Braced

Hayden has had braces on his teeth since the start of the year. He’s done fantastic with them (even though they can be painful and aggravating as anyone who has had them knows). Hopefully he will get those off in the next 3 to 6 months. On Friday, he was fitted with a different kind of brace. This one is going to be with him much longer and addresses a curvature in his spine that has developed in the past few months.

Hayden's Back BraceWe first noticed something earlier in the year and had a consult with an orthopedist. A follow-up visit confirmed that he had scoliosis and would need a brace to keep the situation from getting worse. It is amazing (in a negative way) how fast the changes can occur and we worked as quickly as possible to get the brace ordered. The brace must be fitted specifically for the person that will wear it (no generic sizing) and ended up being pretty expensive (just a few dollars less than our annual deductible). Unfortunately, it’s also very painful for Hayden to wear and there’s not any other good option other than to wear it.

In the image above, you can see a little of the build-up (it’s not soft) on the upper right side. There’s also a similar build-up on the lower left side. These work in concert to keep the spine from bending in those directions and forcing it to grow vertically. They also dig into Hayden’s side and cause him a lot of pain. Between the heat and the pain, it’s probably not going to be pleasant for him for the next four or so years. His attitude has been great and I really appreciate how he has been very mature about this. We love Hayden and hate to see him in this much discomfort, but given the alternatives we’ll just have to work through this.

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.

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