Top Of My Head

Thoughts on everything from Politics to Video Games

We were married!!!

Giving Cheryl her ring

Photo courtesy of “Loki” David Lott

On November 14th, just after 7PM, Cheryl and I did what thousands of couples before us have done – we were legally married.  We’ve been together for nearly 19 years and it has been an amazing ride.  We’ve gone through home ownership, trying to have children, having grandchildren and more.  Our journey isn’t ending, but this new beginning is, well, just something.

I honestly didn’t think that when I awoke on the morning of November 15th that I would feel any different.  After all, Cheryl and I had married in 2001 in a ceremony complete with gowns, unity candle and the breaking of the glass.  I have considered myself married for the last thirteen years.  How can a piece of paper make that much of a difference?

Lighting the Unity Candle on April 28, 2001 - our first wedding. (Look how young I was!)

April 28, 2001 – our first wedding.

Well, it does.  I feel closer to Cheryl, more involved, safer.  I know that my family would never be the kind that would toss her out on her ear if something would happen to me and I’m pretty sure her family wouldn’t do that to me,.  But, I’ve been kept out of her hospital room (not for long) and a nurse did tell me that I wasn’t Tommy’s grandmother, so I wouldn’t be able to be in his room.  No one will ever be able to tell me that again.

Cheryl’s daughter, Kim, has always treated me as a true step-parent.  She’s always respected our relationship and I’ve always treated her like a daughter. Dustin took a little time to warm up – accepting your wife’s family can be

Listening to Pastor Dana

overwhelming – but he’s always called my parents grandma and grandpa and he’s been a pall bearer for my family, I think more times than for his own.  His acceptance of Cheryl and I extended to his family.  Having all of them be a part of our wedding day was amazing.

The outpouring of love from friends and family was amazing.  Having our relationship be recognized by the state, as well as people close to us is an indescribable joy.  I can’t wait for the whole country to come to their senses and legalize gay marriage.

Our first official introduction as Julie and Cheryl Totsch

Photo courtesy of “Loki” David Lott

 

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Marriage Equality

Going to the Chapel and we’re gonna get married…

By now, I’m sure you’ve heard that the Supreme Court refused to hear the appeal cases for Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia and Indiana.  This means that marriage equality in those states have won.  Virginia has already changed their forms.

This morning at around 11:30, I called the Racine County Clerk’s Office and spoke with Pat. She very sweetly informed me that yes, they were issuing marriage licenses to gay couples.  I cried.

I’m really torn and stunned by this.  I’ve overjoyed that Cheryl and I can now make it legal, but I wish my mom was still here.

For a very long time, my mother was against gay marriage.  We went round and round.  Then, one day, I either explained it better or she just gave up the fight, because she agreed with me.  For the rest of her life, at least once a month, she would say to me, “Why don’t they just let you get married?”

Now, they are letting us get married and she’s not here to see it.  In the year and four months, since she’s been gone, I don’t think I’ve missed her more.

So, now, Cheryl and I have to pick a date.  I think we’ve narrowed it down to two.  :)

 

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Inflation Rates for Students

When I learned Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) had voted against Senator Elizabeth Warren’s bill to lower student loan rates, I tweeted to him:

Why are you filibustering a bill to refinance student loans? The rest of us don’t have a rich father-in-law.

His response was this:

Because the government needs to stop doing things that make college costs rise.

I checked out the link (I didn’t watch the video), but read the transcript – as if this excused his wrong headed vote.  Somehow, he is equating the rising cost of education to government intervention.  This is suppose to excuse a vote that would lower the cost of a student loan.  So, rather than work to make education more affordable for students, he’s going to blame the government.

According to Johnson’s figures,

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Rich Men and Camels

I’ve been thinking about what Jesus said about it being easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into Heaven.  Why was Jesus harshing on rich guys so bad?  Is being rich inherently evil?

If you listen to these megachurch, superstar ministers; no – being rich isn’t evil and in fact, Jesus wants us all to be rich.  I don’t believe anyone who is preaching in a church the size of a stadium has a huge grasp on what Jesus wants.  However; I do believe that being rich doesn’t equate evil…

Unless…

If you have plenty and you don’t share – that’s evil.

If you pay your employees minimum wage — that’s evil.  The fact that we have to have a minimum wage is pretty evil.  Sure, there are some companies who pay fair wages, but there are a lot more companies who would pay less than livable wages if they could just get away with it.

If you don’t provide healthcare for your employees, evil.

We allow businesses – and, I’m talking about corporations, not the mom and pop small businessperson who is barely getting by – I mean the WalMarts, the WalGreens, the companies owned by the Koch brothers – anyway, we allow them to write a lot of expenses off their taxes.  I would like to suggest that we throw these complicated tax laws out.  We need to institute a new plan, so that corporations pay their fair share.  They benefit from our roads, bridges, military, police officers and fire fighters – schools train their next employees; but, when it comes to paying for all of this, well, they don’t want to.

They put out ads saying that it’s wealth distribution, but it’s not – it’s paying your fair share of what it costs, so you can run your business in the land of the free.

I say, we let them write off everything they pay their employees – no taxes on payroll, no taxes on healthcare costs — BUT, if that employee is outside the United States, we tax the hell out of whatever product they made when it gets shipped here.  (They would still have to pay their side of Social Security and Medicare.)

If we allowed companies to deduct the cost of employees, you can bet employees would go back to being well paid and important to companies – consider assets and not just cost centers.  Every tax break the upper 1% has received has not driven them to higher more employees – it’s just given them more to horde.

And, that’s why Jesus said, in a much more elegant way than I’m about to do so, that the rich ain’t getting into Heaven.  It’s all about how you treat others and the rich in this country, aren’t passing the camel test.

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FCC and Net Neutrality

I sent the following to the FCC about Net Neutrality.  I encourage everyone to pass this around and encourage letters to the FCC to keep Net Neutrality going. Click here to contact the FCC.

Protecting the neutrality of the Internet is the biggest First Amendment issue facing us today. I am a blogger. Without Net Neutrality, Internet providers can make it difficult to find my site. They can charge me extra to guarantee a lane from a reader’s home into my site. I pay an Internet fee to my broadband provider. I pay another fee to have my site hosted. Without Net Neutrality, Comcast, Time Warner, Verizon could all demand that I pay them a fee to allow traffic through. This will end the ability for new ideas to be fostered. A large company could essentially pay to kill a news story, simply by out paying for traffic.

Further, from a consumer standpoint, killing Net Neutrality means that small Mom and Pop shops will not be able to compete with larger, well funded stores. Traffic can be slowed, delayed or even re-routed entirely because a small consumer store will not be able to pay extra fees. This kills competition and innovation.

Finally, Internet access is very much like phone access. By disabling Net Neutrality, you are allowing companies to decide where and who their customers see and talk to. Imagine if this was the phone company. AT&T cannot prevent their customer from calling a Verizon customer. In reverse, Verizon cannot block calls to their customers from AT&T customers. Without Net Neutrality, that’s exactly what these companies can and will do. They already skirt the issue by making their customers pay more for faster service – imagine what they will do when they can become the traffic cops of data and information.

Sincerely,

 

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Rand Paul: Reasonable?

There’s nothing that I love more than watching the Republican Party slowly implode.  If it was still the Party of Lincoln, Roosevelt, Eisenhower and even Nixon; this would be sad.  But, the GOP is the party of Paul and Cheney – two men who are feuding about the very idea that we should go back to Iraq.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney believes that we need to go back.  Of course he does.  Haliburton, the company that rewarded him with $20 million when he left them to be Vice President, made a lot of money on the Iraq War.  If we go back, they’re sure to make billions more.

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, who is usually not someone to whom I were refer to as reasonable, is against this idea.  For once, he and I are in agreement.  I don’t know his views, but in my view we shouldn’t have gone there in the first place.  The very idea of spending American dollars and lives to go back seems like too high of a price.

The only hope I have for this show of reason is that before we go back (and, I’m hoping we don’t go back) that we have the type of debate in this nation we should’ve had back in 2003.

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Starbucks, College, and Interest

I’ve seen the various articles regarding Starbucks announcement that they are going to fund their employees’ college tuition at Arizona State University.  I’ve seen the articles that are pro and con (more con than pro, I should mention).  I’m not sure how I feel, because I need to understand it better and to see what’s going on.  I was researching the subject when I came across an article on Market Watch called “Why Starbucks is right, and Obama is wrong, on Tuition“.   The article is interesting and we do need to figure out how to lower tuition costs, but the article, also, makes a wrong point about college loans and interest rates.

According to the article, the average college student leaves college with $29,400 of debt.  The argument is that a payment of $375.14 a month isn’t that much of an economic problem.  It’s merely a car payment.  See the quote below.

Numbers don’t lie. That $29,400 borrower would pay $375.14 a month for 10 years at Sallie Mae’s highest current rate of 9.17%. But if that loan commanded 0.01% interest, the payment would still be $245.12. The real average is somewhere in between and covered by the spread between a college grad’s income and a high-school grad’s. It’s a car payment, and not really the economic problem many posit.

Except the author is missing a bigger point, that $130.02 a month savings adds up to a difference of $1,560.24 over a 12 month period or $15,602.40 over a ten year life of the loan.  Perhaps, that’s not a lot of money for the author, but it is for most people.

Realistically, the average student isn’t going to pay an interest rate of less than 1% and President Obama and Senator Warren haven’t suggested one that low.  Their plan calls for an interest rate on a refinanced loan of 3.8%.  Even at that amount, the total cost of the loan works out to $35,384.90 – $9,631.54 less than $45,016.45. That’s half a car.

One more item I’d like to point out.  He mentions spending $150,000 on an education for a $42,000 position.  In his opinion, this is way too much money.  He doesn’t really say if this was tuition or the cost of a loan, but I’m assuming he means tuition.  Here’s where the 3.8% interest rate comes in handy.  At this interest rate, the total cost of the education works out to  $180,535.21 .  It makes his argument look even stronger, doesn’t it?

Except, the $42,000 isn’t going to hold as the yearly salary for the rest of the student’s working life.  They, if they’re any good, should get some raises over the next forty years (assuming they start at age 25 and work until age 65).  But, let’s say they don’t receive any raises over the next forty years.  The student will have earned $1,680,000.00 minus the education cost, that’s a profit of $1,499,464.79. That’s not such a bad return on investment.

(The author, also, set me off by knocking people who scored a 20 on their ACT. I scored a 19 – not only have I graduated from college, but I’m at the top of my field, proving that test scores mean diddly squat. But, I digress, as that is off my subject.)

My whole point is this:  tuition needs to be controlled in some manner.  However; distorting facts and not telling the whole story isn’t going to help the overall debate.

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Hilarious Star Wars Fan Video

It has light sabers.  It has a dramatic air chase.  It has adorable kittens?  Yes, yes it does and it is hilarious! Check it out!  And, then check out Final Kut’s Channel on YouTube.

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Eggs and Moms

I’m staring in the fridge and we have six eggs.  The sell by date (or is it use by date?) is April 17th.  I’m wondering, can I hard boil these eggs and everything will be okay?  Or, do I have to toss them, because they’re pass their time. (Hmm, like my eggs).  Anyway, I think if I could call Mom, she would know, but I can’t call Mom.  And, that makes me wonder if Moms are given some sort of gift regarding food.  My mom knew how long you could leave chicken in the freezer or how long to cook a ham steak per side.  She knew how to steam veggies perfectly or, she knew how to tell me how to steam veggies.

My mom would tell me how long to boil rice or keep leftovers.  How to reuse almost anything.  And, now, that link to knowledge is completely gone and I wonder, why didn’t I write any of this down?

I went into the bedroom to get dressed, missing Mom like crazy.  She had all the answers, even when I didn’t want to listen.  She knew what to do.   Do Moms get some sort of book to memorize so they can answer these kinds of questions for their kids?

Then, I remember, my wife is a Mom, maybe, she knows.  And, I ask her and she doesn’t have a clue.

Now, I’m wondering if this magically knowledge just occurred in women of my mother’s generation and the rest of us are out of luck.

And, I’m still wondering about those eggs…

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Best Comment Moderator

Ugh! I receive more spam comments than anything else. I moderate them all by hand. Somedays, it seems to take forever and I’m sure I’m missing some good ones. If you have a blog, what do you do about spam? And, what login system should I use?

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