Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Managing the Mortgage Maze

Most everyone has a mortgage.? Most everyone else wants one.

Well, they don't really want a mortgage, but they want the house that goes with it.

The problem is that?when it comes to mortgages, most people don't have a clue where to start.? Well, let me help in that department.? I live in Texas, so I'll start at home.? Texas mortgages are a snap at Personal?Home Loan Mortgages.? You can find mortgage brokers, title companies, and real estate brokers listed, as well as housing statistics.? An informed consumer is a smart consumer, and you'll ace the mortgage test if you start studying here.

You can also find the same listings for specific cities in your chosen state.? And not just the wimpy major-metropolitan-area cities, either.? Even my beloved Tyler is listed for Texas!

Don't live in Texas?? No problem.? Wanna check out Colorado? Colorado Mortgages?are just as easy.? I just better not let Michael see the listings for Elizabeth.? Who knew there was an Elizabeth, Colorado???

There are mortgage calculators (can you really afford that spacious estate?), top headlines about mortgages (did you know there is actually mortgage news?), and a mortgage watch newsletter you can sign up to receive.? There's also a glossary for the mortgage-ignorant and a quick application for those ready to move into that spacious estate.

Before you step into the maze of mortgages out there, make sure you visit the mortgage mavens at Personal?Home Loan Mortgages.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Listen Closely in Vienna

A daring vacationer in Vienna is walking through a graveyard when all of a sudden she hears music. No one is around, so she starts looking to see where it's coming from.

She finally locates the source and finds it is coming from a grave with a headstone that reads, a oeLudwig van Beethoven.a

Then she realizes that the music is the Ninth Symphony and it is being played backward. Puzzled, she leaves the graveyard and persuades a friend to return with her.

By the time they arrive back at the grave, the music has changed. This time it is the Seventh Symphony, but it is also being played backward.

Curious, the ladies agree to consult a music scholar. When they return with the expert, the Fifth Symphony is playing and the expert concludes that the symphonies are in fact being played in reverse order.

By the next day the word spread and a huge group gathered around the grave to hear the Second Symphony being played backward. Just then the graveyard's caretaker approaches the group. Someone in the crowd asks him if he has an explanation for the music.

"Oh, it's nothing to worry about" says the caretaker. "He's just decomposing!!"

Friday, July 27, 2007

My Right-Hand Man

I've suffered from joint pain since childhood that we've never been able to diagnose.? When an episode occurs, all the joints along one limb hurt and I get the urge to constantly stretch and "pop" the joints.? Usually the only thing that helps alleviate the pain is a scalding hot shower or bath.? I'd tried Ben-Gay years ago and the stinging and smell made me swear it off forever.? I'd also experimented with a slew of other "cures," from medications to nutrition and nothing seemed to work.? So, summer or winter, home or away, I resigned myself to having to live with the pain or stripping down and getting in the tub to get rid of it.

I'm now happy to quote Madame Blueberry: "No more!"

I recieved some samples of Freeze It, a topical pain relief gel, in the mail about a week and a half ago.? I put it on the desk?with the thought that I ought to try it the next time I had an episode, then proceeded to have no pain for a week! Ah well, such is life.?

As expected, the pain struck Tuesday night (the bouts have been hitting frequently lately) along my right arm.? That's not good considering I'm right-handed.? I got a hand towel from the bathroom to get ready for the slime fest and set about going through another disappointing trial.

The first surprise came when I opened the packet - it was a green gel.? I'm not sure what I was expecting and I shouldn't have been surprised when it says plainly on the packaging that it's a gel, but there you have it.? As I applied the Freeze It, I was relieved to find that the smell reminded me of vapor-rub (a comforting scent for me) and not the hideous Ben-Gay smell.? Michael said he thought I had put on some Off from across the room.? The smell did go away within about 15-20 minutes, so I don't consider it a drawback.

It rubbed in easily, and I could tell how much and where I was applying the Freeze It?because of the color. Within minutes, I had free range of motion and lost the urge to stretch constantly.? As it really started to penetrate the skin and take effect, I could feel it working, but it wasn't that unbearable stinging of the other creames that always resulted in my washing it off.? The Freeze It?also didn't get torturously hot like Ben-Gay.? I actually had Michael feeling my arms because you can't tell you have it on your skin!

At a cost of 9.99 for a four-ounce tube,?Freeze It is worth every penny for the relief of my joint pain!? There's also a three-ounce roll-on bottle, which is great for those of you who don't want to get any on their hands.? When you take everything into consideration and then add the fact that I can get it during my next visit to Wal*Mart (which I'll be doing), Freeze It?is my new right-hand (left hand, right leg, left leg) man!

Texas Teacher Journals Summer of Mission Work in Italy

Most teachers take the summer off, just relaxing and doing nothing. One teacher here in Mineola has taken the teacher's road less traveled by doing something. But Julie Erb didn't do just anything - she taught all summer. While this says much of her passion for teaching, when you hear the story, you'll see that it says much more of her passion for God's forgotten children. Julie, a first-grade teacher at Mineola Primary School, spent the summer in Italy teaching Eritrean refugees of God's unfailing love for them.

Julie's parents, Susan and Geoff Pennock, had spent most of the time from September to November 2005 sharing the gospel and passing out religious books in Italy. While there, they came upon a park in Bari full of refugees from Eritrea, in Africa. These young people fled their country to escape being forced to fight and kill their countrymen. After a grueling journey to Italy in which many died, the refugees were left homeless, without documentation, and unable to find work, homes, or even dignity. Susan and Geoff returned home at the end of March for a six-month stay, but couldn't forget the bright young men and women that had left universities and studies for park benches and homelessness back in Bari Park. When they announced their plans to return to Lecce, Julie began planning to leave as soon as possible to help. She began by contacting The Live it Foundation, a nonprofit corporation in Bell County, Texas that the Pennocks had been working with during their stay in Italy. They named the project CIAO, for "Caring Individuals Aiding Others." The Live it Foundation set up a blog for Julie to share her experiences, as well as an avenue for people to donate to the cause of the Eritrean refugees.

When she got to Rome, Julie discovered an abandoned building with over 400 people living in "deplorable" conditions. She reports in her post of June 17, "There are seven floors. Two bathrooms per floor. Cold water. Electricity only if someone can rig something up. Seven or more people per room. They sleep in shifts, I was told. But one person told me that more and more people are so discouraged and depressed that they just sleep all day and night." The majority of the refugees are from the countries of Eritrea and Ethiopia. The two countries have been at war with each other since 1961. Eritrea declared its independence in 1991, but war broke out again in 1998. Each child, male or female, must join the Eritrean army in the 6th or 7th grade. Many flee having to join the "killing forces" by crossing the Libyan dessert, then sailing across the Mediterranean Sea. The refugees tell stories of 34 people packed in a small car crossing the dessert, and tiny plastic boats overflowing with people crossing the sea with no food and no water.

According to the refugees, upon entering Italy, they are fingerprinted and registered, for which the Italian government receives money from the United Nations to help them. Julie shares what she has been told by the refugees: "After being fingerprinted, the people are housed in refugee camps for a short time. Then they are turned out to "live" in Italy for different lengths of time, depending upon what their paperwork says. For some, they only get permission to stay in the country for eight or fifteen days." Most refugees arrive without documentation, which means they cannot work or find housing. Some escape to other countries, and even find work and live well, until they are discovered and sent back to Italy, where they were originally registered. There they are registered again in Rome and given 30 Euros for train fare back to the refugee camp, only to be subsequently put back on the streets again. In each city they enter, they must register with the local police. If they do not have paperwork, they cannot register, so they are sent back to Rome, where they have to begin the process again. The refugees believe that the Italian government receives money from the United Nations for each day one of them is in Italy.

Julie has spent her summer trying to help these refugees break this cycle of unethical "help" and to find their lives again. She is also teaching them, and the Italians, that "Jesus loves me, too!" Shirts bearing the message in Italian are handed out to the refugees, as well as food, water, Bibles, and Christian literature. She, Susan, and Geoff also pass out Bibles and Christian literature to anyone that will take them on the streets of Italy. They take every opportunity to teach others about Jesus' love and sacrifice for them. Much money is needed for this work, so the Live It Foundation that named the CIAO mission project has set up a CafePress online store to sell the "CIAO, Jesus loves me, too" shirts. Donors can also mail checks to Live it Foundation, Inc., c/o Treasurer, 335 Schrader Road, Killeen, TX 76542, or give via PayPal.

Those that know Julie are familiar with her compassion, caring, and eloquence. To many of us, this trip came as no surprise. To so many others in our town, it is just now coming to their attention, thanks to the ad published in the Mineola Monitor on June 27. Her journal at liveitonline.org/ciaoblog has provided many faces to the tragedy of the refugees. There are stories that will make you cry in pity, some that will make you angry at injustice, and still others that will make you praise God for His wondrous works. While Julie is returning home soon, Susan and Geoff will stay on, continuing the work. Julie promises to continue posting updates to the blog as she receives them from the Pennocks. The Live it Foundation will also continue to take donations. For anyone that thinks the Paris Hilton jail saga is big news, go read the CIAO blog to read the real news.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Beethoven Meets Baseball

The Boston Symphony was performing Beethoven's Ninth. In the piece, there's a long passage about 20 minutes during which the bass violinists have nothing to do. Rather than sit around the whole time looking stupid, some bassists decided to sneak offstage and go to the tavern next door for a quick one.

After slamming several beers in quick succession, one of them looked at his watch. "Hey! We need to get back!"

"No need to panic," said a fellow bassist, "I thought we might need some extra time, so I tied the last few pages of the conductor's score together with string. It'll take him a few minutes to get it untangled."

A few moments later they staggered back to the concert hall and took their places in the orchestra. About this time, a member of the audience noticed the conductor seemed a bit edgy and said as much to her companion.

"Well, of course," said her companion, "Don't you see? It's the bottom of the Ninth, the score is tied, and the bassists are loaded."

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

America Described

"Welcome to America, where everything is made somewhere else."

-Michael Arcand commenting on emigrants being given small American flags made in Korea

Sunday, July 22, 2007

'Let It Be' for the Computer Age

When I find my code in tons of trouble,
Friends and colleagues come to me,
Speaking words of wisdom:
Write in C.

As the deadline fast approaches,
And bugs are all that I can see,
Somewhere, someone whispers:
Write in C.

Write in C, write in C,
Write in C, oh, write in C.
LOGO's dead and buried,
Write in C.

I used to write a lot of FORTRAN,
For science it worked flawlessly.
Try using it for graphics!
Write in C.

If you've just spent nearly 30 hours,
Debugging some assembly,
Soon you will be glad to
Write in C.

Write in C, Write in C,
Write in C, yeah, Write in C.
BASIC's not the answer.
Write in C.

Write in C, Write in C
Write in C, oh, Write in C.
Pascal won't quite cut it.
Write in C.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

I'm Off to My Sleeping House...

I was in the backyard hanging the laundry when an old, tired-looking dog wandered into the yard. I could tell from his collar and well-fed belly that he had a home. But when I walked into the house, he followed me, sauntered down the hall and fell asleep in a corner. An hour later, he went to the door, and I let him out. The next day he was back. He resumed his position in the hallway and slept for an hour.

This continued for several weeks. Curious, I pinned a note to his collar:

"Every afternoon your dog comes to my house for a nap. "

The next day the dog arrived with a different note pinned to his collar:

"He lives in a home with 10 children - he's trying to catch up on his sleep."

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Something Wicked This Way Comes...

Recently one of my friends, a computer wizard, paid me a visit. As we were talking I mentioned that I had recently installed Windows on my PC, I told him how happy I was with this operating system and showed him the Windows CD. Too my astonishment and distress he threw it into my micro-wave oven and turned it on. I was upset because the CD had become precious to me, but he said 'Do not worry, it is unharmed.'

After a few minutes he took the CD out, gave it to me and said 'Take a close look at it.' To my surprise the CD was quite cold and it seemed to have become thicker and heavier than before. At first I could not see anything, but on the inner edge of the central hole I saw an inscription, in lines finer than anything I have ever seen before. The inscription shone piercingly bright, and yet remote, as if out of a great depth:

4F6E65204F5320746F2072756C65207468656D20616C6C2C 204F6E65204F5320746F2066696E64207468656D2C0D0A4F 6E65204F5320746F206272696E67207468656D20616C6C20 616E6420696E20746865206461726B6E6573732062696E64 207468656D

'I cannot read the fiery letters,' I said.

'No,' he said, 'but I can. The letters are Hex, of an ancient mode, but the language is that of Microsoft, which I shall not utter here. But in common English this is what it says"

'One OS to rule them all, One OS to find them, One OS to bring them all and in the darkness bind them...."

Sunday, July 8, 2007

A Wonderful Idea

So please, oh PLEASE, we beg, we pray
Go throw your TV set away
And in its place you can install
A lovely bookshelf on the wall.

From Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

Friday, July 6, 2007

What Does Your Fellowship Look Like?

"It doesn't bother the world that we sin; it bothers the world that we act like we don't...and it hurts our fellowship."

-Mark Hall, singer for Casting Crowns

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

The Unheard Voice

One of my writing prompts today was to "write about a voice." Here's what I think.

There is a collective voice of silenced, desperate souls crying out for rescue, dignity, and life. It is the voice of the Eritrean refugees trapped in Italy. They risked their lives crossing the Sahara, fleeing from Libyan traffickers, and sailing the Mediterranean Sea, only to land in Italy to begin a merry-go-round nightmare of processing and registration. Being fingerprinted and registered, they are place in refugee camps temporarily before they are set out onto the street.

Those that made the trip with documentation intact find jobs and move on with their lives. Those that barely arrived with their lives, let alone anything else wander lost throughout the city, looking for work, food, a home, some semblance of human dignity. Sadly, they don't find it - they have been stripped of all humanity. They are nameless, homeless, outcasts that aren't to be touched by the "real people" that surround them.

They are illegal and leprous in their social effect. None dare help them for fear of retribution. They are immediately reported, arrested, sent back to Rome, re-fingerprinted, re-registered, re-dehumanized. There is no breaking their tortured cycle of unwanted-ness. The Italian government will not help them, but does not allow them to leave because they are paid by the United Nations each time they are registered again. The Eritrean refugees in Italy have become the government's own little human trafficking sideline.

There's a voice crying out in the dark streets of Rome - do you hear it? And do you have the courage to help them? Go to liveitonline.org/ciaoblog to read the stories, see the faces, and donate to give the voices a sound and the hearts a hope.
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