Sunday, November 11, 2012

Four Years of Blogging

When I started this blog, I didn't realize that I was starting it on Veteran's Day!  So before anything else - a profound Thank You to veterans on this day and every day.  Your service has kept us free and has allowed us to prosper.  Thank you to everyone who has served!

Four years ago today, I started this blog as a way to continue the writing and communicating I had done during the difficult time from May 8, 2007 to July 14, 2008.  During those times all the writing that I did was on Patty's Caringbridge site and it was exclusively focused on writing about her situation and how we were all surviving it.  I kept writing on Caringbridge in the days, weeks and months after Patty's death but I realized I wanted to draw a separation from that time.  And so on November 11, 2008 I started this blog on Blogger.  Back then Blogger was an independent entity.  Some time over the last 4 years it was purchased lock stock and barrel and integrated into the Goggle empire.

When I started this blog I really had no idea what it was to become.  The thought that 4 years would pass and I would still be writing it wasn't even something that I considered.  Yet here I am still plugging away at this thing.  To-date I have written almost 600 blog entries and received just shy of 90,000 page views.  I have written exactly 603 blog entries of which I have published 582 - the other 21 have never been published and are private entries that only I can see.  I don't anticipate ever publishing them.  All-in-all I don't think the numbers (entries and page views) are too bad but then again they aren't necessarily too great.  But it's really about the writing not the page views.

Now that I have been at it for so long I guess I am just going to keep it up.  Hopefully in another 4 years I will be writing to celebrate my 8 year anniversary of authoring this blog.  Though my subjects have varied tremendously over the years there has always been one central point - I write what I feel passionate about.  For me to write a good blog entry there has to be some strong thought in my mind that I need to get out.  I'll always try and keep that passion flowing.  When I cease to have that passion about what I write, then I will need to take a break from this.

On the 5 year anniversary of this blog I will be publishing all of my writing into a book.  Over the last several years there have been a number of services that have sprung up that will take your blog and turn it into a printed book.  I anticipate doing that in November of 2013.  No - I will not be selling it, the book will strictly be for me and Zack.  In advance of that date, I am beginning an effort to go back and edit all of the blog entries I have written.  My editing will focus strictly on grammatical errors.  There will be no revision of history.  Whatever I originally wrote back then will be what I publish into the book. 

Thanks to everyone who has continued to read along.  I know there are a bunch of people who have been reading my writing from that first entry on Caringbridge on May 8, 2007.  I no longer have a clear memory of writing that entry but I remember the day very clearly.  That wasn't a great day.  I also remember the day I founded this blog - and it was a tab bit more joy that is for sure!

For anyone interested here is a link to that first blog entry I wrote back on November 11, 2008.

Please continue to read along.  Hopefully my writing will improve and it will keep you interested and involved.  Today as I mark this anniversary I have 115 followers.  It will be interesting to see where I am in another four years.

Thanks so much for reading and being my audience.  Without you all this won't be fun, it won't be interesting and it won't be worth the effort.  Thank you so much for being part of my life.

Thanks and peace to all! ~J.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

An Amazing Discovery

Today astronomers announced the discovery of a planet that could sustain life in forms that are similar to those that exist on Earth.  The planet known as "HD 40307g" was found in a star system named HD 40307 that is roughly 42 light years distance from our solar system.

This planet is defined as a "super-terran" planet as it is up to 7 times larger than the earth.  Despite it's size the planet is rocky in nature and has been found in an orbit around it's star that would support liquid water - the key ingredient in life.  Through the work of astronomers and physicists a total of 847 exoplanets (planets outside of our solar system) have been discovered to-date.  There are another 2320 possibilities that have been identified by NASA's orbital Kepler Space Telescope.  Of the 847 exoplanets confirmed to exist, only 7 have been identified as habitable.  Still with the small amount of our galaxy surveyed so far, the fact that 7 habitable planets have been identified speaks volumes.  This indicates that habitable planets like Earth are not oddities and in fact are relatively common.  Opportunities for life to have arisen or to arise in the future must therefore also be common.

 (Artist's rendition of the planet HD 40307g)

For more information on this amazing discovery please see one of the links below.

Planetary Habitable Laboratory

Fox News

Time: Space and Science

The fact that it is possible to find these planets that are so far away is an amazing feat of scientific achievement.  Telescopes that can peer trillions upon trillions of miles across the galaxy are not simply the kind that you set up in your backyard.  These are finely honed, massive pieces of equipment that generate terabytes of data that must be processed by supercomputers.  The most advanced of these telescopes is the Kepler Space Telescope.  Kepler was launched on March 7, 2009 and was placed into a heliocentric (around the sun as opposed to around earth) orbit far from Earth that allows for gravitational and light disturbances to be minimized. 

(Image of the Kepler Space Telescope)

Discoveries like this are simply amazing to me.  The fact that there is technology that allow us to see such vast distances and to determine the chemical makeup of a planet that far away is remarkable.  Eventually we will have the technology to determine if there are indicator gases like methane and oxygen in the planet's atmosphere that show the presence of life.  The technology to determine if there is intelligent life on these planets using radio technology is still not yet available to us.  Perhaps it will in time be available to us so that we could attempt to build a radio device to communicate with any alien species found.  The likelihood that we would ever be able to travel to one of these far-away planets is next to zero as with any imaginable technology it would take ten or hundreds of thousands of years to reach even the closest star.  Voyager I, the furthest made-man object from earth is just now leaving our solar system after a voyage of over 35 years.  I was 11 years old when this space craft began it's journey and it is still

This is just something that caught my attention today in my routine scan of websites and I wanted to write about it.

The weekend is almost here.  The weather in Colorado is supposed to be cold, snowy and not so good.  Friday night I am hoping to get us tickets to see the Cirque du Soleil show Quidam at the 1stBank Center in Broomfield.  Saturday my nephew is part of his high school play at Regis so we will be attending the 2PM showing of that.  Sunday is supposed to be the worst day of the weekend so my plan is to build a nice warm fire in the basement fireplace, turn on some football and spend the day cleaning and organizing the "craft room".  This is one of two rooms in the house that I still have a major cleaning job to do.  As I have organized and de-cluttered the entire house over the last year, I have used the craft room as the place for the more difficult stuff to deal with.  I have been working on this room on and off for the last several months but I really want to get it totally cleaned.  Sunday sounds like a perfect day to do this.

Zack is off of school tomorrow and is planning on having a bunch of friends over to spend the day with him.  I think I'll go and hide some where as it will be loud and boisterous I am certain.

We hope everyone has a great Friday ahead!

Thanks and peace to all! ~J.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Election - Its Over at Last

Well it is finally over - the election that is.  Throughout the election cycle I have little doubt about where I stand and I will readily admit that I am happy about the results.  With that said, I am not writing this post to gloat.  Instead I am writing this to point out the issues that divide us as a nation and give the people who voted for Romney something to think about.

What were some of the most significant issues that seemed to effect the election?  Let's first address the economy.  The economy was listed as the number one priority for many voters in exit polls.  Where do the difference lie between Romney voters and Obama voters concerning the economy?  The key difference seems to be that Romney voters blame Obama for the poor state of the economy.  Let's face a key fact - there is very little politician do that can improve the economy.  If we realize that fact then we have a point from which to start a discussion.  Realizing that politicians don't have any real impact on the economy, you then have to ask what was the true difference between Obama and Romney.  The difference was in their tax policy.  Romney believed that the wealthiest members of society should be taxed less on their earnings so that they could use the money to create jobs.  Obama on the other hand believe that the larger share of the tax burden should be carried by wealthy.  This tax burden would be used to provide essential programs and pay down the debt.  Ask yourself what is fair?  The middle class and poor bearing a greater part of the tax burden or the wealthy?  I think the answer is obvious - the wealthy should bear the larger portion of the tax burden.  And I say this as someone who will clearly be taxed at a much higher rate under Obama then I would have been taxed under Romney.  I believe that I should have to pay the higher tax rates.

Another major issue that divided the electorate was on the issue of healthcare.  Romney supporters strongly believed that the Affordable Healthcare Act should be repealed.  Why?  What is so inherently wrong about the Affordable Healthcare Act that it should be repealed?  The current healthcare system is failing.  Costs are continuing to rise without any likelihood that the price increases will cease.  More and more people are losing their health insurance.  It is obvious that something needs to be done to change the dynamics of the system.  We cannot continue to let the status quo continue or eventually more and more people will be without healthcare.  The system is broken.  Why is it so preposterous to implement the Affordable Health Care Act and change things? Let's try something new and see if it works.  It's not socialism it just a more coordinated attempt to get people insured and control rising costs.

The national debt was another issue that divided voters.  Romney voters made a significant issue about that debt.  Granted the debt is a massive problem.  But to rectify the debt we will eventually need to reach a point where the government is collecting more money than it is spending.  We need to realize that we were in that situation in 2001 and instead of continuing to collect the additional money, George W. Bush decided we needed tax cuts instead.  Those tax rates have never gone back to the point that they were prior to those "temporary tax cuts".

The argument that Obama is "wasting" so much money doesn't really hold water.  Yes - Obama has overseen some of the largest deficits in American history.  But those deficits have been driven by decreased revenue collected because of the economic problems as opposed to massive spending increases.  The most significant issues associated with spending have been the massive amounts of money spent on wars.  What has been gained from those wars?  To be frank - not too much.  Yes - we did get Osama bin Laden which was very important.  But despite the amounts of money spent both Iraq and Afghanistan are still basket case societies.  In fact there is a growing trend of countries slipping into chaos that has been accelerating in recent years.  Somalia, Yemen, Afghanistan, Iraq, Mali, Libya the list continues to grow each year.  The United States can't stop this trend and we need other countries to step up and help out.

I guess I could go on and on - but there really isn't that much of a point.  I would ask the people who voted for Romney to give it a chance.  During the George W years those of us on the left had to just suck it up and roll with the punches.  We got a lot of things thrown our way that we didn't want but we didn't revolt.  We just tried a lot harder to win the elections and as a result we did in 2008.  So it's time get together - solve our problems and if you don't like the what we the Democratic party/progressives/liberals put on the table then make sure your guys get elected in 2016.

In the end run Barack Obama was re-elected and the sun has risen on another day.  As much as everyone on the right seems to think it's the end of the world, it really is not.  The world will still be here and the United States will still be standing when the next election day comes around in 4 years.

And with that I will leave the subject of politics for the foreseeable future!

We got some news today about Zack's trip to Washington DC.  It has been rescheduled to take place from November 29 to December 2.  Based upon what I know of the school calendar he will get to miss two days of school for the trip.  He is so broken up about that thought!  No - not really!

Life is very low-key for us these days which is perhaps why I haven't had a lot to write about.  We are doing the normal every day stuff without too much difference every day.  One potential little hiccup has been thrown into my schedule as there is a good possibility I will have to head to India the week after Thanksgiving.  This would be over the same time that Zack is in Washington DC.  It's not yet certain as it is for a series of conferences and meetings in Delhi and we still don't know if we are going to get funding for these conferences or not.  Given that we are nearing the end of the year, there is an effort to cut down on costs to better improve my employers financial results for the remainder of the year.  Hopefully I will find out with some certainty this week whether that trip will be necessary or not.

Thanks and peace to all! ~J.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Finally Over!

With a title like "Finally Over" I am sure everyone is thinking that I am talking about the election.  As a matter of fact I am.... not!  Just had to add that for dramatic effect.  What I am actually talking about today is that the work on my kitchen/family room  is finally done.  The work completed on Friday when the contractor finished some painting that needed to be done as a result of the unexpected leak from the upstairs bathroom.  The final payment has now been handed over to the contractor and their lock box has been removed from my front door.  I am quite happy that it is finally done.  The work was supposed to take between 6 and 10 weeks instead of the 24 weeks that it took.   Some of my decisions contributed to the delay.  But the majority of the delay came from very small little things like a custom stainless steel cover for the ventilation from the over the stove fan and replacement of 2 warped doors on the cabinets.

Though Friday was the official end of the project we have been able to use the kitchen since August so it really hasn't been that big of a deal.  The more significant pain in the butt was having to schedule the continued presence of contractors in the house.  Over the last several weeks there hasn't been that much activity but I have had to watch out so that the dogs were kept in the basement and so forth.

I have decided not to publish any pictures of the completed project yet.  There are still a number of things that need to be done like hanging pictures on the wall and deciding what other furniture I am going to put in the family room.  So far we have two couches and the area rug in the family room.  The smaller of the two couches is going into the basement and there will be two chairs in it's place.  Table lamps, end tables and a coffee table are are also needed.  Zack and I will be hosting Thanksgiving this year so I am going to do my darnedest to have all this additional work done by then.

On to the other issue that is "finally over".  Yes - that is the presidential election campaign.  Voting on the East Coast will begin in less than 10 hours!  So that means we will be hearing our final campaign ads and getting the final robo-calls within the next few hours if that hasn't happened already.   Colorado has been ground zero for the most intense campaigning.  Literally I have received hundreds of robo-calls and every night during the 10PM newscast I see at least a dozen campaign ads or more!

With the campaigning pretty much done and the voting and litigating to do, things look pretty rosy for my candidate - Barack Obama.  According to the reliable and well respected poll handicapping service "RealClearPolitics.Com" President Obama has a .7% lead in their poll of polls and he has a distinct 68 electoral vote advantage (303 to 235) over Romney.  Of course these estimates are based upon the algorithms that they use to weight the various polls on both a national and state level.  However, I have been following this website since the election of 2000 and they have been remarkably accurate in predicting the outcome of just about every election since then.

In the end run whoever is going to win is going to win, I can only hope the election will be free and fair.  If President Obama wins we may finally see an overall shift back to a more liberal viewpoint within the electorate of the United States.  It should  mean that the Affordable Care Act will never be repealed.  With Obama in the White House the earliest opportunity it could be overturned is in early 2017.  By then most provisions of the law will have been in force for at least 2 years and it will be very hard for anyone to take those away once they are fully in place.  There will be no going back!!

On other notes - Zack is back at school after a so-so week of fall break.  It was only so-so because his trip to Washington DC was of course cancelled because of Hurricane Sandy.  He was supposed to leave Denver on Saturday, October 27th at 7:20AM.  We only found out that the trip was cancelled on Friday evening at 7:30PM.  He was disappointed at first but that passed pretty quickly.  The other down side to the week off was that he got sick and then I got sick.  Tuesday night his stomach started feeling bad and by 8:00PM that night he was throwing up and sick as a dog.  I got sick later that evening.  He recovered by Wednesday afternoon whereas I didn't get back to feeling normal until Thursday night.

We have continued to get out and hike as much as humanly possible since I last posted to the blog.  We did a major hike at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge on Saturday October 27th.  The place is amazing as there are so many animals there and they are not very afraid of people!  In addition to this hike we have been spending a lot of time racking up distance on the Douglas County East-West Regional trail.  I've written about this trail before.  It is a relatively new trail having only been around for the last 5 or 6 years and is still in the process of being built.  Eventually it will go all the way from Chatfield State Park in the west to Castlewood Canyon State Park in the east.  So far the trail has been constructed from Chatfield to I-25, so it about 1/2 way done.  Our goal for now is to hike the roughly 20 miles of completed trail.

My back seems to have finally turned some kind of positive corner.  With all the hiking and walking that I have been doing it seems like I have regained a lot of strength.  As such the amount of pain that I am feeling in my hip and back has started to diminish in the last 2 weeks.  In addition to the exercise I am doing the physical therapy really seems to be making positive changes.  The pain isn't totally gone, but it is much better.

Thanks so much for reading.  I know my writing has been somewhat sporadic recently and I will continue to try and write more in the coming days.

For all of you who are American citizens please do your civic duty and get out there and vote tomorrow.  I will never discourage anyone from voting even if they intend to vote against my candidate.  Regardless of that fact, just get out there and vote!

Thanks and peace to all! ~J