A Kick-Back Saturday

I realized when I woke up this morning that I missed meeting some of the guys for breakfast. What a bummer. I was really looking forward to it, but for some reason my body decided it needed more sleep than I wanted to give it. My body won.

I had no plans for the rest of the day, and I am not planning anything tomorrow so I can watch the USA v. Canada Olympic hockey final. The race from Las Vegas is on too, but I’m pretty sure Jimmie Johnson is going to win, so why bother watching, right? Go USA!

We watched intently today while Hawaii awaited the tsunami, but thankfully it was minor. I spent a year in Hilo, Hawaii going to college. It’s a beautiful city that was completely devastated by a tsumani back in 1960. I’m glad they didn’t suffer from the same result this time.

I made bacon-wrapped chili dogs for dinner this evening, and I got to thinking afterward, I am going to have to post that recipe. Everything tastes better cooked with a pound of bacon!

I was shocked to learn that Rep. John Linder (R-GA) is retiring from Congress. He was a champion of the Fair Tax movement, and I really hope someone picks up the torch, because something has to be done about our current tax code.

“I made the decision last Tuesday night and notified my staff Wednesday morning. I told them not to share the news because I planned to make the announcment during a speaking engagement Saturday,” said Linder.

Gwinnett GOP manager David Hancock said the announcement, which came at the end of brief speech by Linder, caught attendees off-guard.

“You can’t keep doing things forever and I never intended to stay as long as I did,” said Linder. “Eighteen years is a long time,” he said.

Funny isn’t it? The most effective and ethical leaders are the ones who know when it’s time to step down. Congress was not meant to be a “career path”, and hopefully in the future we can persuade others it’s time for them to go too.

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Our Day At Eufaula National Wildlife Refuge

Yesterday was an incredible day.

Our middle son, who is 10, finished reading the entire Harry Potter series of books and as a reward for his dedication to reading, I offered him his choice of location for a day of birding. He chose the Eufaula National Wildlife Refuge.

We learned about Eufaula NWR from a friend of ours, Jim Enterkin, at a recent Sweetwater Camera Club meeting. Since the day he told us about all the birds he saw when he visited the refuge, the boys had been anxiously awaiting yesterday’s trip. It was only natural that we would invite Jim to make the trip with us, so he could see more birds too!

We departed at 6:00 in the morning and arrived for a quick stop at West Point Lake at 7:30 to see if we could spot a few Bald Eagles before continuing on to Eufaula. We were out of the truck no more than three minutes when Jim spotted one mature, and one immature Bald Eagle sitting in a tree. They called out to each other and then flew for a few minutes, landing in a tree directly across the river from us, making our stop a great start to a very incredible day. In fact, our photos show a second adult Bald Eagle sitting in the tree where they landed.

We were not in a good position to get ‘great’ photos, but it was an awesome sight. What a great start to an incredible day! After a quick bathroom break, in heated bathrooms nonetheless, we continued on to the wildlife refuge.

We were 10 minutes out from the refuge headquarters when we spotted another Bald Eagle flying over some water. Moments later, we arrived at the refuge headquarters to learn what birds had been sighted in the area. The ranger told us about other wildlife in the area, but the sighting of the Bald Eagle only pumped us all up for the adventure we were just beginning, so we didn’t pay much attention to the “other wildlife” part.

It didn’t take long to spot Eastern Bluebirds, American Robins, American Crows, Chipping Sparrows, a Purple Martin, an Eastern Phoebe, Northern Mockingbirds, Common Grackles, and a few Palm Warblers.

At the first pond we were able to view a solitary Canvasback, half a dozen killdeer, a dozen Ringnecked Ducks, and five Buffleheads. While we were observing the ducks, our youngest spotted something flying above the grass trying to stir something up. It turned out to be a Northern Harrier trying to rustle up some grub.

Northern Harrier

 

We spotted a total of six Northern Harriers in the area, along with a Red-Shouldered Hawk and a couple Red-Tailed Hawks. As we were observing two Northern Harrier’s in a tree, we had a couple little friends who kept popping up around the truck.

Yellow Rumped Warbler

 

A total of five Yellow-Rumped Warbler’s were hanging out with us at that point in the wildlife refuge.

The roads were all dry and clear, but the “summer” routes were not open and won’t be opened until March 1st, so we were “forced” to walk part of the road in the Houston Unit. Jim told us that they had seen dozens of Great Egrets when he was at the same location just a few months ago, and just steps down the road, the egrets began to fly.

Great Egret (1)
 
Great Egret (4)
 
Great Egret (6)

 

And boy, did they fly! We saw a total of 26 Great Egrets along with three Anhinga, 15 Great Blue Herons, numerous Northern Shovelers, Double-Crested Cormorants, hundreds of American Coots, several Common Moorhens, and quite a few Pied-Billed Grebes.

Pied-Billed Grebe

 

At one point a couple of Osprey decided to check us out as we walked back along the road. I love how they hover when they check out the water for their next meal.

Osprey (3)
 
Osprey (4)

 

The Osprey wasn’t the only bird that flew close to see what we were doing on their turf.

Great Blue Heron (1)

 

After visiting the Houston Unit, we decided to eat lunch in Eufaula, Alabama, and then venture over to the Bradley Unit on the Georgia side of the refuge.

Great Blue Heron (2)

 

We saw more Great Egrets, Great Blue Herons, Ring-Necked Ducks, Bufflehead, Wood Ducks, American Coots, and Common Moorhens.

Common Moorhen

 

Just moments after snapping this shot, we heard something rustling on the shore next to the road. We glanced down in time to see a 5.5-6 foot alligator go running into the water. It was 15 feet away from us. That’s when we remembered the “other wildlife” part of what the ranger had to say. She mentioned some rather large alligators sunning themselves on the banks of the water and on the side of the roadways.

As we walked back toward the truck, we joked with each other about not slowing down. None of us wanted to be the guy in back, in case that gator decided to give chase.

As I said when I started this post, it was an incredible day. I added five new birds to my life list, the boys added 6 to theirs, and we all had a great time, even after we took this final photo at the refuge.

Great Blue Heron (3)

 

Notice the “visitor” in the foreground of the photo. Do Great Blue Herons not see bumpy backed alligators if they hide their heads under some vegetation? Even though that gator was quite far away from us, it was large enough to make us rethink sticking around any longer. None of us were interested in tempting fate and becoming a dinner item at the Bradley Unit that day.

We still had a few hours to spare, so we drove down to the Walter F. George reservoir dam, but didn’t see too much while we were there except some deer, a lot of Ring Billed Gulls, Double Crested Cormorants, and a few barking Great Blue Herons.

Great Blue Heron (4)

 

It took us a little over three hours to get home and call an end to one of the best birding days any of us had seen in a long, long, time.

Of course, now that we’re all rested, we’re ready to head down there again. Soon. Very soon.

Gone Birding!

In a daring attempt to escape the mundane cycle of everyday life, I have run away today and won’t be back until tomorrow.

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Seventy Bills And Counting. Who’s Obstructing Now?

Democrats on Capitol Hill have been pushing a health care bill that the majority of the American people do not like and do not want. President Obama has repeated over and over that he would welcome a discussion of ideas from those on the other side of the aisle (aka the Republicans).

I read through the first version of the bill (as introduced in the House of Representatives) and wrote about it over the course of several days right here on this blog. I read through the second version (as introduced in the Senate) and wrote about that one too.

At the time, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi refused to allow amendments from the other side of the aisle (aka the Republicans). Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid tried to push the bill through the Senate with almost no debate and no amendments from the other side of the aisle (aka the Republicans).

The American people have made one thing clear since the initial bill was introduced. They do not like the bill. They do not agree with many provisions in the bill. They do not want that bill. Many politicians from both sides of the aisle have said it would be better to just start over and do it right from the beginning.

Instead of starting over, President Obama has made it clear that he intends to help shove this poor idea of a health-care bill down the throats of the American people. This week, President Obama introduced a re-hashed version of the Senate bill, or was it the House bill? Does it matter? It’s a re-hash of the same old thing that even moderate Democrats do not feel comfortable debating let alone voting for. President Obama is holding a health-care summit at the White House tomorrow, but he will only consider ideas that address the goals contained in the Democratic plans already passed by the House and the Senate. In other words, he welcomes ideas that are the same as his.

What’s the point of welcoming ideas if you are going to restrict them so that they accomplish the exact same thing your current ideas already accomplish? That doesn’t make sense at all. That would be like asking me to provide two web designs that look completely different on the front end but are exactly the same and accomplish the same goal on the back end. The substance would be the same, but you’d get different eye candy when making it all work.

Websites are all about eye-candy, but health-care isnt. We’re talking about health-care here, not eye candy. WHO CARES what it looks like if it does the same thing NO ONE likes in the first place?

For months now, President Obama, his administration, Nanny State Nancy, Scary Harry Reid, and others, have claimed that the Republicans on Capitol Hill are acting as obstructionists who have no real plan(s) of their own. That, my friends, is another big fat lie from The Failed One%reg; and his henchmen.

Did you know that the Republicans have introduced 70 health care related bills during the 111th Congress alone? Republicans have been introducing health care bills as early as January of 2009. Do you have any idea how many of those bills have been considered in committee, let alone made it to the House floor?

The answer would be four. Yes, four. Just four.

One was voted on and passed. One was attached to H.R. 3200 in committee. Two others failed by a large margin on the House floor. The other 66 haven’t even been considered by Speaker Pelosi and the Democratic majority. Nothing. Nada. Read them for yourself (PDF). Those bills don’t even take into account H.R. 3962, the Affordable Health Care for America Act.

The definition of an obstructionist is ‘one who systematically blocks or interrupts a process’. If the Democrats want to claim Republicans are acting like obstructionists as they attempt to kill this bill that a majority of Americans do not want in the first place, then the Democrats too, by the very definition of the word itself, are acting like obstructionists by not even considering alternatives or amendments from the other side of the aisle.

For months I have heard Nancy Pelosi say that it’s time for Republicans to act in a bipartisan manner to get a health-care bill passed on the Hill. The fact remains that Republicans have been trying for more than a year now, but Pelosi herself keeps slamming the door on them.

Some of you may be chomping at the bit to say “well, Republicans did this when they controlled Congress too, so what’s the difference?”. If Republicans did it in the past, does that make it all right for the Democrats to do the same thing right now? Does keeping an attitude like that accomplish anything?

It’s high time for Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid to stop their petty political games and sit down at the table with Republicans so they can all work together and get something done. It’s time for everyone to stop focusing on themselves and their political careers and start focusing on what’s right for the people of our country. You know, the people back home who are actually affected by their childish behavior taking place on Capitol Hill.

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Education, Exploitation, & Examination

It’s been fifty-four days since I had a Coca-Cola. I used to drink 4 to 6 (or more) of them per day, and I quit, cold turkey. I also stopped eating or drinking anything with high fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils.

Since the first of the year I have lost seven pounds, bringing me to a loss of 16 pounds since November 1st of last year. I still have about 14 pounds to lose, but I am pretty sure I can accomplish that goal before spring comes to an end.

The only side effect of my new eating habits, is the re-occurrence of headaches, which usually hit later in the day and sometimes last until the following morning. Once I figure out what’s causing the headaches I should be golden with this whole “eating right” thing.

I have quite a few articles piled up here in my browser, so I thought I would pass them on to you this evening. It’s been about a month since I did a “thoughts” post, so it’s time.

Thought #1

I’m all for improving our current education system, but I hardly think increasing the “assessments” will solve any of the current problems plaguing the system.

Obama’s 2011 budget will call for the reauthorization of the 1994 version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which would require states to meet six tough standards to help high school graduates prepare for college or careers. The administration said schools need to focus on better teacher preparation, improved teaching and tougher student assessments.

It’s no secret that we homeschool our children. There are several reasons we choose to keep them out of the public school system, and one of those reasons is the current “teaching for the test” mentality. Too much pressure is on too many teachers and when time gets away from them they end up focusing only on the specific subjects and problems that will be covered in “the test”.

We have seen neighborhood kids stressing about “the test”, and we have spoken to teachers who wish they could take time to cover some subjects more in-depth but they are so constrained by “the test” they don’t dare take a even a moment out of their already tight schedule.

I wish I knew the solution to improving our educational system, but I am quite sure it isn’t making the assessments tougher or telling teachers they need to prepare more. Have you spoken to a teacher lately? Do you realize how much time (and personal money) they devote to their jobs as it is?

Thought #2

When was the last time you bought an article of clothing that was made in the United States of America? I feel for the people of Haiti, but I do not think this is the answer to their problem, and it only exacerbates ours.

In the quest to rebuild Haiti, the international community and business leaders are dusting off a pre-quake plan to expand its low-wage garment assembly industry as a linchpin of recovery. President Barack Obama’s administration is on board, encouraging U.S. retailers to obtain from Haiti at least 1 percent of the clothes they sell.

The garment industry in America is dying as it is. One percent doesn’t sound like a lot, but when there is little to nothing being manufactured here in the United States as it is, one percent will actually have quite an impact.

I find it ironic that this plan is endorsed by the current administration. If it had been proposed by a Republican administration (or endorsed by it), there would be cries of exploitation and we would be seen as taking advantage of the Haitian people.

Does it really make a difference if your clothes are made in China, Thailand, Indonesia, or Haiti? No matter which one you pick, the workers are exploited and taken advantage of. I guess it’s okay this time, because they’re calling for it in the name of “hope” for the people of Haiti.

Thought #3

The Washington Post has a pretty good explanation of President Obama’s latest health-care “modification”. Rather than starting over because the majority of the American people are unhappy with the current proposal, he slapped some lipstick on the pig and pushed it out the door.

Mr. Obama, following the advice of nearly every economist who has examined the issue, identified a tax on high-cost insurance plans as a key mechanism for curbing the growth of health-care costs. He was right. Unfortunately, in the legislative process the tax already was whittled down several times. Now the president proposes delaying it until 2018 — long after he leaves office — and raising the threshold at which it applies. Meanwhile, to recoup the $120 billion lost by the delay, Mr. Obama would apply the Medicare payroll tax to unearned income for the wealthiest taxpayers — money that should be used to shore up Medicare’s shaky finances rather than subsidizing cushy insurance.

Go read the rest of the article, it summarizes the President’s health-care changes quite succinctly.

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