December 28, 2012

Response from Sen. Casey #3

Dear Mr. Matthews:
Thank you for taking the time to contact me with your thoughts and concerns about the national debt.  I appreciate hearing from you about this issue.
I understand you are concerned about the health of the American economy and our national debt.  I share these concerns.  Despite a balanced budget as recently as 2001, the budget deficit for the 2012 fiscal year was $1.1 trillion.  Two wars, unpaid-for tax cuts for the rich and other policies have put us on a path that is unsustainable.  In addition, the economic recession has triggered increased federal spending on social safety net programs such as unemployment insurance and food stamps, as well as decreased revenues as millions of Americans have been thrown out of work.
Economists agree the most significant factor in any Nation’s budget outlook is the strength of its economy.  Unfortunately, nearly 13.1 million people in the United States are unemployed, including 530,000  in Pennsylvania.  Therefore, we must continue efforts to boost job creation while simultaneously exercising greater fiscal responsibility.  It is critical that the 112th Congress works in a bipartisan fashion to reduce the deficit in a manner that does not hamper the economic recovery or place unfair burdens on hard-working Pennsylvania families.
As required by the Budget Control Act of 2011 enacted in August, leaders in both chambers appointed twelve members of Congress to the bipartisan Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction.  This committee was responsible for identifying $1.5 trillion in spending cuts by November 23, 2011, and failed to do so.  Since they failed to reach an agreement, automatic across-the-board spending cuts of at least $1.2 trillion will go into effect beginning in January 2013.  Generally, the spending reductions will be made equally from defense spending and from all other spending.
Cutting spending and reducing the deficit is vital to our long-term economic security.  It is also what families across Pennsylvania and across the country are doing in these hard fiscal times: making tough choices about what is important.  I have supported a trillion dollars in spending cuts, and I am disappointed that the members of the supercommittee could not come together to reach agreement to further cut spending and reduce the deficit.  
We need to move forward immediately to create jobs and grow the economy.  There was a welcome example of bipartisanship when a bill that I cosponsored to provide tax incentives for companies to hire unemployed veterans was signed into law in last November. The Senate also passed another bipartisan measure which I championed, that would crack down on China’s currency manipulation.  Bills like these are the kind of commonsense measures that we need to protect Pennsylvania’s workers, create jobs and get the economy back on track.  Congress should continue pass other job creation measures, like the effort I have been leading to pass legislation to provide tax incentives to companies to hire workers.
Again, thank you for sharing your thoughts with me.  Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future about this or any other matter of importance to you.
For more information on this or other issues, I encourage you to visit my website,  I hope you will find this online office a comprehensive resource to stay up-to-date on my work in Washington, request assistance from my office or share with me your thoughts on the issues that matter most to you and to Pennsylvania.
Bob Casey
United States Senator

Response from Sen. Casey #2

Dear Mr. Matthews:
Thank you for taking the time to contact me regarding proposed changes to military benefits.  I appreciate hearing from you about this issue.
I have the deepest respect and gratitude for American servicemembers and their contributions to our national security.  Our brave men and women make incredible sacrifices so that we may live in peace and safety here at home, and I believe strongly that the U.S. government should support our servicemembers even in times of fiscal restraint.  As your United States Senator, I have consistently advocated for fair compensation for American military personnel.  
In the past year, I have introduced, cosponsored and voted for a variety of legislation in support of our active and retired servicemembers and their families.
Helping Veterans Transition to Civilian Life
· S. 1104, the Veteran Transition Assistance Program Audit Act of 2011, which would improve the effectiveness of programs that provide job training, benefits and transitional services to veterans.
· S. 951, the Hiring Heroes Act of 2011, which would provide the job skills training that veterans and severely injured members of the Armed Forces need when entering the workforce.
· S. 1540, the Help Veterans Own Franchises Act, which would provide a business-related tax credit for a percentage of the fees incurred by a veteran for the purchase of a franchise.
· S. 411, the Helping Our Homeless Veterans Act of 2011, which would authorize the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to collaborate with state or local government agencies and nonprofit organizations to expand and improve housing services and related outreach for veterans.
· S. 745, a bill to protect certain veterans who would otherwise be subject to a reduction in educational assistance benefits.
Improving Mental and Physical Health Services for Servicemembers and Veterans
· S.AMDT. 1253, which would allow members of the reserve components to continue to receive pay, benefits and reintegration services such as physical and mental health evaluations following an extended deployment.
· S. Res. 202 and S. Res. 455, designating June 27, 2011, and June 27, 2012, respectively, as “National Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Awareness Day.”
· S. 1018, the Defense Sexual Trauma Response Oversight and Good Governance Act, which would increase the number of full-time Sexual Assault Response Coordinators and Victim Advocates within military units, provide for the inclusion of sexual assault prevention and response training in professional military education and first responder courses, and entitle all members of the Armed Forces and their dependents who are victims of sexual assault to legal assistance and confidentiality.
· S. 1798, the Open Burn Pit Registry Act of 2011, which would require the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to establish an open burn pit registry to ensure that all members of the Armed Forces who may have been exposed to toxic chemicals caused by open burn pits while deployed are able to obtain information regarding this exposure.
· S. 1629, the Agent Orange Equity Act of 2011, which would extend presumptive coverage for herbicide-related medical conditions to certain Vietnam veterans, called blue water veterans, who served up to 12 miles off shore.
Ensuring Fair Compensation for Servicemembers and Veterans
· S. 855, the Pay Our Troops Act, and S. 724, the Ensuring Pay for Our Military Act, both of which would guarantee that service members receive their pay and allowances in the event of a government shutdown.
· S. 344, the Retired Pay Restoration Act of 2011, which allows service-disabled veterans to collect both military retired pay and disability compensation.
· S. 260, a bill to repeal the requirement for reduction of survivor annuities under the Survivor Benefit Plan by veterans' dependency and indemnity compensation.
· S. 2112, the Space-Available Act of 2012, which authorizes transportation on military aircraft for active duty, reserve, and retired members of the Armed Forces and their dependents on a space-available basis.
Supporting Military Families
· S. 697, the Military Spouse Job Continuity Act of 2011, which would provide a tax credit to servicemembers’ spouses to ease the heavy burden placed on our military families when they are required to move across state lines.
· S. 842, the Military Spouse Employment Programs Evaluation Act, which would require the Department of Defense to report annually on the results of military spouse employment programs (became law as part of the NDAA for 2012).
Supporting the National Guard and Reserve Component
· S. 3354, the Transition Assistance Advisor Act, which would create a Transition Assistance Advisor program to assist members of the National Guard in each state in accessing benefits and health care, discovering employment and educational opportunities, and obtaining information on other services available to members of the National Guard and their families from federal, state, and local agencies;
· S. 866, the Reserve Retirement Deployment Credit Correction Act, which would allow servicemembers to collect retirement pay three months sooner than the sixty year eligibility age for each ninety days of active duty performed in two consecutive fiscal years.
· S. 1025, the National Guard Empowerment and State-National Defense Integration Act of  2011, which would promote the Chief of the National Guard Bureau to a position on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, enhance the National Guard’s capacity to prepare for and respond to domestic emergencies, and authorize funding for the State Partnership Program (became law as part of the NDAA for 2012).
Recognizing Veterans’ Service
· S. 1348, the Veterans Day Moment of Silence Act, which would direct the President to issue an annual proclamation calling on the people of the United States to observe two minutes of silence on Veterans Day in honor of the service and sacrifice of veterans throughout the history of the nation.
Finally, I have consistently voted in favor of pay raises for servicemembers.  For a compilation of resources available to servicemembers and veterans, please visit my website.
The Department of Defense (DOD) is under intense pressure to reduce its expenditures.  In January 2012, the DOD released a proposal to reduce future spending by $487 billion over the next decade, as required by the Budget Control Act of 2011.  This proposal includes general recommendations for changes to military personnel policies.  In February, the Obama Administration released its budget request for the 2013 fiscal year, which outlines specific proposals for changes to the military’s compensation, health care and retirement systems.  Although military compensation currently accounts for approximately one third of the DOD’s budget, the administration’s proposal would derive only about ten percent of the required spending cuts from  these programs.  The Administration’s budget request has not yet been debated through the appropriations process in the Senate.
Military Pay
The Department of Defense’s budget request does not propose pay cuts for military personnel.  In 2013 and 2014, the DOD proposes increases in basic pay of 1.7 percent per year, equivalent to the Employment Cost Index and similar to the expected growth of pay in the private sector.  In an effort to control costs, the rate of pay increases would decrease gradually beginning in January 2015.  The budget request also proposes that the basic allowance for housing (BAH) and the basic allowance for subsistence (BAS) be increased annually beginning in January 2013 based on a “by location” housing market analysis and a food cost index, respectively.  The average increases in 2013 are expected to be 4.2 percent for the BAH and 3.4 percent for the BAS.
Military Health Care
The military’s budget for health care for servicemembers, retirees and their dependents exceeded $50 billion in 2011, amounting to nearly ten percent of total defense spending.  This is partially attributable to the increase in eligible beneficiaries and the expansion of care over the past several years.  In addition, the amount that beneficiaries pay for Tricare has not kept pace with the costs of care, as healthcare costs in both the military and civilian sectors have increased more rapidly than overall inflation.  
In order to reduce the growth of military health care costs while maintaining benefits, the DOD has examined several changes to the military’s health care system.  According to the DOD, these proposed changes would not affect active-duty servicemembers or their families.  In addition, medically retired servicemembers and survivors of those who died on active duty would be exempted from all proposed changes.  
· Tricare: Under the proposed changes, military retirees under age 65 would pay additional enrollment fees to participate in the Tricare program.  The DOD has proposed a tiered approach to fees based on retired pay, under which senior-grade retirees would pay more than junior-grade retirees.  All retirees would continue to pay lower fees than comparable civilian equivalents.
· Tricare-For-Life: Military retirees ages 65 and older would pay a new enrollment fee to participate in the Tricare-for-Life program.  The same tiered approach proposed for Tricare would be used for Tricare-for-Life.  The resulting fees would be well below comparable civilian equivalents.
· Tricare Prescription Drug Plan: Tricare beneficiaries would be encouraged to use generic medications and mail-order prescription services through increased pharmacy co-pays.  
On May 24, 2012, the Senate Committee on Armed Services passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2013.  This bill does not authorize the establishment of enrollment fees for Tricare Standard or Tricare-for-Life.  Please be assured that I will have your concerns in mind when the NDAA comes before the full Senate for consideration.
Military Retirement
Rather than proposing specific changes to the military retirement system in its 2013 budget request, the DOD requests that Congress create a commission to conduct a comprehensive review of the military retirement system within the context of overall military compensation.  The proposed commission would determine whether there are cost-effective changes that should be made to the current military retirement system.  The DOD recommends that all current military personnel and veterans be grandfathered into the existing system — that is, any changes to retirement benefits would affect only future recruits.  
I am gravely concerned about any proposal that would reduce retirement compensation for our servicemembers.  Our servicemembers and their families make enormous sacrifices, and our Nation is committed to supporting them after they have completed their service.  The current military retirement system is also an important incentive for the recruitment and retention of servicemembers, and changes to this system may undermine the future of our Nation’s all-volunteer force.  For these reasons, in 2011 I sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, urging him not to undertake any detrimental changes or reductions in military retirement system.  I also wrote a Letter to the Editor of the New York Times, available here, emphasizing the sacrifices made by our servicemembers and their families and the importance of upholding our commitment to them.  
Based on the administration’s request, the current Senate version of the NDAA for FY 2013 bill would establish a Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission “to review elements of military compensation and retirement benefits to ensure the long-term viability of the All-Volunteer Force, enable a high quality of life for military families, and to modernize and achieve sustainability of the compensation and retirement systems, while grandfathering current service members and retirees.”  The bill is currently under consideration by the full Senate.
I understand that some of the proposed changes to military compensation, health care and retirement benefits would have a significant impact on our retired servicemembers and their families.  As your United States Senator, I believe strongly that we must not balance the budget on the backs of American servicemembers and their families.  As the Senate considers reductions in defense spending, I will work to identify areas in which spending can be reduced without compromising our national security or undermining our commitment to our servicemembers.  
Again, thank you for sharing your thoughts with me.  When the NDAA or other legislation regarding changes to military benefits comes before the full Senate for consideration, please be assured that I will have your concerns in mind.  Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future about this or any other matter of importance to you.
For more information on this or other issues, I encourage you to visit my website,  I hope you will find this online office a comprehensive resource to stay up-to-date on my work in Washington, request assistance from my office or share with me your thoughts on the issues that matter most to you and to Pennsylvania.
Bob Casey
United States Senator

Response from Sen. Casey #1

Dear Mr. Matthews:
Thank you for taking the time to contact me about abortion.  I appreciate hearing from you about this issue.
As you know, I was elected to the United States Senate as a pro-life candidate.  I believe that life begins at conception, and that the role of government is to protect, enrich and value life for everyone, at every moment, from beginning to end.  These principles guide my actions as a public official.  I will work in the Senate toward the goal of reducing the number of abortions by targeting the underlying factors that often lead women to have abortions.  I will also continue to work within my party to ensure that both political parties are welcoming and open to such initiatives.
We cannot say we are pro-life without providing support to women who choose to carry their pregnancies to term.  That is why I was proud to reintroduce the Pregnant Women Support Act on May 13, 2009.  Many women who face an unplanned pregnancy do so with little or no support.  Under such circumstances, the decision to continue a pregnancy can seem overwhelming.  The Pregnant Women Support Act offers common ground on how we can reduce abortions by offering pregnant women real and genuine alternatives.  More than anything, this bill is about helping women who are pregnant.  It provides pregnant women more information, better medical care and stronger support during their pregnancies.  It strengthens existing programs and adds new ones that support both mother and child after the baby is born.
I am pleased that all the major provisions of the Pregnant Women Support Act were included in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the health care reform bill that became law on March 23, 2010.  Please be assured that I will continue to advocate for resources and support for pregnant and parenting teens and young women.
Again, thank you for sharing your thoughts with me.  Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future about this or any other matter of importance to you.
For more information on this or other issues, I encourage you to visit my website,  I hope you will find this online office a comprehensive resource to stay up-to-date on my work in Washington, request assistance from my office or share with me your thoughts on the issues that matter most to you and to Pennsylvania..
Bob Casey
United States Senator

December 03, 2012

Bic Flex 3

Another two months has gone by since I purchased the BIC Flex 3 razor. My expectations were pretty much the same as the Bic Flex 4 only with one blade less. I had a coupon so the cost for 6 razors was about $0.50 a piece. Not a bad deal, but how does it compare?

Like the Flex 4, the Flex 3 is an okay razor, especially for $0.50 a piece. It gave an acceptable shave for about 2 weeks, but by week 3 I could tell the blade was getting dull. I don't think it cut quite as good as the Flex 4, but very close to it.

The head is large and easy to clean out debris, but it also makes it more difficult to shave some areas.

I can say that I liked the Gillette 3 series better. They shave a little closer and are easier to maneuver in those tight areas.

However, due to the price I would rate this razor about 87%. It ranks up there with the Mach 3 Turbo (3 blade) and the Fusion Proglide (5 blade). However, with a coupon and on sale, the cost is much lower for the Bic Flex 3. I have 4 left and will be using them again in the future, however, I will probably change them out every 2 weeks.

Until the next time, the adventure continues.

November 13, 2012

Letter to Senator Casey

Dear Senator Casey:

Congratulations on your recent election victory.

Some of the pressing items we are facing today are: elevated levels of unemployment, unprecedented debt levels, the breakdown of the family structure, threats from other countries, destroying our future by aborting our children, dramatic rise in government assistance, drastic cost increases with healthcare, burdensome taxes and many more items that will eventually lead to the downfall of America as we know it if left unchecked.

Here are some ideas to help redirect the country:

1. Our family structure is dissolving. Historically, this has led to the downfall of many countries. We need to defend and support marriage between one man and one women. We need to stop destroying our future generation by using abortion as a form of birth control.

2. Our government spending is out of control. Many people, mostly from the Democratic party, do not believe we have a spending problem, rather we have a revenue problem. They believe the wealthy are not paying their fair share of taxes. One of the quickest and easiest ways to generate revenue and raise taxes on the wealthy is to remove the cap on social security wages. Why stop the social security tax at $110,100? Remove the cap and the wealthy will have higher taxes and this will also help secure social security for years to come. We don't need national health insurance, but we do need affordable health care. People need to take responsibility for their actions. People should not be given handouts, they should be given incentives to get back to work. They should be trained to do a job, rather than given money to sit at home, watch television, smoke cigarettes, and drink beer.

3. We need to protect our nation from other countries. We need to secure our borders. We need to pay attention and act upon any information about threats that we receive. We also need to continue to support our military, not just while they are deployed, but when they return as well. We need to truly be "one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

November 12, 2012

Letter to the President

Dear Mr. President:

Congratulations on your recent election victory. As I am sure you are aware, even though you can't publicly admit it, the state of our union is not good.

Some of the pressing items we are facing today are: elevated levels of unemployment, unprecedented debt levels, the breakdown of the family structure, threats from other countries, destroying our future by aborting our children, dramatic rise in government assistance, drastic cost increases with healthcare, burdensome taxes and many more items that will eventually lead to the downfall of America as we know it if left unchecked.

Now is the time to make a change. Now is the time to step up and be the leader that brings America back on track to independence and prosperity. Don't push the blame onto others, you are the President, you are the leader of what I and many others believe to be the greatest nation on this planet.

Here are some ideas to help redirect the country:

1. Our family structure is dissolving. Historically, this has led to the downfall of many nations. We need to defend and support marriage between one man and one women. We need to stop destroying our future generation by using abortion as a form of birth control.

2. Our government spending is out of control. You have said that we have a revenue problem, not a spending problem. You have said you want to increase taxes on the wealthy. One of the quickest and easiest ways to do this is to remove the cap on social security wages. Why stop the social security tax at $110,100? Remove the cap and the wealthy will have higher taxes and this will also help secure social security for years to come. We don't need national health insurance, but we do need affordable health care. People need to take responsibility for their actions. People should not be given handouts, they should be given incentives to get back to work. They should be trained to do a job, rather than given money to sit at home, watch television, smoke cigarettes, and drink beer.

3. We need to protect our nation from other countries. We need to secure our borders. We need to pay attention and act upon any information about threats that we receive. We also need to continue to support our military, not just while they are deployed, but when they return as well. We need to truly be "one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

November 09, 2012

Book Review

Meet Those Who Met the Master by Wendell E. Mettey

This is an interesting concept for a book. A book based upon Scripture, but with some of the blanks carefully filled in to provide the reader with a more complete picture of the character. I must say, however, the book was not what I was expecting. I was expecting more of a flowing story, similar to "The Greatest Story Ever Told" by Fulton Oursler. That is not what this book contains.

Instead I found a bunch of smaller, individual stories about the people who met Jesus. The author wrote the stories in a first person narrative and in my opinion did a good job filling in the blanks and creating the story for each character.

Overall, I think it is a good book to read and add to your collection. I believe it would provide an excellent bible discussion/study for children and would translate well into brief skits for children or adults. I also enjoyed the drawing of the character at the beginning of each chapter. Knowing that the drawings are based on people and not just an artist's imagination helped bring the story to life for me.

November 08, 2012

Book Review

Fearless: The Undaunted Courage and Ultimate Sacrifice of Navy SEAL Team SIX Operator Adam Brown by Eric Blehm

This book is about the life of Adam Brown. The author touches each aspect of his life, from his troubled younger days to his resolve to be the best husband, father, and SEAL possible.

The author doesn't push any agenda with this book. It is simply the story of Adam Brown as told by the people who knew him best.

Anyone looking for an interesting story should consider looking at this book. From the title of the book you can probably figure out what happens to Brown, but it is the encouraging journey along the way that should be motivating to anyone reading.

October 08, 2012

Book Review

Surviving in an Angry World by Charles Stanley

The goal of this book is to help people deal with anger. This includes their own anger as well as anger from others that is directed toward them. The book goes beyond helping people merely survive in an angry world and encourages them to live as peaceably a life as possible.

The book essentially answers the question of "How should we deal with anger in ourselves and respond to it in others?"

Stanley does a good job of answering that question based upon biblical values. In my opinion, he does not use enough Scripture to support his statements, rather he relies on personal stories instead.

While I agree with most of the author's ideas and suggestions, I was hoping for more examples from Scripture and less stories from Stanley's life.

Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone (christian or non-christian) who is struggling with their anger or with ways of responding to others anger.

October 01, 2012

Gillette Custom Plus 3 Sensitive

Continuing my quest for the best shave, I tested out the Gillette Custom Plus 3 Sensitive disposable razor for the past two months. I really could have stopped after only one month because it is the same as the Sensor 3 disposable razor from Gillette.

I decided to contact Gillette to find out what the difference is between the Custom Plus 3 and the Sensor 3. I also asked if they would fit on the Sensor handle. Here is the response:

"Thank you for contacting Gillette.

The only difference between they are two different products and the Sensor3 Sensitive Skin disposable razor has more lubrication on the lubrastrip. These systems are disposable and they do not fit on to any of our permanent razor systems.

I hope this helps."

I think I failed to mention in my original email that the Custom Plus 3 was also the "sensitive" model. So, therefore, there is no difference between the Custom Plus 3 and the Sensor 3, except of course for the price. The Custom Plus 3 are a little cheaper than the Sensor 3, about $.05 per razor. Not a significant difference.

Also, even though the Gillette representative states the razors do not fit on to any of their permanent razor systems, she is wrong. They both fit nicely onto the Sensor handle.

I stocked up when Gillette had a few $2.00 off coupons so I will be good for a while, but up next are some BIC Flex 3 that I picked up for about $0.50 a razor. I will report back in two months after the testing is completed.

September 10, 2012

Thru the Bible with Dr. J Vernon McGee

I finished listening to Dr. J. Vernon McGee's five year thru the bible radio program last week.

The format of the program is simply McGee talking about, explaining, and giving his thoughts about the entire bible. This program is an expansion of his two year thru the bible radio program.

I started the program with Genesis 1 and went the entire way to Revelation 22. This is not how they air on the radio. At first, I found Mcgee's comments interesting and often times insightful. However, by the end o the program I found him to be rather annoying.

He seemed to tell the same stories/illustrations over and over again. I also found his pronunciation of several words annoying as well. For example, the word humble. Most people pronounce it with the 'h' as in hum-bull, but it is also acceptable to leave the 'h' silent and pronounce it um-bull. But not Dr. McGee, he liked to emphasize the silent 'h' so it sounded more like uuuummm-bull. After a while it became annoying.

Another aspect I found annoying was his constant mention that he uses his translation for many portions of Scripture, but he doesn't recommend it for others to use. It was as if his ego was creeping out each time he mentioned his translation.

When explaining certain verses he would often times say something like "many fine scholars believe it means this ..., but here is what it really means ... so you can go along with the other folk, but if you want to be right then you'll agree with me." I am sure he meant this to be humorous, but it just didn't work for him. In fact, he attempted to use humor throughout the five year program, but in my opinion in never really worked for him.

Overall, I would recommend skipping this program, simply because it wasn't very insightful. There are many other better programs to listen to. If however, you are just studying a book or passage, then you may want to listen to what McGee has to say.

McGee probably has about two years worth of material in this five year program. The rest is just banter and him blathering on about nothing in particular. This is just my opinion though.

September 07, 2012

Book Review

The New Testament - Recovery Version by Living Stream Ministry

I finished reading the New Testament Recovery version this past weekend. This version is a translation by Witness Lee and others that "attempts to provide the best utterance for the revelation in the divine Word, that it may be expressed in the English language with the greatest accuracy."

This bible contains the entire New Testament along with cross references and footnotes for many verses. Here is John 3:16: "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that everyone who believes into Him would not perish, but would have eternal life."

Overall, this is an acceptable translation. However, I didn't always agree with the explanation of the Scripture in the footnotes. In fact, sometimes, I didn't think a footnote was even needed and actually made the Scripture more confusing. Also, the print of this bible was very small and challenging to read. That being said, I would probably not recommend this version to others.

July 30, 2012

Book Review

He Still Moves Stones bu Max Lucado

This is an inspirational book by Max Lucado that includes about 20 different life events that people typically have to deal with. Some of the topics are: shame, discouragement, growing old, wondering if prayer matters, wondering if God cares, and understanding death.

Each chapter is devoted to a particular topic. Lucado uses Scripture and personal antidotes to demonstrate his points and lessons.

This is the type of book you read to know what in it. Then you put it on your shelf and refer to it throughout your life as you encounter the particular situations.

Overall, I recommend this book not only to read, but to make it a permanent part of your library to refer to when the situation arises.

July 06, 2012

Anonymous Comments

Years ago I had open comments on this blog. However, I started to receive some nonsensical comments so I felt I had to approve each comment before posting to the website. I have always posted comments if they are related to the topical discussion.

I frequently get nonsense comments or comments that seem legit, but are really just advertising their website.

For example, here is the comment I received yesterday on my Amish Miracle Heater post.

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Amish Miracle Heater!": 

Write more, thats all I have to say. Literally, it 
seems as though you relied on the video to make your point.
You obviously know what youre talking about, why throw away 
your intelligence on just posting videos to your site 
when you could be giving us something enlightening to read?
my site - find out more 

The poster likes my writing? I am wasting my intelligence with videos on my site.... wait a minute I don't have any videos on my site! Then the poster adds a link to his site (which I removed).

I followed the link to his site and it is just selling strollers. No place for me to add my comment, so I thought I would send them my interest in a stroller.

Here is my message to them:

I am interested in a stroller that I can connect to the back of my tractor, so I when I have to baby sit I can always cut the grass at the same time or in the winter plow snow.

I also like to ride 4wheelers so the stroller would also need to attach to the 4wheeler hitch. I would prefer the stroller to have large wheels since I often need to drive through deep mud. A camouflage design would also be nice for hunting season. It would also be nice to have the ability to store a cooler that holds a six pack of beer.

Do you know where I can get a stroller like this?

June 04, 2012

Book review

John MacArthur: Servant of the Word and Flock by Iain H. Murray

This was a good attempt at summarizing John MacArthur's life. It touched on the major events, episodes, successes, and controversies during his life and ministry. However, it wasn't enough for me. Each topic, each chapter left me wanting more details about the events. Murray even writes in the forward that his book is "little more than a 'sketch'" of MacArthur's life.

The most reoccurring theme throughout the book is the fact that MacArthur tries to live what he preaches and teaches.

I believe this to be true and have enjoyed reading and listening to MacArthur for many years and I have definitely benefited from his ministry. However, it would have been nice to see a picture of his home, or car, or how much he really makes. To me, this shows what a person is really like.

I have heard MacArthur state that he makes no money from Grace to You (GTY), yet on GTY's IRS form 990, he is listed as making over $200,000 for the fiscal year 2011. GTY also pays for his first class or business class airfare. Digging further into the form 990 you find that MacArthur's son in law has a sizable contract with GTY. And, of course, MacArthur's sons are members of the GTY board.

I am not saying that MacArthur doesn't deserve these things or is even abusing his position,  I am just curious about the reconciliation of the Gospel preaching and teaching to the Gospel living on a daily basis.

Overall, a good read for anyone interested in the life and teaching of John MacArthur.

May 28, 2012

Book Review

Glock: The Rise of America's Gun by Paul Barrett

This book gives a nice overview of the history of the Glock gun and company, focusing mainly on it's popularity and controversy in the United States of America. To be honest, I expected the book to be an anti-gun, Glock bashing, liberal written book.

I was surprised to find out it wasn't quite as bad as I thought. Sure, the author bashes the NRA, Republicans, and even pokes fun at Sarah Palin if you can believe that, but overall the author did an okay job at describing the rise of Gaston Glock and his gun in America.

I was unaware of the history of Glock and this book really put it into perspective. Glock was sneaky and ruthless, but made some prudent moves to capitalize the market. At times, I think he just happened to be in the right place and the right time as well.

By the end of the book you can clearly see the authors left-winged approach. It is strange though, that several presidents were mentioned in detail about their attitude and actions toward guns, either pro or anti. However, only one sentence in the book mentioned President Obama. It simply alluded to the fact that Obama didn't seem to be interested in jumping on the anti-gun agenda. Hmmm.

Overall, I recommend this book for anyone interested in learning about how the Glock came to be.

May 25, 2012

Book Review

6 Rules Every Man Must Break by Bill Perkins

After reading another book by Perkins, (Six Battles Every Man Must Win) I wasn't too excited to read this book. While I disagreed with much of the material and conclusions of the Six Battles book, I found myself agreeing with most of what Perkins wrote about breaking these six rules.

The six rules are:
Passivity - never get into a fight
Playing it safe - never risk it all
Perseverance - never give up
Independence - never ask for help
Restraint - never lose your cool
Impress others - never look stupid

These are indeed many rules or ideas that people, especially men, try to live by. However, these are "rules" that people should break and the author uses Scripture to demonstrate his point.

Overall, this was a good book and is a quick read at only around 130 pages. I especially recommend it to those people who try to live by the six rules.

May 03, 2012

Gillette Sensor 3 Sensitive

Continuing my quest for the perfect shave, I picked up a pack of 4 Gillette Sensor 3 Sensitive disposable razors from Wal*Mart. I had a $2 off coupon so the razors were about $1 a piece, without a coupon they would be around $1.50 a piece.

For the past two months I have been running it through my rigorous testing methods. I know many people are not fans of Gillette. They think the razors are over priced and don't cut well. I must say, however, that I find Gillette to make some of the best razors that I have come across. The Sensor 3 Sensitive compliments the product line.

The shave was very close and smooth. I didn't cut myself with the razor at all. It wasn't painful when applying aftershave either. The sensitive strip was still going strong at the end of each month. The shave was very similar to the Mach 3. However, the Sensor 3 was able to get closer to the nose on my upper lip. I have always found that to be a problem with the Mach 3.

Another nice feature of the Sensor 3 is the fact that you can pop off the blade and install it on the Sensor handle if you don't like the lighter weight plastic handle of the disposable razor.

I find it interesting that these razors cost about $1.50 a piece for the blade attached to a cheap handle. If you purchase the Sensor 3 cartridges for the Sensor handle they cost about $2.50 a piece. When you buy the cartridges you are actually paying MORE for LESS!

I will give this razor my highest rating yet, a 95%. It shaves as well as the Mach 3 but at a lower cost. Plus if you don't like the handle you can place the blade on your Sensor handle.

I have a few more Mach 3 and BIC Flex 4 razors to use at home, but once those are gone I will be purchasing the Sensor 3 disposables for regular usage. They seem to be the best shave for the buck for me so far, but I am always looking for new options to try out.

Next month I will use the razor attached to my Sensor handle to see if it makes any difference.

May 01, 2012

Family Radio Letter #2

As my regular readers here are aware, I recently sent Family Radio a letter recommending the removal of Harold Camping from the organization. While I didn't receive a response to that letter, I did receive another letter from Harold Camping.

Apparently, Camping felt the need to send another letter out to further clarify that they (he) was only wrong in his teaching about the exact date of Christ's return and the end of the world. Of course, he is still right about everything else he teaches.

In particular, Camping teaches that Christians are not to belong, attend, or associate with a Church. He has proven that the church age is over and God no longer uses the Church for his purposes and if fact the Church is actually under the judgment of God.

Here is a quote from his most recent letter.
"From evidence we have learned from the Bible, we remain convicted that God has finished using the churches as the earthly representatives of the Kingdom of God, and they remain under His judgment. Therefore, we do not encourage anyone to become part of a local congregation."

Once again, Family Radio sent a postage paid envelope along with a support card to return with your check or credit card number. No thanks Mr. Camping. I think I'll keep my money going to the local Church!

April 19, 2012

2008 Suzuki SX4 Cabin Air Filter

I have never changed a cabin air filter on any vehicle I have owned. I figured it was just a gimmick and waste of money. However, while I was ordering the spark plugs from amazon, I decided to throw in the cabin air filter as well.

Materials Needed:
Cabin Filter (FRAM CF10559) $15

The cabin filter is located behind the glove box. Remove the connector on the right side of the glove box. Squeeze in the sides of the glove box so the glove box will hang down, giving you access to the cabin filter.

Remove the old filter and install the new filter. Press the glove box back into place. Reattach the connector on the right side of the glove box.


Here is a picture of the old cabin air filter!

April 18, 2012

2008 Suzuki SX4 Change Transfer Case Oil

Change Transfer Case Oil

This operation was a little more challenging to do, only because of the location of the transfer case.

Tools needed:
Socket Wrench
80w90 Oil - 1 Qt
Empty container
Hand pump for gear oil

The transfer case is located at the back of the engine. Picture your radio but only underneath the car and that is where the drain/fill plugs are at.

The easiest way to get at the drain/fill plugs is to jack up the front of the car. Use the socket wrench (just the wrench, no socket is needed) to loosen the fill plug (top plug). It is at an awkward angle, so you need to make sure you can loosen it before you drain it.

Once the fill plug is loose, remove the drain plug (bottom plug). While the oil is draining into your empty container, clean the drain plug and prepare the new oil to be pumped or squirted into the fill plug. When the oil is done draining, reinstall the drain plug.

I have found using a hand pump to squirt the gear oil into the transfer case was the easiest method. Keep adding gear oil until it drips out of the fill plug. Reinstall the fill plug. Remove the jacks from the car and clean up. Done!

April 17, 2012

2008 Suzuki SX4 Spark Plugs

Changing the Spark plugs on this car was the easiest I have ever done!

Materials Needed:
4 Spark Plugs (NGK (7418) IFR5J11 Laser Iridium Spark Plug) about $10 a piece
Socket set with Spark Plug Socket and extension (a deep well socket may be needed)

Unclip the air filter canister. Remove the front two screws holding the air cover that sits on top of the engine. The back simply pulls out of a slot, but it does take some force. Remove the air hoses as needed. I was able to simply remove the front one that just slides on without a hose clamp.

Remove the Spark plug ignition coil with the socket set. You don't need to disconnect the wiring, just remove it from the spark plug. Remove the spark plug with a spark plug socket. Carefully, insert the new spark plug. You made need to tighten the spark plug a few turns with the spark plug socket, then switch to a deep well socket.

Reinstall the spark plug ignition coil. Reinstall the air cover and air filter canister.

Start up the car and if no problems, then you are good for another 60,000 miles!

April 16, 2012

Fuzzy Math

I read an article title "AOL Unplugs 10,000 Servers, Saves $5 Million."Take a minute and read the article for yourself, it is interesting. AOL won a contest by making these cuts.

Okay, so you didn't read the article, but you would expect from the title to learn that AOL got rid of 10,000 servers and saved $5 Million, right?

Now, lets look at the facts!

"AOL decommissioned 9,484 servers last year." To me 9,484 rounds up to 9,500, not 10,000, but whatever, I'll give them that one. It isn't a big deal.

"It's savings included $1.65 million in energy bills, $2.2 million in OS licenses and $62,000 in hardware maintenance costs." Great, I'll go along with these savings, for now.

The article continues and states that AOL also sold or recycled the servers for $1.2 million. Unplugging all of these servers will also lower the carbon emissions by 20 tons. The $1.2 million is for sure a number that is accountable, the 20 tons of carbon emissions, who knows, whatever.

Finally, at the end of the article is the following sentence, "AOL bought new hardware to replace most of the decommissioned servers, so it cut its server count by only 1,000."

Whoa, wait a minute, what are they doing here.

So they got rid of 9,484 servers, then bought about another 8,484. I assume these servers use electricity so they didn't lower their electric bill by $1.65 million. I also assume these servers have operating systems on them so they didn't lower their OS licenses by $2.2 million. I would imagine that their carbon emissions were not really reduced by 20 tons either then. Especially, if they resold some of those servers and other companies are using them.

Let's also assume that each server purchased cost $5,000 (this is a very low number, the actual cost is probably closer to $10,000 or more). So $5,000 times 8,484 equals $42,420,000.

Ding, ding, ding. We have a winner. AOL spent at least $42 million to save way less than $5 million! Good job guys, give the CEO a bonus! And they won the contest at the Uptime Institute as well. Unreal.

April 13, 2012

2008 Suzuki SX4 Coolant Change

To change the coolant is pretty easy to do yourself. Notice I said CHANGE not FLUSH. I realize this is not the "proper" procedure as a garage would do it, this is simply how I have done it and it has worked for me and my cars.

Materials Needed:
2 gallons of coolant
Socket Set or wrench
Empty containers large enough to catch at least 5 gallons

Make sure the engine is cool.

Crawl under the front of the car and unscrew the radiator drain plug, you may need the pliers to loosen the drain plug. Have your empty containers at your side to catch the coolant as it pours out.

Loosen the radiator cap and the coolant should flow more rapidly. While that is draining, remove the three screws holding the coolant overflow container in place. Empty the container and clean it with water as needed.

When the radiator is empty pour water into the fill cap and continue pouring water through it until it is draining clear into your container. I used about 3 gallons of water.

Reinstall the drain plug in the bottom of the radiator. Reinstall the coolant overflow container. Fill the radiator with coolant. I used Prestone's 50/50 mix, which was about $10 a gallon at Wal*Mart. Also, add coolant to the coolant overflow container full level.

Done, well not yet. After your first trip in the car, check the coolant level again and add coolant as needed. Always, make sure the engine is cool before opening the radiator cap. Keep checking the fluid level and add as needed after each trip.

Hopefully this helps someone.

April 12, 2012

2008 Suzuki SX4 60,000 Mile Maintenance

The 08 Suzuki SX4 finally hit the 60,000 mile mark, so it was time to do some maintenance.

Oil/Filter Change
Coolant Change
Tire Rotation
Check Rear Differential oil
Change Transfer Case oil
Change spark plugs
A/C Cabin Filter

Over the years I have posted the procedure to change the oil/filter and the rear differential oil, I will attempt to give and update on the rest of the procedures in my free time in the coming weeks.

April 03, 2012

Gas Prices

3/29/12 - Tied for the highest gas prices ever paid.

$3.99 per gallon on 5/4/11 and 3/29/12.

On 5/4/11 I actually paid $3.99 per gallon. On 3/29/12, I only paid $3.96 per gallon due to the Sheetz discount card.

March 27, 2012

Letter to Family Radio

On Saturday I received a letter in the mail from Family Radio Stations, Inc. This is a radio Gospel ministry. I haven't received anything from them in many years, so I was curious to open the envelope and see what wonderful news that had for me!

For those of you that are not familiar with Family Radio, Harold Camping is the founder and President of the organization. He is the same person that predicted the return of Christ in May 2011 and the end of the world in October 2011. As we knew then and has been proven since then, he was wrong.

I opened and read the letter which basically says, we (meaning Family Radio) was wrong. You can read the letter online here. In the letter they admitted they were wrong and sinning with their actions. To me the point of the letter was "Yeah, we messed up, but look at all the attention the Gospel got, so send us some money."

I was simply going to pitch the letter, but then I saw there was a postage paid return envelope. So I figured I would write my own letter to Harold Camping and the Family Radio staff. Here is what I wrote to them:

March 27, 2012
Dear Mr. Camping and the Staff at Family Radio:

I received your letter the mail last week and I want to take this opportunity to tell you my story and involvement with Family Radio.

I don’t remember how I came across the radio station out of Johnstown, PA, but I did. I started listening to the good old Gospel Hymns. Then on my way to work I would catch the “Walk with the King” broadcast, with Dr. Robert A. Cook. I really enjoyed listening to his stories and explanations of the Gospel. I have even read a few of his books.

From there, I started to listen to other programs, but then I noticed some started to disappear for some reason, like the teaching of Dr. Laterbach (not sure of the spelling). Then I started to listen to Harold Camping’s Open Forum. I was amazed at how well he knew his Bible, or so I thought.

In fact, I even enrolled in the Family Radio School of the Bible and completed about 10 courses. As I progressed in my course work though, I found that the instructors were not grading me on what I knew or what I thought about topics. They simply wanted me to spit out and regurgitate the information that they presented.

Finally, I got frustrated and gave up the course work and school because I wasn’t really learning anything and I didn’t agree with all of the material. At the same time I continued to listen to the Open Forum and found that often times Harold Camping would rudely interrupt the callers and even cut them off.

I felt that was not Christ-like and found that Harold Camping was really letting his ego get to him. I finally quit listening to him when he started spouting the nonsense about how he knew the exact time of Christ’s return. I have not listened to Family Radio since then.

I was glad in your letter that you called this error what it is, sin. However, I don’t believe that everyone at Family Radio blindly followed Harold Camping’s sinful error.

The only way to restore the public trust of Family Radio is to remove Harold Camping from the Presidency and Family Radio in a teaching capacity. He teaches his listeners and followers not what the bible says, but what he THINKS the bible says. This has been proven several times over the years.

I hope you will consider what I have wrote here today to help further your mission to “proclaim the TRUE Gospel to all nations around the world and ACCURATLY teach the Gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.”

God’s best to you,

Wesley J. Matthews

February 27, 2012

Letter to Money Magazine

Below is a letter to the editor of Money magazine regarding an article in their March 2012 issue.

I disagree with Andrew Lo's theory that buy and hold doesn't work anymore [Game Changers, March 2012]. In fact, from the article it sounded like he doesn't even agree with himself! From what I read, the person that doesn't buy and hold may actually end up doing worse because they sell at the wrong time. His advice is to buy a variety of mutual funds. This still sounds like the old buy and hold with diversification strategy that has worked so well for so many years.

January 03, 2012

Book Review

Grace for Today: Daily Readings from the Life of Christ - Volume 2 by John MacArthur

This is an excellent daily devotional reading from John MacArthur. This is volume 2 of 3. This volume focuses on the life of Christ mainly from the Gospel of Matthew, but pays particular attention to the later portion of Christ's ministry.

MacArthur may spend several days on a particular passage of scripture. Each devotion ends with some thought provoking questions.

I highly recommend this series of daily devotionals to anyone looking to get a deeper look at the life of Christ.