to the other annoying part, I must prove that I am a citizen.  To do this I, I can bring my birth certificate or an unexpired passport.  But when I got my passport, I had to bring my birth certificate too, because somehow this magical document proves you’re a citizen.  I also had to have my birth certificate to get my license when I first got it at 16 years old.  I figure since we are dealing with the government, a tiny bit of logic is just way to much to ask, so even though I proved my citizenship decades ago I apparently have to do it again.

Back to the birth certificate, what about this document proves anything?  It doesn’t have anything on it other than text saying your name, your parents’ name, the date and place of birth.  No wonder it is so easy to steal someone’s identity.  If you can get your hands on someone’s birth certificate, there isn’t really anything to prove that you’re not the person on the certificate.  Then there is the fact, that your parents get this document when your born, and given the way most people are, it gets lost.  If you need to get a replacement you can order one online.  The things you need to fill out, you might actually be to get on anyone just by reviewing their Facebook page.

You don’t exactly have to be the world’s greatest criminal mastermind to get someone’s birth certificate.  And this is the document that is used to prove citizenship?  My mortgage, bank statement, utility bill, or tax records at least show that I am sending money to a place that supplies services to my home or gave me money to buy my home.  My birth certificate does none of those things.  I don’t mind having to prove I am a citizen, but figure out a way that cross-eyed, hairless llama couldn’t do.  And if I did it to get my license the first time, how about not forgetting that I have already it.

Posted in advice

Conflict of Life

Seize the day, live like there is no tomorrow, life is too short, are all popular sayings that we say to each other.  They have merit in making us cherish every moment we have, especially with the family and friends that we do have.  We are not guaranteed tomorrow, with any of them, and it is easy to take for granted what we do have today. 

I lost contact with a lot of friends over time, and I when I started trying to reconnect, I found out several of them were no longer with us.  It really hits you hard when you realize people your age, have already left us, in almost all the cases, I have no idea what happened.  While the curiosity is there, it is just wrong to ask.  I wish I would have done things a little differently, but at the same time, if you live like there is no tomorrow, what happens if there is a tomorrow.

The reason I lost contact was because I focused all my time and attention doing things to take care of my family.  I focused on being there when my kids needed me for doctors’ appointments, games, choir, band, and being good at my job so I could give them a good life.  I started a business so my kids would have a place to work when they grow up, and also as my retirement plan, so I wouldn’t burden them if I lived too long.  Much like everything in life, being the extreme to either side can be problematic. 

If you seize the day and live like there is no tomorrow, you may become a burden to the people you are trying to spend that time with.  But if you plan for all the tomorrows, you will miss life as it passes you by.  But in the middle, you can plan for tomorrow and live life today, both require you to sacrifice a little of the other, but in the end you may be better off.

Posted in perspective

The Minivan Contraption

In my mind this blog is not just a one-way street, where I post what I am thinking from day to day, but also a place where I may solicit advice or perspective from you, my readers.  I can dig my heels in on my thoughts and opinions, but I want to open my mind to be changed about things that I failed to see from the other side.  This will be the first, of many, of this type of post, and I think I will be calling this one “The Minivan Contraption.”

Back in 2006, our Ford Expedition had its transmission completely crap out, and it just made sense at this point to buy a new car.  And here is where I really stepped in it, I thought a minivan would be the perfect vehicle for our family.  A little bit of context, we had 4 children at the time with a fifth on the way, along with a mortgage, credit card debt, among all of the other responsibilities that come with a large family.

I never realized how much people hate minivans, apparently minivans are the chariot of the devil, or something.  I think there must have been roving bands of soccer moms just terrorizing neighborhoods with snacks and drinks.  Because somehow soccer moms and minivans go hand in hand, and no one wants to be associated with soccer moms.  Were these moms hosting soccer games in everyone’s front yards?

But I digress, I made the suggestion of a minivan, and my thinking was as follows:

  • Wife is pregnant, with kids aged 11, 9, 4, and 1 and minivans are low to the ground, so getting them in and out will be easy.
  • Minivan fully loaded costs as much a base model Nissan Armada or Toyota Sequoia (my wife’s preferred vehicles).
  • The gas mileage is about 10 to 15 miles more per gallon.
  • While the third row is up the trunk space is amazing (you can get 2 weeks’ worth of luggage for 7 people in there).
  • And the most important, the 11 and 9-year-old will be sitting in the third row and minivans in 2007 were way more comfortable than any SUV where you get the total exhilaration of having your knees in your chin while the car goes over every bump imaginable.

Now I did ask for a different perspective on this and the only answer I ever got is, “I don’t want to be a soccer mom.  Needless to say, we ended up with the minivan, and my wife drove it until I wrecked my Honda Civic in 2010 and I have had the Odyssey ever since.  This car is damn near bulletproof, and I love it, when I am done with it is going only to the crusher.  I went to the extent of re-painting it, re-upholstering it, and upgrading the sound system.  Honestly, for a sound system, this Odyssey is excellent for balancing the sound evenly around the car, and you can centralize the sub-woofer in the middle of the middle row.

But help me out, in the comments below, please let me know why there is so much hate for minivans, they just seem like a really practical car.

Posted in advice

Benefits of Temptation (Fighting the Good Fight)

The challenges we come across everyday can be annoying if not down right infuriating.  The true measure of our character is how we react to these challenges, whether they be challenges to our patience or challenges to moral and ethical code.  Moral and ethical challenges generally show up in the form of temptation.

We all have our vices, and every day we will have to confront them one way or another.  Some of us are tempted by alcohol, others drugs, and yet others are tempted by sex.  Perhaps the most difficult temptation of all is food.  While the others can be given up entirely without having to worry about dying, food on the other hand, has to be moderated.  And the mother of all addictive substances is sugar, something that is in everything we eat and is necessary for life, but it too must be moderated, and not completely abstained from.

Temptation does have its benefits, it does give us an opportunity to be stronger, and be an example for others fighting the same urges.  As I have heard, temptation works out the muscles of our soul just like weight lifting does for our actual muscles.  If we really think about it, we always like a challenge in everything we do.  It keeps things interesting.  Imagine if all of the sports and games were easy, could you grow or get better at them?  Would you even want to play them if they were easy?

With out temptation or the desire to be challenged we would not progress forward.  We would not have advanced sciences, mathematics, or technology.  So, no matter how much you may be tempted keep fighting the good fight, and know that when it is over, you will be stronger and better for having not given in or backing down.

Posted in advice

Death of or by Worrying

Life is a beautiful and complicated thing.  Everyday we are challenged with constant decisions that we have to make, for ourselves and those we care about.  Those decisions have impacts that go far beyond what we may have intended, and have a butterfly effect that may go on long after we are gone.  Our children, their friends, nieces, and nephews, can be very impressionable and one thing that was said or done may have an impact on what they do in the future and how they interact with the people in their lives. 

If you sit and think about the ripples you can have on others lives and how they may turn into waves, you may spend a lot of time worrying about whether you have had a positive or negative impact.  But what good does worrying do?  This is something that I think most, if not all of us, deal with, we spend a lot of time thinking about the past and the present that we don’t take time to think about the future.

When something goes wrong in life, we look for who to blame.  The person we blame tries to excuse his decisions or actions.  But is that really the point, consequences should not be about revenge or punishment, but about rehabilitation, and preventing something from happening again.  When we make excuses, it is because we are worried that taking responsibility will lead to a punishment we don’t want.  The problem here is that both the accuser and accused aren’t thinking about fixing a problem for the future, but just want the satisfaction of being right.  If the accuser is clear that they just don’t want the transgression to happen again, then the accused can take responsibility and change the way they act in the future.

But so much time is spent worrying about what could or might happen, that we don’t take the actions to change what is going to happen.  Don’t let the worry monster kill you, instead slay the worry monster. Worrying will not feed you, it will not heal you, and most definitely it will not fix anything, only your actions, in word or in deed, can do that.

Posted in advice

The Choice of Happiness

I know that things today can be a little more difficult than they were just a few decades ago (good grief the 90s don’t seem that long ago).  The internet has really changed things, both for the good and the bad (mostly good, I really like not having to leave my house to do my grocery shopping).  But once you put yourself out there, you open yourself up to the world and all that comes with it.  I’ve been doing this blog for about a week not, and my friends keep warning me about some of the bad reactions I may get for what I am saying.

So, if anyone wants to say mean or harsh things in the comments, I welcome it, we don’t have to agree on many things or even anything, but we are entitled to our opinions.  People are even entitled to an opinion many would find reprehensible, that is the benefit and plague of freedom.  This blog is a release for me, and it may irritate some people out there, but words to me are just that words.  Words may hurt your feelings, but it is the actions afterwards that really matter.

I am used to people despising me, for a whole host of reasons, and some of those people are the ones who were supposed to love me unconditionally.   It was because I said something that they didn’t like, that they cast me away.  But I don’t rely on those people to fulfill my obligations and responsibilities in life, so their feelings and words don’t really change anything.  The morning still comes, and you enjoy what you have, no matter how little it may be, or you can be upset that you don’t have more.  o everyone out there who feels down or lonely, remember your happiness is in your control, you can either give others power over your happiness or you can keep that power to yourself.

Posted in Uncategorized

Office Politics

Getting up and going to work can be fulfilling and grueling.  Starting my career after graduating was probably the most educating experience, I learned how to apply my education, but I also learned the enigma that is office politics.  Getting my work done was the easy part, navigating the waters of fragile egos and gray hair, and dealing with kingdom protectors definitely kept things interesting.  If I only had to deal with engineering problems, I might have gotten bored, but thankfully there was so much more to deal with.

When I started my career, I kept my mouth shut and my head low, and just did what I was told, no matter how stupid the people directed me were.  As I started learning more, and my hair got grayer, I started saying what I was thinking, and breaking the unspoken rules of the office.  The only difference between what I was doing and what other people were doing, was I said it with a smile and a humor.  It is amazing to basically call someone a moron, and not have to deal with HR.  I remember starting my third job, and I was warned about a co-worker who was going to report me to HR if I wasn’t quiet.  Right after I was told that, I said “Let them, I have work to get done, and I don’t give a rat’s ass if I get reported, what the worst they can do……Fire me.  I’ll pack my shit now if they want me to go.”  I didn’t realize it at the time, but that co-worker was in their office and heard everything I said.  Funny thing is, I was as loud as usual, and they never reported me to HR or ever said anything to me, but they reported other people around me.

I never really understood, what was going on.  But the only thing I could figure, is that since I wasn’t afraid of losing my job, there was no leverage or point of reporting me.  I had similar experiences when I started doing work that was outside of my kingdom, because it wasn’t that difficult and it was taking way too long by people who were hoarding the work to protect their job.  They would threaten me, and I would tell them to report me, they never would, and after it was done once, that same person never did it again.

I had the head of drafting pull me aside to tell me his drafters had a problem with me. I told him I wanted to get the job done, and if he wanted, we could go to the director of our group and I would gladly hand my project over to someone else.  He did not take me up on that offer.  I had similar run ins with many people through out my career, many of them I consider friends today.

I did get tired of the office politics and go with one my good friends and co-workers and we started our own company.  Even there, I cannot get away from office politics, but it is a little easier to control.  The engineering is the easy part, managing people is the real challenge

Posted in Uncategorized

Wasted Time and Money (Part 1)

As promised, I said I would discuss college and here we go.  How valuable is a college education?  To answer that we need to view it from a return on investment perspective for each class that is required.  Not all classes are created equal, and some are required just to justify other college degrees.

We spend over 13 years going from kindergarten to our senior year in high school, and every year we get some form of English, history, physical education, music, and other random electives.  Then we go to college because we were told we had to if we wanted a good job, and have to take those same classes all over again no matter what degree you want to get.  But can anyone tell me the purpose of English class once we get to high school?  Maybe some people had a different experience than I did, but 9th through 12th grade English did little or nothing to prepare me for the real world.

English should be about teaching kids how to effectively communicate an idea to an audience, not reading books that need English to English translations.  You know what I am talking about.  No one except English teachers understands Shakespeare, yet every year we have another Shakespeare play to read.  I am an engineer, if I did my presentations and wrote my reports like Shakespeare, would I still have a job?

The other favorite authors are no better, go ahead and recited Mark Twain in public and give me a count of your bruises if you made it out alive.  Salinger wrote one book about a cursing teenager, that somehow inspired crazy people to assassinate other people.  While I do not necessarily believe in toxic masculinity, Hemmingway made a living off of promoting it.  And let’s not forget Dickens, who wrote about poor orphaned children, in Oliver Twist, Great Expectations, and David Copperfield, but is best known a story about a greedy man who gets scared into being a good person on Christmas.

That is just high school, then to get my engineering degree I had to take two more years of English in college.  When I mention this to people after the fact, I get the same response, “It was to make you a more well-rounded person.”  To which I respond, “That is what high school was for, but I am paying for this now.”  And those English classes were not about putting together reports to communicate the results of the experiments we did in engineering class, it was more literature written 100 years before I was taking that class.

I would have understood a little better if they had me take a technical writing class, but instead I got to learn the same stuff I learned in high school, and pay for it.  I at least took those classes at community college where it cost about a tenth of the price as it did at the University of Houston.  I am convinced the only reason we have to have more English classes in college, is so all of those English majors have a better chance of finding a relevant job when they graduate, instead of having to learn something new on the job.

At the end of the day, about half of the time in college falls into the same category as those English classes, a complete waste of time and money grabbing scam.  And much like hazing, we all feel like it is a right of passage, and think our kids have to suffer like we did.  How about we drive down college costs, but cutting out the worthless classes, can we could all save about half of our money.

Posted in Uncategorized

Kids Sports Conundrum

Kids love to play games, from the moment they discover a ball to the time they make friends, they find a way to play and compete. Competition is a good thing, and a wonderful thing that makes everyone strive to be better, whether at a game or just life in general. Keeping competition healthy is the key, because too much of a good thing can be bad.

My daughter plays competitive volleyball, and I don’t mind it because she wants to do it, even though it is a massive amount of time. Between leaving work early for practice, having to wake up on the weekend like we’re going to work, along with having to spend a whole weekend away from home in a hotel, there is a lot of commitment to volleyball.  I am not expecting or really wanting my daughter to be volleyball star, so when we go to practice and the tournaments I am just there to have fun and support my daughter.

I think it is good for her, because while she doesn’t like losing, she still has a smile on her face, a laugh in her heart, and has learned that hard work and team work have when the tournament is over. But I see other kids and parents who are sad, crying, or angry after a loss, and I wonder why do something if it is going to ruin your day or more. We always talk about good sportsmanship, but isn’t part of it enjoying the opportunity to play whether you win or lose?

Even though my daughter loves playing the game, she has injured her shoulder, and because the practices are long, we stay up late to finish homework.  She is still a good student, but once you make the commitment for the year, it is difficult to walk away in the middle if grades or their body start to suffer. Since I brought up college in my last post, I think it is important to acknowledge a lot of kids are playing these sports to get into college, and preferably get a scholarship, instead of just for fun.

I have to admit that I think it is difficult (not impossible) to get a degree that will lead to a good paying job (which is reason for college in the first place, right?) if all of your time is spent training for a sport, and that most college players aren’t going into professional sports for their career. So, between injuries, the amount of time that needs to be dedicated, possible education sacrifices, and the money that needs to be spent to play, is it worth it if you’re not just doing it for fun or a hobby (after all it isn’t supposed to be job)? If we remember that hobbies can be a commitment of time and money (whether they are trains sets, model planes, card collecting, video games, sports, etc.) then maybe we can enjoy sports, like the other hobbies, a little bit more.

Posted in advice

The College Paradox

As many of you will find out as the blog moves forward, I am not a huge fan of college, namely from value and return on investment standpoint. I am not saying that there is no place for college, just that there are parts of it that I think need to change. Full disclosure, I have a B.S. in Civil Engineering, but still think half of my college was a waste of time (I’ll get into that in later posts).

Anyway, what is The College Paradox (as I am calling it)? It is the culmination of 2 ideas that independently seem awesome, but together have a hard time coexisting. Those ideas are all of us wanting our children to do better than us and go to college, and the fact that we, as Americans, want to buy American. But lets be honest, who is going to go to college to work on an assembly line, be a plumber, a welder, an electrician, or name any of those things that we need in civilized society. But do those jobs require going to school to get more English, Art, and History exposure?

Whether you go to the hardware store, Walmart, or Best Buy, those places and just about all of the others sell things are made in China, Mexico, Thailand. We have to ask ourselves do we want to by American so bad, that we would be willing to tell our children that they need to go work in a factory making pens, drills, or iphones. I mean there are some degrees that so worthless, your kids may be doing that anyway to go with his $100,000 hole he dug.

If you want to buy American, teach your kids the value of hard labor (not just hard work). We need to be a self sufficient country, and teaching our kids that they can make a good living without at least 4 more years in school (2 of which are basically an extension of high school, I will never understand why I needed a visual/performing art to be an engineer), would be a good start. There is honor in being a plumber, electrician, welder, etc. Maybe we should tell our kids they don’t have to right to college after high school, and let them work a real job and discern what they want to do in the future during that time.

The benefit of going this route, is your kid, or you, won’t have to dig a hole before they climb the hill.

Posted in current events

The Big Game

Today we have one of the largest sporting events in the United States (not the world, that goes to the other football, otherwise known as soccer). The San Francisco 49ers take on the Kansas City Chiefs, and if you are a fan of either team, sports can be like politics. I am a Steelers or Eagles fan, depending on whose doing better. When I said that to a Cowboys fan, it was like I was a democrat at an NRA convention.

Even though I am a fan of football, I can’t see getting upset when my team loses (of course with my teams I am just immune to disappointment anyway). But I see some people get really angry or sad when their team loses, no matter the league or sport. I always thought following sports was for entertainment, but if you take it so seriously, that it can make or ruin your day, is it really the escape it is supposed to be? Losing friends and family over something that doesn’t make much of a difference a week later just seems silly, it’s not like your loosing benefits or money (provided your not gambling on the game).

Of course I also can’t see spending the amount of money and time on going to a game either. I get wanting to spend time with friends and family, but all of the headaches of going to a game are just overwhelming for me. The tickets are expensive and so is parking, and what do you get for it, even if your on the field your never going to be able to see what they show you on television. I hate the traffic when I go to work, but going to sporting events makes rush hour traffic look like a Sunday afternoon drive (except when a sporting event is going on, obviously). Then there is the bathroom, watching the game at home, it is a short walk to the bathroom, and with a DVR, I can pause the game and rewind if I missed something. And the best part, it is free to stay home and watch. I know, someone is going to point out that there are ads, but remember I have a DVR, I skip most of those bastards, but I stop for the funny ones.

If you are staying at home to watch the Super Bowl it is another American holiday, complete with its traditional cuisine of pizza, wings, chips, soda, and beer. We hang out with our family and friends and have a good time, even when our teams aren’t playing in the game. It’s like Thanksgiving for sports. So everyone have a good Super Bowl Sunday, and may the best team win (since it isn’t the Steelers or the Eagles).

Posted in advice

The Seating Dilemma

Whether you go to a movie, a stadium, church, or a concert there is always the dilemma of where to sit. I am of the opinion that you need to figure out the type of person you are and adjust your seating to the event you are going to along with the people you bring. Do you sit at the end or the middle of the row? My opinion on this trivial matter really has nothing to do with you, but the people you affect based your seating location.

If the event is a two or more hours long and you have a weak bladder or irritable bowels, please sit at the aisle, so you don’t bother everyone as you leave and re-enter the row. If you are bringing small children, sit at the aisle, then you can leave without climbing and tripping over everyone on the way out and back in.

(Side note, don’t bring small children to movies that are rated R, I don’t know why people do this, and I don’t know how these people have friends. This is why steaming and redbox exist, just stay home for your R rated movie watching. No one wants to hear screaming children in the Joker movie, and little kids probably don’t want to see psycho clowns.)

If you do sit at the aisle and are the first people at the event, don’t be mad when people who arrived on time end up climbing over you. Just understand that they don’t want to sit up front, and they aren’t arriving after the event started, and the middle is all that is left.

If the event is less than two hours, and you don’t have any health issues, sit in the middle of the row. This will allow you to not have anyone climbing over you and you don’t have to climb over anyone.

If you arrive late, just be prepared to stand, or go later. No one should be inconvenienced because you couldn’t plan ahead properly.

Posted in Uncategorized

My First Blog Post

Reality Unfiltered

Be yourself; Everyone else is already taken.

— Oscar Wilde.

I want to thank everyone who has decided to read this blog. Most of the time it will be funny, always unfiltered, and depending your point of view it can be controversial. The topics will vary wildly depending on my day. Politics (both of corporate America and government), religion (from a more practical aspect), and life in general will be touched on. The blog will always be open to thoughtful discussion, but idiocy will not be tolerated. I hope that all of you that decide to follow will enjoy what I post, whether we agree or disagree.

Posted in Uncategorized

Who am I

I am just your average American, from a mixed heritage of European and Caribbean (I hope I spelled that right) decent. Democrats from Europe and Republicans from the Caribbean. A family that started off poor with a dad who had me while he was still in college and mom who worked to put him through. Grew up middle class and sought to become my own boss. I have an interesting family to say the least, and an interesting relationship with my wife and kids.

I annoy my wife and kids by the simple fact that I say what I think and dress the way I want, and sometimes that embarrasses them. Sometimes we agree and sometimes we disagree, but that’s life. We don’t have to agree on everything or even on anything, doesn’t mean we can’t get along or even be friends. I hope that everyone who joins me on this journey will be able to tolerate and be friends with people they don’t agree with.