Nation Addicted to Credit

I’m not sure what the numbers are for individuals, but the United States Government is addicted to credit. Sadly, this isn’t a new thing and will probably not be addressed by either political party since it is not popular. It could be made very clear, but the media masks the details in hyperbole. The Rs want more defense and the Ds want more welfare (that’s a gross oversimplification).

Here are the deficit numbers for the past 10 year (includes both presidents Bush and Obama) (FY = Fiscal Year):

FY 2015: $564 billion
FY 2014: $483 billion
FY 2013: $680 billion
FY 2012: $1,087 billion
FY 2011: $1,300 billion
FY 2010: $1,294 billion
FY 2009: $1,413 billion
FY 2008: $458 billion
FY 2007: $161 billion
FY 2006: $248 billion
FY 2005: $318 billion

Keep in mind, those are the deficits! This is how much more we spend than what we take in as revenue each year. The overall debt is much higher. It’s absolutely insane to keep this up.

One of the big issues (in my opinion) is that we aren’t directly impacted by these numbers. I think that the public would demand changes if they really felt the pain of additional spending in the weekly pay checks. My suggestion is that we go with a lower flat tax with a minimum income level before it starts (something like the homestead exemption in property taxes). Whatever we need in addition to that amount of revenue to fully fund the government would be raised through a federal sales tax (or VAT). I hate additional taxes, but I hate these deficits even more. It’s only when people are directly impacted will they rethink the level of spending in both welfare and defense.

Tough times call for tough measures and it’s time that we start to change the way Washington operates. Of course, I’ll probably go to my grave saying that (not literally… unless they bury me alive in which case I’ll go to my grave yelling that I’m still alive… but I digress). Until then, I’m skeptical of all politicians regardless of their political party.

Too Connected

I had a very disturbing experience going into a Starbucks for a cup of coffee the other day. As I walked in the door, I was greeted by a line of 20 or so people waiting to order their morning cup. Without fail (as far as I could see), everyone had their cell phone out and stuck in their face. You could see them shuffling around trying not to bump into each other, but they wouldn’t look up from their devices. Ahh, the modern coffee shop. Starbucks really has their dedicated patrons trained with their app though, so can you really blame them?

It seems that the “connected” trend is growing ever stronger as Google is releasing their glasses and Samsung, LG, Apple and many others are releasing watches that allow you to stay connected without pulling your phone out of your pocket (like it ever makes it into your pocket). Also, what’s up with people holding their phone horizontally (not vertically) in front of their face while driving. It just looks weird. What’s wrong with putting it up beside your head or even better, using a headset (or even speakerphone). I suppose the microphone must be really poor quality.

I’ve just found myself retreating from my smartphone use. Perhaps it’s just a getting old thing. I just can’t imagine having my brain active every waking hour checking the news and waiting for the next text message (not that I get many) in the corner of my eye. It’s enough to make sure that my phone gets charged, but I’m not sure I can stand the pressure of keeping my watch, glasses, book, etc. charged each day let alone throughout the day. As a society that is already extremely self saturated, I wonder what the long-term effects of these new habits will mean. Not sure there is anyway to accurately guess what it might mean in 10-20 years from now. You can bet that electronics manufacturers will continue to offer more and more connectivity going forward as previous generation devices saturate.

It’s times like these that I really appreciate the hour or so that I spent walking, running or cycling outside. There’s absolutely nothing inherently wrong with the electronics, but I think we are hitting a saturation point.

Happy Birthday Hayden

When I look around our dinner table, I’m amazed at how quickly the kids have grown. Hayden has been right there turning into an adult right before our eyes. He hit fourteen today and he’s got that lower voice to go along with it.

Recently he’s been helping out with the Audio/Visual station at church which has been good experience for him. He’s always helping out around the house as well. Not one to procrastinate, he’s been way ahead on his reading for school. Anytime we take a road  trip, he brings a book or two (or three) and reads them to get ahead. Many times I’ll see him working on the next day’s school work the night before. I’m so thankful for what a wonderful guy that he is.

Love you Hayden.

A Chance to Test the Xbox One

As I’ve mentioned in other posts, I haven’t gotten a lot of use out of our Xbox One. I have used it for workouts and it’s been a very capable media and Blue-ray player, but none of the current games (that weren’t available on the PC) have enticed me. That changed with the release of Destiny. Destiny is created by Bungie, the studio that brought us the Halo series of games. They are back with a game that includes a lot of the mechanics of Halo with additional features that make it also resemble a MMO (massively multiplayer online game).

Typically you have FPSs (first person shooters) that include a story component as well as a player versus player (PVP) or cooperative (PVE) multiplayer component. Destiny includes these components as expected. On top of this, they add a character building component typically associated with MMOs or RPGs. In Destiny you pick a class (or type) of character each with different styles of play and special powers. As you level up your character, you gain access to new powers and new gear. The gear includes weapons (3 different classes) and armor (head, arms, chest and legs). You also gain access to additional visual upgrades as well. Basically, you build a totally unique character.

Destiny is available for multiple platforms, so what makes the Xbox One unique? The first thing that I noticed were the amazing visuals (shared with the PS4). The second thing amazed me was saying “Xbox Record That” after killing my first big boss. Later on while checking the Xbox One app on my WP device, I was able to watch the 30 second clip. On the Xbox One, it keeps a 30 second cache of everything that’s going on so that you can always records something great in game. Not only that, but you can easily edit and access it from anywhere. You can also jump to another app than then quickly jump back into the action when you are ready. Overall, I’m enjoying the new game and I’m looking forward to all of the additional content that will be coming out for the game over the next couple years. The Xbox platform itself just keeps getting better as well and I’m now at the point that I would prefer the “next gen” over the 360.

Back From A Great Vacation

Our vacation this year was actually relaxing. I know that sounds a little crazy, but it seems that most of our vacations are so packed that by the time it is over, I’m just thankful to get back home where I can get some rest. This year we put together a visit to the Disney World parks with a four day Disney cruise to the Bahamas on the Disney Dream cruise liner. We were joined by Connie’s sister Tammy and her husband Clarence (they vacationed with use a couple years ago and it went wonderfully).

It’s hard to believe just how much stuff that we did over a weeks time, but the trip was fabulous! We had planned the cruise and voted to spend at least one day at the Magic Kingdom to ride a few rides. We ended up arriving at Disney World and stayed two nights at the Art of Animation Resort. This is one of the lower cost resorts, but still the room was fine and the grounds were awesome as usual. The first half day, we went to the Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. It’s very similar to Mickey’s Christmas Party, but with a Halloween theme (admittedly a little early). What an amazing fireworks and light show around the castle. The next day we had a full day at the parks. The girls stayed at Magic Kingdom (shopping and riding less aggressive rides), but I sprang for park hopper upgrades for the boys and I and we visited Epcot and Hollywood Studios to hit some of the big rides with their uncle (who did the worst of the rides with them). We then met for dinner at The Beast’s Castle in the new section of Magic Kingdom (the rose from the castle in the photos). The rain held off the entire day, which was great. Very nice temps.

On Sunday we boarded the Disney Dream (one of the two largest of the four Disney ships). We had two adjoining rooms on deck 8 each with a veranda. The verandas also connected on the outside of the rooms. The ship itself was amazing. It’s only been out for a couple years since it first launched and it was fresh and clean. With two full theaters inside the ship and another massive screen on the top by the pool, there was plenty of space for live shows and Disney movies (even first run movies like Guardians of the Galaxy and Maleficent). The Aqua Duck was a water coaster that circled the top of the ship, even going out over the ocean at one point. Connie and the kids loved that one. During the adventure, we rotated through the three different dining rooms (massive rooms with their own individual themes).

The first port of call was Nassau in the Bahamas. Connie and her sister Tammy went to Atlantis early and spent time with the dolphins. The rest of us went to the water park there at Atlantis. The Atlantis casino and resort is a sprawling facility that takes up a large swath of the island. It’s a shame that the casino ruins the place, but I suppose that’s how they primarily pay for it. Regardless, I’ve never seen such a luxurious resort. Connie and Tammy were elated (bubbling over) with their time with the dolphins. This was also the first time that I ridden a water slide through a tank filled with sharks and stingrays (we were in a tube that literally went through the tank). We had a few moments of stress when we got separated at the park and were a little concerned about leaving on time, but all worked out well. Nassau is like many of the tourist spots with luxury on parts of the island and poverty around the rest of it. We only travelled through those parts while riding the bus back to the ship.

Castaway Cay was our second and final stop. Disney created the destination as an exclusive location for their cruise ships. It’s largely uninhabited when the ship isn’t docked. I didn’t realize that they were having a Castaway Cay 5K race on the island, but since entrance to the race was free I signed up so that I could at least get a little extra exercise. It was a pretty easy run and very memorable for my first 5K race. For the family it was a relaxing day of time on the beach. There was lots of beautiful water, sand, umbrellas and even a few slides. I suspect that they will continue to improve the island with additional features, but even as is it was a beautiful beach.

Our last day at sea we basically caught up on all the things that we had missed before. We watched shows, played mini-golf, shopped and ate (boy did we eat). I became somewhat addicted to the soft-serve ice cream bar that stayed open almost 24 hours a day. Quinn hit the pizza bar quite often as well. The coursed meals every night were just over the top. Even time spent in the room visiting among the family was fun. No vacation is perfect, but this one went very well. We didn’t even get sick! That is a Callahan family first.

Travelling with Tammy and Clarence was a real treat. They are both very pleasant people and we got along great with them. I hope that the feeling was mutual. I know the kids really enjoyed it as well. Speaking of the kids, I was so proud of their behavior. We gave the boys a little more leeway this trip and they didn’t disappoint us. All of the kids followed the rules and were very respectful of those around them. We created some very special memories this trip and I’m thankful for the opportunity to take some time off.

Stop by for a few words on what is happening with the Callahan's.