Monday, July 31, 2006

The Daily Gripe #10 - Working Birthday

It's time for The Daily Gripe, from Average Joe American. This isn't much of a gripe, but maybe I'll come up with something better later.

I haven't worked on my birthday in almost twenty years. Not that there's really anything special about a birthday at my age. It's just kind of nice to have the day off. I have actually worked for some employers who considered it a paid holiday. Not anymore.

This year I planned to take half a personal day on my birthday. I'd go into work at 7:00 and leave at noon. Then I received a notice to represent my employer in an Unemployment Appeal Hearing on that very day (which, if you haven't figured it out yet, is today). The hearing was scheduled at 11:15 for forty-five minutes and was to be by phone. No problem, I could still make it out around noon.

Then another Manager in my market asked that I provide him some Management help at his store this week. I could have declined, but I'm a team player. Unfortunately, juggling the schedule to accomodate forced me to cancel my Personal Time this afternoon. That really gripes me! Okay, not really. It's a minor inconvenience, and I'm still leaving work an hour early, so I think I'll live.


New Look

I hope you like the new look of the site. It isn't a major change, really. Just a fresh look. It wasn't entirely by choice. Half of my page template got obliterated by Blogger while I was doing some site maintenance, and the easiest way to fix it was by selecting a new template and rebuilding my customizations. I now have an offsite backup.

Let me know what you think of the new look. Use the comment link below or email me at


Sunday, July 30, 2006

Book Review: The Husband by Dean Koontz

Book ReviewWhat would you do for love? Would you lie? Would you steal? Would you die? Would you kill? Is there anything you wouldn't do for love?

Landscaper Mitch Raferrty grapples with just those questions in Dean Koontz's The Husband when he receives a phone call offering to return his wife for two million dollars -- cash.

Holly Rafferty asks herself those same questions as she struggles under the psychological torment of her captors.

Who would you turn to for help? The Police? Even if the kidnappers threatened to kill your wife if you involve authorities? Could you turn to friends or family? Mitch finds the answer when the kidnappers instruct him to go to his brother's home and await their next call. When that call comes, everything changes.

Join Mitch Rafferty on the wildest ride of his life as he battles to beat a sixty hour deadline and rescue the woman he loves. He faces challenges and decisions he has never imagined and makes choices he has never faced before as his life changes forever. Will Mitch make it in time? Can he raise two million dollars in cash?

I thought I had the ending figured out about half way through. I was wrong. It isn't really a surprise ending. It just isn't what you might think it will be as you're reading along. The book reads at a fast pace and is, at times, quite difficult to put down.

As with most of Dean Koontz's books, though he is a mainstream author, this book has no objectionable content. I think you'll enjoy it.


The Daily Gripe #9 - Big Daddy Oilbucks

It's time for The Daily Gripe, from Average Joe American.

I originally planned to skip the gripe today. I'll be away at a birthday gathering, and didn't expect to have the time to post.

In March of this year, the oil industry reported the biggest profits for a single quarter ever. In fact, ExxonMobil at the time reported the greatest single-quarter profits of any company ever in history. Congress "investigated" while consumers complained, but three months later we're still paying three dollars a gallon for gasoline.

Fast-forward to July and the second quarter profits reports, and what do you think happened? ExxonMobil broke it's own record! I'm going to spell this number out for you, because it's just a little too large a number to really get the full impact when written numerically. Brace yourself. Are you ready?

Ten Billion, Three-Hundred-Sixty Million Dollars in profit was reported by ExxonMobil for the second three months of their fiscal year. Go ahead, catch your breath, I'll wait.

. . . . . . . . . .

Feel better now? That huge number translates to $79,000.00 in profit per minute! Can I get you a glass of water or something? Okay, I'll wait.

. . . . . . . . . .

There's one more number I have for you. First, I want you to think about your own paycheck. Think about how much you make a week, if you will, and how much of that pay you throw away at the gas pump. Now try this on for size: ExxonMobil's second quarter profits were a staggering $1,316.00 PER SECOND! Most Americans don't make that in a week, and many don't see that much money in an entire month! Need a few minutes again? Why don't you just bookmark this page and you can pick up where you left off later, because I don't expect you'll recover quickly from that one.

A Reader posted a comment to my first Daily Gripe entry on July 22nd defending the local gas station owner for raising his price a full twenty cents per gallon just in time for weekend driving and summer vacations. Frankly, I don't care how much profit the local pump jockey takes in. That's between him and Big Daddy Oilbucks. My only concern is how much of that $1316.00 per second is coming out of my wallet.

And to put it just a little more into perspective, we're talking about profit dollars here. That's free and clear money after the bills have been paid. How much of your paycheck do you have left after your bulls have been paid? The oil execs will no doubt cite reinvestment in research. How about a little reinvestment in the average consumer? I mean, $1316.00 PER SECOND?! D.B. Cooper didn't even get away with that much money!

That really gripes me! Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go fill up the car for work tomorrow. One thing is certain: I won't be filling up at an Exxon station.


Saturday, July 29, 2006

President Bush's Weekly Radio Address

20060729.a.mp3 (audio/mpeg Object)
In his weekly radio address President Bush said, "This moment of conflict in the Middle East is painful and tragic. Yet it is also a moment of opportunity for broader change in the region. Transforming countries that have suffered decades of tyranny and violence is difficult, and it will take time to achieve. But the consequences will be profound -- for our country and the world. When the Middle East grows in liberty and democracy, it will also grow in peace, and that will make America and all free nations more secure."

The Debate Continues

The debate over capital punishment, sparked by my rant about the Andrea Yates "Not Guilty By Reason of Insanity" verdict, continues. To make this debate easier to read, I have woven my replies in the Reader's comments:

Anonymous said...

We stand in agreement on certain points of this issue. For one, I think we both believe that one of the responsibilities of a government is to protect its citizens from being preyed upon by other citizens.

If government kills a citizen in order to protect other citizens from him, then without a doubt, the dead man can commit no sin against his fellow man. Killing Andrea Yates (whether she is ill or not) would certainly keep her from killing again.

Killing a man, no matter what the circumstances, leaves a person dead. But how we feel about that death varies greatly depending upon the circumstances of the killing. For example:

- A soldier who kills another soldier in combat may be seen as a hero.
- A woman who kills a man who is attacking her, may not be seen as a hero, but is certainly seen as justified in her actions.
- A woman who has been abused by her husband, and then kills him in his sleep… That one may be OK. But there are going to be many questions and some disagreement about that one.
- Parents of conjoined twins may be forced to have one of the children killed and separated from the other in order to give at least one of them the chance of survival. That would be a gut-wrenching position to be in, and most people would probably empathize rather than condemn them for their choice.

Average Joe said...

The following example is where I begin to disagree with your view on the subject. My biggest issue with the situation with Andrea Yates is the insanity defense. I do not believe that the science of psychiatry can accurately diagnose "temporary" insanity. By what measures do you determine if an apparently sane person today was "temporarily insane" at the time of committing such a terrible act as that to which Andrea Yates confessed? That's like going to the doctor to find out if the cough you had a month ago was something serious or just the common cold. Or like taking your car to the mechanic and saying, "It wouldn't start last week, but it's been running fine ever since. Can you tell me what's wrong?"

If you're reading this and unfamiliar with the Andrea Yates case, you may want to bring yourself up to speed at Wikipedia.

Anonymous said...

- A sick woman kills her children because she was instructed to by God. Well, this lady will be hard pressed to find any empathy or sympathy. There is no other way to describe that than as a tragedy.
- A man has watched for months or years as the woman he has loved for 50 years lies in agonizing pain, and he chooses to help her end her pain by causing her death. Is it possible to love a person so much that it becomes more caring to kill her than to keep her alive?
- A man decides that he must end the rivalry with another man, so he plans that man’s death, and kills him or has him killed. Now this guy is going to have a VERY difficult time getting people lined up to support him.

Average Joe said...

I can only speak for myself, but I don't usually struggle long before taking a stance on whether to support capital punishment or not in any particular case. Maybe it's not appropriate for me to make such a judgment, but my judgment is merely my opinion, and that opinion is usually based on one of two things:

1. Who the victim of the crime is. In the Andrea Yates case, the victims are innocent, helpless children who were murdered in the bathtub by the one person who they certainly never feared.
2. The apparent motivation behind the crime. No one can truly say what the motivation was behind the Andrea Yates case. She has cited recurrent postpartum psychosis, among a general mental instability. She was, in fact, being treated for depression and had been taken off her antipsychotic medication only two months prior to the murders.

Maybe this is where society -- and government, specifically -- failed those children in the first place. It seems quite clear that the doctors caring for Yates knew of her instability, but failed to act to protect her children from what they feared she was capable of doing to them.

Does this mean Yates should be found not guilty? I say no. I think it proves one thing quite well, however: if Andrea Yates was suffering from insanity at the time that she murdered her children, it clearly was a long-term diagnosed and treated illness, and not at all temporary. Whether she should be put to death for her crime is debatable, but she certainly should never have the opportunity to be free among society again, and that is exactly what she has with this recent verdict. She has been committed to a state mental hospital with periodic hearings before a judge to determine whether she should be released.

It is my contention that, regardless of the motivation or condition of culprit, someone committing such an act against such a defenseless victim should be removed from society on a permanent basis. I don't particularly care if that removal is accomplished through permanent imprisonment or capital punishment.

Anonymous said...

But today we even have many gray areas in the situations noted above. Several of our military have been charged with, or investigated for, murder in reference to their actions in the Middle East. Women have been placed on trial for killings that in the past would have been considered “self-defense”, but now are being questioned as perhaps pre-meditated.

I set that list in place so that we can consider the fact that it is difficult to create a list of killings that are “OK”, and a list of killings that should be condemned. These are VERY, VERY tough calls to make. Those calls are packed with emotion and disagreement.

Death is final (at least here on earth). There’s no bringing someone back from that.

Throughout the history of man we have empowered our governments to make life-and-death calls for us. Or, more appropriately, our governments have seized the right to make those calls for us. I for one am not really comfortable with permitting our government to use this power against its citizens, particularly since other options are available.

If killing by the government were not final, then the women who were killed for witchcraft could have been “un-killed” once the witch hysteria ended. But it is final and those women remain dead at the hands of their government.

Average Joe said...

I find one significant difference here: Andrea Yates original conviction was handed down by a jury of her peers, in an open and orderly courtroom that was presided over by an experienced judge. Andrea Yates had confessed to the killings. Her conviction was a far cry from the lynch mobs that burned women at the stakes for suspected witchcraft. Those lynch mobs claimed that if the woman was a witch, she would survive the burning, and therefore the burning itself was the trial. In today's society, as in Andrea Yates first trial, the suspect was tried, confessed, and convicted before the capital punishment was meted out. The Salem (and other) witch trials were literally trials by fire that delivered the punishment in order to determine guilt or innocence. I do not believe that this is a reasonable comparison to make.

Anonymous said...

If a citizen is wrong about a killing, then he will be tried and punished. But what of a government that is wrong in its killing? What happens to the government? The people who were killed by the government are just as dead as the people killed by the individual. In fact, in the case of the government killings things are usually far worse, because the government has usually killed many more people than a citizen has killed. For example, Germany, Iraq, Bosnia, Russia, Rome, China, Japan, etc. All of these countries have killed many of their own citizens during acts that they justified at the time, but that history has condemned.

Average Joe said...

Again, I believe there is a distinct difference between mob justice and the type of orderly community justice that is practiced in American courtrooms. In addition, there is no comparison between the American justice system and the acts of tyrannical dictators the likes of Adolf Hitler, Saddam Hussein, Slobodan Milosevic, et. al.

Anonymous said...

Do we really want to grant permission to our government to kill us? If we are ever to learn anything from history, we should learn that this is a BAD idea. Our governments have proven to be exceedingly bad at making these decisions.

As for a deterrent, there is no real evidence that capital punishment deters others from committing crimes. Most murders are not premeditated. The vast majority of murders happen as the result of deep emotion or motivation that defies logic. Simply put, most people who murder never stop to consider what will happen when they are caught. They are too caught up in emotion, addiction or other factors to ever stop to consider what they have done.

But what about those other, premeditated murders? There is no evidence that capital punishment deters those either. Those who plan murders, plan to not be caught. And most of them succeed in both the murder, and the escape. If I am planning to kill someone, the fact that Andrea Yates was given the needle is not going to stop me from planning it. It will just make me plan better.

We have other options. I am certainly not suggesting that we set Andrea Yates free. I am only saying that we should not allow our government to kill her. There are other options to employ here. It is not a choice of killing Andrea Yates, or putting all of society in danger. There are many other options. I am suggesting that the most appropriate response doesn't come from either end of the extreme, but rather from some other alternative.

In your rebuttal you stated, “Of course killing Andrea Yates would probably not teach her a lesson. I doubt that she is capable of learning any lessons.”. That statement makes me wonder if you agree that Andrea Yates is not well. I suspect that some part of you also sees her as a sick woman.

Average Joe said...

Indeed I do see Andrea Yates as a sick woman. I just don't feel that any sickness can justify the crime that she committed. I don't see how there is any justifiable reason to ever turn this woman loose on society again. Call it punishment. Call it protection. Call it what you will, but she -- in my opinion -- forfeited her privilege to exist in an open and free society at the instant she first considered and acted upon taking the life of a defenseless child. There is no greater sin in my view.

Anonymous said...

There are many kinds of killings, as I noted above. But I submit that the worst kind of all is the one that is premeditated and planned. I further submit that that kind of killing is the most damnable – whether it is committed by an individual, or by a government.

It’s not that I have any particular sympathy for Andrea Yates, or for what she did. Both she and her acts were deplorable. I just think it is worse if our government commits the same crime against her as she did against her children. Particularly since our government would be doing it in a deliberate, planned, premeditated manner.

----- And you probably do know who is writing this. I love your blog.

Average Joe said...

Thanks again for your comments and your kind words about my site. If you have additional thoughts to share, I would love to hear them.
As a quick after note, I find it interesting that in her new trial, Andrea Yates was acquitted in the murders of only three of her children. The District Attorney retains the option of trying her again for either or both of the remaining murders.

Anyone else who may wish to get into the debate, please feel free. You may use the comment link below or email me at


The Daily Gripe #8 - More Audit Rant

It's time for The Daily Gripe, from Average Joe American.

Today, I revisit The Daily Gripe #5 - The Audit Rant. Because I discovered three key areas in the Audit that were improperly scored, which if scored correctly would have resulted in a passing score. I contacted my District Manager about the scoring, and he agreed with me. He forwarded my comments to the Division Loss Prevention Director, who basically dismissed me out of hand, barely paying lip service to my concerns. That really gripes me!

I failed the audit because the Auditor created new guidelines and new metrics for measurement midstream. Things that had never previously been communicated, that I could not possibly have been aware of, were cited as the reasons for point deduction.

There's not much else to say. My only available form of protest is to ensure a perfect score next time. And that's giving them exactly what they want.


Friday, July 28, 2006

Thought Provoking Reader Comments

Some very interesting comments from a reader in response to my Daily Gripe #7 - The Andrea Yates rant. And might I add that though I don't know who wrote these comments, they certainly sound like the words of someone very familiar to me.

Anonymous said...
When considering issues of criminal justice, I find that the only way to remain fair and unbiased is to consider and accept certain standards, completely free of any influence from specific cases or occurrences. I try to start by asking general questions. For example:

- Does a government have a right to place punishment for violations of established law?

- Should punishment placed by a government be for the purpose of revenge and retribution, or should it be for the purpose of correction. (In other words, do we punish a child because he did wrong and deserves to be punished, or do we punish a child so that he learns to behave better in the future?)

- Should a government have the right to do things that its laws prohibit individuals from doing?

- Should a government punish a person who committed a crime because he was too sick to fully understand what he was doing? This one may seem a bit bleeding heart at first, but consider this: You have two children. One of them (age 8, let’s say) becomes sick and spikes a fever of 104. He becomes very irritable. His young brother (age 6 let’s say) is worried about him and walks over to give him a hug. As the 6-year-old grabs the 8-year-old to hug him, the 8-year-old swings out and clobbers his little brother. Maybe he draws blood. Would you punish your 8-year-old the same way you would if he had been well when the incident happened?

There are many questions such as these to consider, before even bringing in the Andrea Yates case specifically.

I won’t take time to run a long debate here about those questions, and others like them. I will quickly mention one other thing, however. Many people claim that God approves of capital punishment and that he specifically calls for it in the Bible. However, they fail to note that in the sections of the Bible in which God specifically directs killing a man as a form of punishment, God also sets certain restrictions and requirements of such punishment. The biggest requirement is that there be an eye witness to those certain crimes where God directs man to use capital punishment.

Interestingly, when God himself handed down a punishment for murder (when Cain killed Abel), God did not kill Cain. God separated Cain from the rest of society and placed a mark on him.

I believe that Andrea Yates was sick when she killed her children. Because of this, I believe killing her would be just as wrong as harshly punishing the 8-year-old mentioned above. I also believe it would be against God’s will and direction to us.

The murders of those children were horrible, horrible things. (Sadly, our world is filled with horrible, horrible things.) Killing Andrea Yates would not make the situation less horrible. It would not teach Andrea Yates a lesson. It would not prevent the next sick woman from killing her children.

I suspect that the only thing it might do is help the general public somehow make some sense of things, knowing that if a person commits a VERY bad act, he will be punished.

But the thing is, killing Andrea Yates would also be a VERY bad act. Where would that leave us?

10:15 PM
Of course, I can't let that go without a little feedback:

Average Joe American said...
At this point, avoiding debate is agreeable. However, I do have a brief rebuttal to some of your key points. Specifically, your last three paragraphs.

- Of course killing Andrea Yates would probably not teach her a lesson. I doubt that she is capable of learning any lessons. It also would probably not prevent a truly sick woman from killing her children. It would certainly act as a deterrent to those who are not "insane" but might otherwise try to use an insanity defense to justify their actions.

- I further believe that removing Andrea Yates from society on a permanent basis would do more than just give the general public some kind of closure. It would guarantee us one thing: Andrea Yates would never again kill, whether "by reason of insanity" or otherwise.

It is for this last reason more than any other that I stand strongly convinced that Andrea Yates, and anyone else who would commit such a heinous act against a defenseless, innocent child, should not be released into society again. The biggest benefit of capital punishment is it's deterrent value, and there are two types of deterrent that result from capital punishment: 1) the individual punished would be deterred from killing again by his/her mere lack of existence; 2) others capable of premeditating their act might be persuaded otherwise by the possible consequences they would face.

What is best for society? To punish the masses for the crimes of the few by subjecting us to the danger of repeat offenders? Or to protect society from the dangerous few by preventing them from having the opportunity to become repeat offenders? I see only one acceptable choice, and I don't think I need to say which one that is. All too often the scales of justice come down in favor of protecting the guilty more than the innocent. Even the remote possibility of freeing Andrea Yates is a travesty.

Thank you for your thought-provoking input.


11:03 PM
Got anything to add? Please use the comment link below, or email me.


The Daily Gripe #7 - Andrea Yates

It's time for The Daily Gripe, from Average Joe American.

With my work hours, commute distance, and having both a toddler and newborn in the house, I don't get to watch much television, and when I do it consists mostly of cartoons or educational programming. In order to keep up to date on what's happening in the world, I listen to podcasts during my lengthy commute, including NBC Nightly News. I sometimes run a day or two behind, which is why I just learned some disturbing news on my drive to work this morning.

It seems that Andrea Yates, who was once convicted for drowning her children, has just been found Not Guilty By Reason of Insanity in a retrial. That really gripes me! Why, you ask?

You may remember the story. Her kids were missing, and she went on national TV begging for their safe return. They were later found drowned by their mother's own hand. Now, call me a radical if you will, but I look at it like this. If a child's parent causes harm to a child -- in any way for any "reason" -- there is no acceptable excuse. That parent should pay the ultimate price. Those poor children looked to their mother to protect and nurture them. Her crime was not only murder, but also betrayal of innocence. Those children were in no position to protect or defend themselves from the one person they should never have to fear.

I don't buy this insanity defense. So what if she was "temporarily" insane. If they treat her and release her, what guarantee is there that she won't have a relapse? None!

I accept that there's no guarantee that any one of us won't flip out some day and hurt someone. But a person's past actions is the best predictor of potential future acts.

I say there's only one fate fitting of Ms. Yates: execution in the same manner she carried out against her children. And eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, and a mother's life in exchange for her children's!


Thursday, July 27, 2006

The Daily Gripe #6 - Hectic Schedule

It's time for The Daily Gripe, from Average Joe American.

Maybe I shouldn't even be griping about this. I am, in part, responsible for putting myself in the situation. But here goes, anyway.

You probably know that I drive almost two hours to work each way. Counting a ten hour work day, that can make for some long fourteen hour days. Being in Retail, I can work a variety of shifts. Luckily, as a Store Manager, I have a pretty set schedule for the most part. But I do have to close one night a week. The way it works out, I close on Thursdays and open on Fridays. Here's how that translates: I'll leave work at 9:30 tonight and arrive home at about 11:30. I'll be tired, but won't be able to fall asleep right away. That won't happen until around midnight. I have to be back at work tomorrow at 7:00 am. That means I'll get up at 4:30 and leave the house by 5:00. My three-month-old daughter will certainly wake me up at some point in the night.

Only four-and-a-half hours sleep, and broken sleep at that. That really gripes me! Okay, maybe it's petty to gripe about such a thing. After all, I do write my own schedule, and though I do have to close one night a week, no one ever said I have to open the next morning. But hey, it hasn't been a bad day, and there's really nothing else to gripe about. So there you have it.


Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Reader Comments

Anonymous said...

Here’s a gripe for you…

You get your favorite blog in your email. For example, Average Joe’s “The Daily Gripe #3”. You want to comment, so you click the link at the top of the page. Your browser opens and you wait for the page to load, but instead, you get a message that says:
Not Found

The requested URL was not found on this server. Please visit the Blogger homepage or the Blogger Knowledge Base for further assistance.
Now THAT is something to gripe about!

12:11 PM
First of all, I'm flattered that you would list Average Joe American among your favorite blogs. I consider that a complement.

Secondly, I apologize that you were unable to access Blogger to leave your comments. If you visited the Blogger homepage as the error message advised, you would have discovered the following (circled in red in the screen capture):

As you can see, the entire Blogger domain was down for maintenance beginning at 8:23AM PST (11:23AM Eastern). Your comment was posted at 12:11 PM Eastern, while the site was probably still down for maintenance. While the blog hosting doman,, was fully functional for viewing the site, the blog editing domain,, was not available.

My sincere apologies that you were unable to access the site. This is an irregular occurrence that unfortunately happens from time to time. I hope you'll continue to read Average Joe American, whether through your email (subscribe link in the sidebar), your favorite aggregator, or at

And remember, if at any time in the future you're unable to post your comments via the comment link, you can freely email them to me and I will see that they get posted.


The Daily Gripe #5 - Audit Injustice

It's time for The Daily Gripe, from Average Joe American.

I've worked for five different retail companies during my retail career, as a Manager at each one of them. I've managed retail stores in four different sectors of the retail industry, from electronics to automotive, office supplies to crafts. A pretty wide array of specialties, but they all had one thing in common: The Audit.

Not an IRS Audit, or an SEC Audit, but an internal auditing system. Someone from a higher echelon -- usually in the Loss Prevention Department -- comes into the store unannounced and starts digging through records, receipts, inventory in search of areas of noncompliance.

It's generally an open book test. With most retailers, the Audit information is provided in advance to allow you to prepare for the areas that will be measured to ensure compliance and a passing Audit score. There should be no reason to fail, right? If only it were so simple.

In order to be in compliancre in all areas, you have to orchestrate the cooperation of every member of the team. Just one rogue element among the masses can result in peril.

I've been lucky enough to be passed over for the last three Audits. It's the biggest benefit of running a store in a single-store market off the beaten path. It takes a special full-day trip to make a visit to my store -- no killing two birds with one stone. My luck ran out yesterday when the Auditor showed up in my store at noon. I knew immediately that it wouldn't be pretty.

Don't get me wrong, my store runs quite well. In fact, it's one of the smoothest run stores in the District. I have some very good, very dedicated people working for me. I also have a couple of not-so-motivated people who could stand to be upgraded.

Over the past month-and-a-half, we've been going all out to make the most of every customer that comes to our store. My store has the highest sales increase for the week, the month, and the quarter, and is the only store in the District within striking distance of a sales increase for the year to date (only 3% down). We have the highest number of Service Plan sales in the District at double the next highest store, as well as the highest Customer Service score in District at over 92%.

Things are running beautifully. We're in the midst of a quarterly inventory that promises to result in an inventory gain. So with so many things going well, what's my gripe?

With all this focus on actually running a successful retail operation, I've allowed myself and my people to overlook some of the key points in the Audit.

To make a long story short (it's not too late yet, is it?), my store did not receive a passing score on the Audit yesterday. That really gripes me! We received a 60%, fully ten points behind our last Audit score of more than a year ago. Failing the Audit didn't surprise me as much as seeing the Auditor walk in the store.

I guess my biggest gripe is with myself for losing focus on the Audit. I could have passed this Audit and been free and clear for maybe a year or more, but now I'm due to be re-Audited some time in the next ninety days. Next time, I'll be prepared.


Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The Daily Gripe #4 - Gasoline and Range Update

It's time for The Daily Gripe, from Average Joe American.

But first, an update on The Daily Gripe #1. I promised to let you know what happened to the price of gas this week after it jumped twenty cents at one station just in time for the weekend. I predicted that the price would be back down by today. Yesterday, the price had dropped two cents to $2.979. Today came the big shocker: $3.059 for a gallon of eighty-seven octane. I guess I was wrong.

And now, today's Daily Gripe.

My wife's new stove was delivered today. Once again I left work early so I could be here for the delivery "after five." They were supposed to call before delivering, so I raced home through country traffic -- I don't care what anyone says, country traffic is just as bad as city traffic. Ever get stuck behind a farm implement on a busy two-lane highway going less than twenty miles an hour? I rest my case. I raced home, my speed ranging from twenty to seventy-five, and pulled in the driveway at 5:10. My wife informed me that the delivery people hadn't called yet, so I began to quickly change clothes. With my belt undone and my zipper down, my wife called from the front room to say they had arrived.

That really gripes me! Do they not understand that people with pets and/or small children need a few moments to prepare before taking such a delivery as a major appliance? There's more: I asked them to move the old stove (range, whatever) onto the back deck because we're going to give it away. They hesitantly agreed, as if I had asked them to deliver the stove to another address for free. So after the new range was hooked up and in place (I had to level it myself after they left), I offered them a five dollar tip for their troubles. To their credit, they politely refused, but I insisted. "Take it for moving the old stove," I said. After seeing them off and locking the gate, I returned to the house to find the five dollar bill abandoned on the kitchen table. Why? Was it too small a tip to be worthwhile? Or are they not permitted to accept tips? If that's the case, they could have told me so.

Nevertheless, the new stove is in and my wife is breaking it in with a special dinner.


Monday, July 24, 2006

The Daily Gripe #3 - Ranges, Flames, and Mothers-in-Law

My wife blew up the stove the other day. That's enough to gripe about, I know, but there's more. Actually, she didn't blow it up. The oven caught on fire -- which I'm sure wasn't her fault (that's her story, and she's sticking to it) -- and it burned through the heating element in the oven. Voila! No more oven. Funny thing is, just two days earlier she had talked about how badly she wanted a new stove. But that's another story.

So I left work early today to take my wife out shopping for a new stove. Did you know that you can't even buy a new stove anymore? Seriously! I don't know when it happened, or how, or why I wasn't consulted, but somebody somewhere along the line replaced the stove with the range! Can you imagine that? Anyway, so we're out shopping for a range, and my wife is probably a very typical woman shopper. She can leave the house knowing exactly what she wants, but somehow she still needs to look at everything that's available before finally settling -- on exactly what she wanted in the first place. Enough to gripe about again, but still not the main issue.

We only went to three places, and I won't mention them here, but one of them was a pretty good experience (we actually bought a nice stainless steel microwave that was a display model for $10.00 (no, that's not a typo, that is ten dollars). One of them was a very good experience, and one of them was just a little unsavory. Oh, the people were nice at the last place, but the environment wasn't the best, and they tried to sell us a used stove -- I mean, range -- that they hadn't even cleaned up yet. It still had someone else's dinner funk on it! Needless to say, we purchased our new st--- range at the place that was the best experience. We got a brand new (we'll have to generate our own dinner funk on it) stainless steel ceramic top range. Exactly what my wife wanted. It's being delivered tomorrow.

Now, it's gripe time. My wife, being a woman, had to tell someone about her new appliance (that's easier to remember than "range") immediately, so we went to see her mother (who just happened to be watching the kids for us, so we would have had to go there anyway). What's the first question her mom asks her? Go on, I'm sure you can guess. She's a typical mother-in-law. That's right, "How much did you pay?"

That really gripes me! I mean, what makes her think it's any of her business how much we pay for anything we buy? Her daughter will always be her daughter, but she is now my wife, and our finances and expenditures are our own business, not hers! I told my wife that would happen, and that she should tell her we got a good deal on it and leave it at that. But not my wife. Instead, she told her a little fib to get past the questions, then showed off her new $10.00 microwave (now that I think about it, she's been talking about wanting a new microwave, too. Have I been had?). Women!


Sunday, July 23, 2006

The Daily Gripe #2 - Slow Motion

Welcome to The Daily Gripe, a new regular feature on Average Joe American.

As I've said many times, I drive quite a few miles for work each day. Half of them in the early morning darkness.

Did you ever notice how driving more miles makes you drive faster? Really. The more mileage you put on a car, the faster you drive, whether it's from over-confidence that you won't get stopped or the desire to complete a long trip as quickly as possible. Most of us do it, and I'm no exception.

My daily commute takes me from town to town, through farm country, over county roads, state roads, U.S. Highways, and an unnamed road or two. The speed limit most of the way is fifty-five. But like Sammy Hagar, I can't drive fifty-five. Not when I can get away with going seventy and trim over twenty minutes off my trip. That's twenty minutes of valuable sleep time.

This morning I was cruising along at roughly sixty-five in a fifty-five speed zone when I came upon someone else who apparently can't drive fifty-five. It looked like forty-five was more their speed. I shifted into the oncoming lane, made a clean pass, and moved back to the right lane. This slow-going person I had just passed must have been concerned that I would get lost in the fog ahead, because he started flashing his high beams at me repeatedly. That must have been his motivation, because I can't think of any other reason (short of being a total idiot) that a person would want to flash his high beams at a car that passed him when he couldn't even maintain the speed limit. A mile or so down the road, the guys concern must have increased, because he repeated his flashing before turning off the main road.

Come on people, how stupid can a person be? Do you think this driver tries especially hard to be annoying? Or could it just come naturally? Flashing his high beams: that really gripes me! But that's probably what he hoped to accomplish.


Saturday, July 22, 2006

President Bush's Weekly Radio Address

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In his weekly radio address President Bush said, "America remains committed to lasting peace in the Middle East. The United States and our partners will continue to seek a return to the road map for peace in the Middle East, which sets out the pathway to establishing a viable democratic Palestinian state that will live in peace with Israel. We will continue to support moderate leaders, like Palestinian Authority President Abbas. We will continue to call on Hamas to end its acts of terror. And now, more than ever, the Palestinians need leaders who are not compromised by terror and who will help the Palestinian people provide a future for their children based on regional peace and security."

The Daily Gripe #1 - Gasoline (Uggghhhh!)

Welcome to The Daily Gripe, a new little feature on Average Joe American. Every day I find myself ticked off for one reason or another. Whether it's something stupid someone does, or something I do, or whatever else, The Gripe finds a way to get me every day.

Take yesterday, for example. I drive some eighty-five miles one way to work and back every day. I get about thirty-four miles to the gallon, but I still burn through a lot of gas. I fill up my tank at least twice a week, some weeks three times, and it can get expensive. I have to keep an eye out for the best price along my route every day. Usually, I find that price about five minutes from work, where the price for a gallon of eighty-seven octane gasoline has been $2.799 all week long: fully twenty cents a gallon less than every place else. That twenty cents a gallon can save me as much as seven bucks a week.

So I drive into work yesterday -- Friday -- knowing I'll need to stop for gas on my way home. No problem. Until I round the corner on my trip home that very afternoon and find they've raised the price of their gasoline to $2.999, just like every place else. Why? No one else in town had a twenty cent per gallon increase. Did this one lone gas station see a rise in their costs?

Of course not! More likely, they saw a rise in their profit potential for the weekend, and raised their price just in time for the July vacationers and weekend travelers to fill up. Could any commercial business outside the energy industry get away with a fifteen percent increase in prices without a cooresponding cost increase somewhere? Just in time for a spike in business? I think not! That really gripes me! I won't be a bit surprised to see the price go back down on Monday or Tuesday. I'll let you know what happens.


Friday, July 21, 2006

Did YOU Know?

As you walk up the steps to the building which houses the U.S Supreme Court you can see near the top of the building a row of the world's law givers and each one is facing one in the middle who is facing forward with a full frontal view. It is Moses and he is holding the Ten Commandments!

As you enter the Supreme Court courtroom, the two huge oak doors have the Ten Commandments engraved on each lower portion of each door.

As you sit inside inside the courtroom, you can see on the wall, right above where the Supreme Court judges sit, a display of the Ten Commandments!

There are Bible verses etched in stone all over the Federal Buildings and Monuments in Washington, D.C.

James Madison, the fourth president, known as "The Father of Our Constitution," made the following statement: "We have staked the whole of all our political institutions upon the capacity of mankind for self-government, upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves, to control ourselves, to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God."

Patrick Henry, that patriot and Founding Father of our country said: "It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded not by religionists but by Christians, not on religions but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ".

Every session of Congress begins with a prayer by a paid preacher, whose salary has been paid by the taxpayer since 1777.

DID YOU KNOW? 52 of the 55 founders of the Constitution were members of the established orthodox churches in the colonies.

Thomas Jefferson worried that the Courts would overstep their authority and instead of interpreting the law would begin making law - an oligarchy - the rule of few over many.

The very first Supreme Court Justice, John Jay, said: "Americans should select and prefer Christians as their rulers." How, then, have we gotten to the point that everything we have done for 220 years in this country is now suddenly wrong and unconstitutional?

Lets put it around the world and let the world see and remember what this great country was built on.


Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Summer Heat Buster

Summer can bring some pretty hot weather with it -- no news flash there, right. Some people love the hot summer days. I was born in July, but I'd take winter (preferrably with minimal snow) any day over the heat of summer. I don't mind the cold at almost any temperature. But seventy-five is as warm as I like.

Today it must have been ninety-five here in Smalltown, Indiana. According to my thermometer, that's HOT. And there's not much I care to do outside on a hot summer day. Wash the car, maybe. Grill some steaks, sure. Mow the lawn, unfortunately. That's what I had to do today: mow.

Sweat pouring from every pore of my body, running into my eyes and drenching my clothes -- it wasn't exactly what I'd call a good time.

But I made the most of it. I pulled my son's little swimming pool (not the little hard plastic wading pools, but nothing spectacular, either) out of the garage. I patched up the biggest hole in it with electrical tape (hey, it actually held the water in), filled it up with colder water than I would have liked, and took my son out for a couple hours of splish-splashing fun.

It was the perfect way to cool off after mowing in the hot sun, and my son loved it. I guess there are some good things about summer. But I think I'll stick with winter, anyway.


Sunday, July 16, 2006

Book Review: Plague Maker by Tim Downs

Book ReviewPlague Maker by Tim Downs -- the first book by Downs that I have read -- is a compelling novel. I found myself up late, unable to put the book down, despite an early appointment next morning.

There is seemingly no end to the apocalyptic end times thrillers coming out of the publishing houses these days. Tim Downs delivers a refreshingly today-real story that anyone can read, understand, and appreciate. No Biblical knowledge is needed to follow or enjoy this story. And the moral (yes, it has a moral) isn't a preachy one.

FBI Agent Nathan Donovan is essentially a believable hero. Though a bit egotistical, maybe, I can't recall anything he did that wasn't mostly realistic and at least possible.

It's not my practice to spoil a story, so I won't give much detail. If you like a story as real as the headlines, you'll enjoy Plague Maker.


President Bush's Weekly Radio Address

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In his weekly radio address President Bush said, "As the world's economic powers gather for the G8, the American economy remains the envy of the world. And this week we received even more positive news about our economy. On Tuesday, my administration's Office of Management and Budget released its annual update on the budget outlook. This year's report is very encouraging: Because our economy continues to enjoy strong growth, federal tax revenues are growing, and we are cutting the federal deficit faster than expected."

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Podcast of the Week

It can be quite difficult raising a kid these days. There is no manual, and no training, really, beyond HOW to actually get through the delivery process. New parents are taking on the most important role in their lives, and there is no test to be sure you're ready, no owner's manual, nothing.

Well, not exactly nothing. There are resources, if you go out and find them. Among many, I've stumbled upon 101 Uses for Baby Wipes, a great podcast designed for Daddy's. Dennis Gray covers parenting news, views, and interviews experts on a wide range of topics that any Daddy could face. He also throws in a couple of podsafe songs for good measure.

It's roughly an hour of wholesome, informative, Daddy-related content. And once a month he joins up with other Daddycasters for the Daddy Panel, which is my personal favorite. Four or five Daddys together sharing their experiences and tips on how to raise a well-rounded child in the twenty-first century. You have to give it a listen.

Download the most recent episode here. You can also get the most recent Daddy Panel here. Visit the website here. Or grab the feed for your favorite RSS aggregator here.

And tell him Joe sent you.


Sunday, July 9, 2006

President Bush's Weekly Radio Address

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In his weekly radio address President Bush said, "Our economic expansion is lifting the lives of millions of Americans, and to keep this expansion going, we must maintain the pro-growth, low-tax policies that helped to launch it in the first place. The tax relief we delivered has helped unleash the entrepreneurial spirit of America and kept our economy the envy of the world. So I will continue to work with Congress to make that tax relief permanent."

Wednesday, July 5, 2006 News Alert! North Korea Launches The Big One

With all of the concern you hear from Democrats over Iran and North Korea, and their imminent nuclear capability, and how wrong the Bush administration is to pursue terrorism in Iraq while not taking action against Iran and North Korea, the following from is kind of refreshing.


From: "CBSNews---Breaking_News"
Sent: Tue, 4 Jul 2006 14:12:44 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: News Alert!
North Korea Reportedly Test Launches Missile

Japanese broadcaster NHK says North Korea has test-launched a missile.


But wait, the best part followed in another alert.


From: "CBSNews---Breaking_News"
Sent: Tue, 4 Jul 2006 15:12:40 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: News Alert!
North Korea Launched The Big One

Among several missiles launched by North Korea was the long range ballistic missile that has been the source of controversy. The missile failed 35 seconds after launch.



Average Joe Plugged on Drive Time

Once again, check out the BuckeyeDrive Time. But this time, specifically check out episode 85. Among the usual great music from the Podsafe Music Network, you'll hear a quick mention of the Average Joe American.


Tuesday, July 4, 2006

Independence & Liberty

It's Fourth of July weekend, which means a four-day weekend, if you're lucky. I'm not quite that lucky. I do have three days off, Sunday and Wednesday like every week, and Tuesday for the holiday. So my four-day weekend has a one day interruption on Monday, but it'll still feel like a long weekend by the time I return to my routine on Thursday.

More importantly than four days off, however, is the reason for the long weekend. It's a reason you must never forget.

It all began 230 years ago, when the brave founders of this great nation formally declared freedom from the British crown. But like anything worth having, it wasn't quite that simple. People fought. People died. They fought and died because they believed in the cause of Liberty. They risked their lives to be free. Many died so that others might be free. So that you would be free.

America's brave men and women have never given up that fight. They know the value of freedom, and hold it so dear that they want to share it with the world. They have fought throughout history to defend the cause of freedom against tyranny. They fight today to spread liberty to other countries.

If you are one of those brave men or women who have answered the call for liberty, Thank You and God Bless You! For the rest of you, be thankful this Independence Day. Thankful for those who made it a day worth celebrating.



I just had a deja vu. My wife and son have gone to the birthday party of one of his friends, and I'm sitting home with my infant daughter, who turned two months old just yesterday. They've been gone for two hours, and my daughter has slept most of that time away. But the time she hasn't slept, she's been crying.

I've tried all the tricks in my arsenal, short of putting her in the car and going for a drive. I've laid her on her tummy on a blanket on the floor. Laid her on her tummy on an ottoman and slowly rocked her. Sat with her in my lap in the glider and slowly rocked. Held her and walked around the house. Sat her in her bouncer and turned it on vibrate. Laid her on her tummy on the couch and rubbed her back.

A couple of those tricks seemed to work for a short while. But nothing lasted long. Then I put her back in her swing, put a pacifier in her mouth, turned off the television (cartoons, of course), and turned on the music on the swing.


That's when it came to me. The deja vu, I mean.

When we brought my son home from the hospital almost three years ago, this same swing was a life saver. My son refused to sleep in his crib. He refused to sleep in his pack 'n' play basinet. He refused to sleep any place we put him -- except for this wonderful swing.

For probably the first three months of his life, the only place he would sleep was in the swing, with the music playing. My wife and I spent those three months sleeping on the couches in the living room with him -- she on the full-size couch while I was folded into the love seat. Our little boy would swing happily off to dreamland while we tried to get whatever rest we could -- seven minutes at a time.

See, to maximize battery life, the Fisher Price Ocean Wonder Aquarium Swing we have stops playing music every seven minutes. My restless son in his first months of life would wake up every time the music stopped. I would wake up, too, to restart the music. It wasn't long before I could pop up, restart the music, and drop back to the couch without actually interrupting my sleep. Don't ask how. If you're a Daddy, you probably already know.

My daughter is now in her swing, and I've restarted the music for her three times. That's what brought the flashback! That familiar music from three years ago.

It just stopped again! Will she wake up? Should I restart the music again before she does? So far, so good. She seems to be sleeping quite soundly.

Oh, the memories.


Monday, July 3, 2006

Review Section

With reviews scattered throughout the pages of Average Joe American, it can be hard sometimes to find what you're looking for. Especially when Google's blog search returns results with incorrect links that take you to a 404 Error page.

I've added a new section in the navigation bar at the side of the page. Just scroll down for links to all of my reviews -- books, products, television, movies, stage theater, Internet, podcasts, etc. The newest reviews will always be listed in bold type.


Book Review: Left Behind - The Rapture

Book ReviewHow many sequels can the authors get from the second-coming of Christ? One more, it seems. That's what Tim Lahaye and Jerry Jenkins have planned for the hugely successful Left Behind series. After twelve books in the series, three prequels, and numerous spin-offs, Left Behind: The Sequel is the next promised installment.

I just finished reading the third -- and apparently final -- prequel: The Rapture. If you read the original Left Behind book, much of The Rapture will seem familiar to you.

The authors revisit much of the accounting of the Rapture from The Bible's book of Revelation. You'll witness again as billions of people the world over disappear without explanation. You'll see Nicolae Carpathia, the Antichrist, begin his rise to power as he ascends to the presidency of Romania and puts in motion his plans to take over the United Nations. All familiar territory to the millions of Left Behind fans who have made the books so popular.

What you won't find familiar is the accounting of the first Judgement of those who have been raptured. Lahaye and Jenkins share their version of what those of us who will be raptured can expect in the presence of God. Judgements to determine what reward each raptured saint will receive for his or her works on Earth.

The book is an easy read, though the reaccounting of the original Left Behind is a bit unnecessary. It serves only to set the timeline for activities that occur to those who aren't left behind after the rapture.

If you've invested the hours required to read the rest of the Left Behind series, you'll certainly want to read The Rapture, as well. If for no reason other than to be prepared for the next installment, Left Behind: The Sequel, which promises to show us how the authors vision the time that Satan is to be let loose after being cast into the Lake of Fire. I, for one, can't wait!


Sunday, July 2, 2006

Podcast of the Week

In April, I first mentioned the Buckeye Drive Time podcast. It's worth rementioning, as a new feature was just added to the podcast on Friday. Get Friday's episode of the Buckeye Drive Time here, and find out why Hairworthy makes this podcast worth a second mention.

You can visit the Drive Time's online home here, or subscribe to the podcast feed here in your favorite RSS aggregator.



President Bush's Weekly Radio Address

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In his weekly radio address President Bush said, "On the 4th of July we also honor the sacrifices made by each American generation to secure the promises of the Declaration of Independence. For more than two centuries, from the camps of Valley Forge, to the mountains of Afghanistan, Americans have served and sacrificed for the principles of our founding."

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