Passport Camp: Day One

For those of you that don’t know, I signed up at my church to chaperon at a summer youth camp. It’s centered around missions projects in the local Macon area. I’ve never done anything like this before, so this is all new to me. I’ve never even been to “summer camp” that I can remember.

We arrived at camp and hung around outside the bus while we went to get checked in here at Mercer University. Once we got all that, we rode over to our dorm rooms that we were staying in. Me and Sherri are watching four boys. They separated into pairs and each pair got a room. Then me and Sherri both got our own rooms. Of course, the key for mine, did not work. So I had to wait just a bit to see what lies ahead. After finally getting the key to my room, I stepped in and was amazed. This place is huge. I have a complete kitchen, a huge living area and a decent bathroom.

After we settled in, we walked over to the cafeteria to get some dinner. Once again, I was amazed. The cafeteria is basically a buffet, and you get whatever you want. Everything is included, and they even hand make tacos, and special order burgers. I have to give a hand to the employees of the Mercer University cafeteria for an excellent experience. I really look forward to breakfast in the morning.

Then we finally got to the worship part. Now initially, we were told we had to “remix” a song to introduce our group. Since we were one of the last groups to check in, our song choice was limited to “Jesus Loves Me” and “Thriller”. We went with “Jesus Loves Me”. The four boys remixed the song and were very nervous about singing. More on this later.

During worship, we were all forced to play multiple games where we had to get up and switch around the seating. For example, find everyone with your shoe size or born in the same month. It was really a great time. Something I have never experience before. Back to the song. So, the idea was that each church would get up and sing their song to introduce themselves. We were the second to last group. We were a group of six people. Every other group except one was 20 to 40 people. The boys were getting more nervous. So we finally piled up there after a group of about 30 people (the ones we rode with). We sang our remixed rap version of Jesus Loves Me which went something like:

We are the Lakeland Fellowship
We rock out and we are hip
If you see us please don’t trip
We’re so cool that you might slip
Yes, we are the Lakeland Fellowship
Yes, we are the Lakeland Fellowship
Yes, we are the Lakeland Fellowship
We rock out cause we are hip
Word

They had nothing to be nervous about. We got the loudest applause of any other group. There were a few more skits about the rules and such, then a meeting with just the youth leaders (the chaperons).

Be right back… the boys locked themselves out. Sigh.

Tragedy averted. Sherri has extras. Sherri by the way is the youth leader at Lakeland Fellowship, and the one I am here with. Anyway, our days here are packed with things to do, and I want to get my sleep now.

Danielle is missing me a lot, and I her. This will be the longest I have been away from her. I do miss home a bit. I’ll be busy during the day to keep my mind off of it for a little bit though. By the way, if you want to keep up to date with me during the day, read my Twitter.

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Goin’ to Macon

So I am on my way to Macon, GA. I am chaperoning for the youth at my church. We are taking four 6 and 7 graders. I’ll be gone from Sunday morning to Friday night. We hopped on the bus in Lakeland which is being chartered by the church that we will be traveling with. They are bring 30+ children themselves. It’s been three hours now. During the first three hours we playing a get to know you game. We hopped around different seats and asked a series of questions to the person sitting in the other seat. We stopped at Wendy’s and McDonalds for lunch. I opted for McDonalds. We walked in with about 30 people already in line and added another 20 or so. But McDonald’s ran efficiently and piled through everyone in 10 to 20 minutes. Go McDonald’s! Well, we are back on the road for another three hours, but I don’t know if there will be any projects. So I decided to blog instead. Anyway, I feel that at times, it may get a little slow, so I’ll try to blog.

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I Can See Clearly Now

For 6 years now, I’ve looked at my sliding door when walking into my house. Before that, my grandmother looked at the same door. During all that time, the door was made out of plexiglass. When the house was purchased, there had been a small fire, and my father fixed it up before we settled in. Since it was a sliding glass door, the firemen just made their own door. For all those years, I’ve looked at plexiglass. The plexiglass had become very hard to see through with all the constant scraping as it would not stay perfect verticle (there was always a bump). It was hard to clean. Recently, I had hit the plexiglass with my hand and made a hole in it. The constant sun had made it brittle. Just a few days ago, Noah bumped his head into the door, and the plexiglass came out on the edges. I knew something had to be done. So I decided to use another sliding glass door in the house and switch doors (the other one goes to a screened porch, ain’t no big deal). Well, the door handles didn’t match. So I did the unthinkable. I took the glass out of the one door, and transferred it to the other. I slid it from one to the other inch by inch on the kitchen floor. During all this time, it was raining out and I had two huge holes in my walls (I had to take out both doors to each set). I finally got it all back together and installed the new door. What a difference. Each time I come up to the door, I almost want to walk through it. I’ve not seen glass in this door before.

On another note, I’ve finally finished the floor in my house. I replaced the kitchen and dining room floor with a fake wood panel look, and it looks fantastic!

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Hold the Stick, Straighten It!

So when I was younger (heck, only a few years ago even), my father would make me help him when leveling out the ground for stuff like pools, foundations, leech fields, etc. I hated doing it. Basically, I would hold the “stick” which was a ruler on multiple locations within the area we were working. My father would get the fun part of looking through the scope to see if they were all at the same level, and whether they needed to go up or down. Today, I was setting a small pool for Noah and Nora, and wanted to level the ground below it. So I got my shovel, and pulled out the scope. I gave Noah a “stick” (which was just a metal rod), marked a line on it, and told him to move around the area I wanted. We went back and forth a couple of times. When we were all done, I set the pool down, and put the tools away. While I was moving on to filling the pool, Noah and Nora decided to play “hold the stick” also. Noah would give the stick to Nora and tell her where to stand, and Noah would pretend to look through a scope. Noah even drew a circle on the ground. I guess he doesn’t think it’s boring yet. Give it a few more years…

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Growth

As I’ve mentioned, business is growing. Our new office space is official. I signed the lease yesterday. We begin moving our stuff on Monday. I’ve also met/interviewed/orientated two new employees. One has been working for us for a couple of weeks now, but he lives in Tallahassee (he handles phone support). He was recently down for a few days, and I took him on a job with me. The other, I had him ride around with me yesterday to see what I do, and he will be officially starting on Monday. His job at first will be working on the home computers and doing general maintenance. I am feeling really good about this growth and the direction of the company.

I am also learning “leadership”. I’m almost finished with the parenting book that me and Danielle have been reading. There have been some interesting insights in the book. It’s not that the book so much “tells” you how to parent, but makes you think about your parenting, and reinstates the common sense stuff. I think this will help me in my business too. The book commonly refers to politicians (in a negative sense) and CEO (in a positive sense).

Well, this morning, Danielle is going knitting with a friend, and I get to help Noah and Nora build character ;-)

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Furniture for your shooting pleasure

ElectroNerdz is having a small gathering tomorrow (and by small, it may be almost no one as the date was soo last minute). We plan on shooting on some private property where you have a little more freedom (like rapid fire). The owner has setup an area where he has a couple of old cars, and a very large berm behind all this. There is unfortunately no actually target stand. So $40 later, I have built a target stand (complete with replaceable backing), a table on which to set the guns, a chair on which to sit at the table, and another stand with a couple of nails sticking up to shoot some watermelon with. I don’t think we’ll get watermelon in time, but I do have some old Pepsi cans that haven’t been opened yet that could be used as targets.

Gun Furniture

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Video Awards

Last night was a big deal. My business partner Bobby was very involved in ITV back in high school, and still keeps up with most of the people from that program. Every year ITV of the Polk County School Board has a “Video Awards” to honor students who create and star in the short films they create. There were over 90 schools that participated in the awards this year, with 3,000 students present, plus a lot of parents. Me, Danielle, Bobby, and his wife Brittani were invited this year to the awards ceremony. But not because of Bobby’s contacts in ITV. David Yates, the presenter made a special announcement about how both Bobby personally, and his company, ElectroNerdz, donated over $8,000 to the Video Awards that year. Bobby even got up and made a short speech about how he believes that this program prepares students for a world that revolves around information.

Bobby asked if ElectroNerdz would sponsor the events this year. ElectroNerdz paid for the actual awards as there was no money in the Polk County School Board budget for them, and were have been foregone. This was a huge announcement for ElectroNerdz. In addition to the personal greeting mentioning ElectroNerdz, ElectroNerdz was mentioned on the front cover of the programs that were handed out at the end of the ceremony.

This is big. I’m still freaking out about it a little bit. We expect a lot of calls coming up in the near future relating to people whom were at the ceremony.

After the ceremony, we four went to Outback Steakhouse and dragged the entire ITV class at George Jenkins High School with us (about 26+ people)… 15 minutes before they closed. I’m not so sure they were happy about that. ElectroNerdz paid for all of the appetizers. Me and Danielle were the last customers to leave the restaurant. It was a long night.

In addition to this huge opportunity, ElectroNerdz will also be acquiring a new office in May, with the official start date set to June 1st. We’ve outgrown our current 200 square foot office, and will be moving into a 1400 square foot office. And we’ll be proud to have customers come to our office. In addition to Danielle, we now have our first phone technician who will handle remote support for our effortlessIT customers (as he lives in north Florida). Over this summer, we’ll be hiring at least one on-site tech to work in the new office.

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The Ecomony Effect

So me and Danielle are getting more serious. She currently drives a 1998 Kia Sephia that she only feels so so about. For the longest time, it had no radio, and the A/C was subpar. I wanted to get a newer car, and she was willing to make the payments. So we set out to two different used car salesman, both named Joe. Joe #1 is Danielle’s ex-uncle. He manages a lot in Mt Dora. We’ve been watching his stock, but some of the cars just don’t suit our needs. So we tried Joe #2, whom I bought my truck off almost 3 years ago. When I bought my truck back then, my credit was excellent, and they went by my word and gave me a $23,000 truck. Well, I assumed I’d have no problem getting another vehicle with my excellent credit, so we perused the Winter Haven Chevrolet lot. We found a great car with all the extra’s. It was $12,000. We sat down with Joe and filled out the preliminary paper-work. He handed it off to the finance guy, but you could tell that something wasn’t right. He didn’t feel good about it. He told us about how without putting money down, and not trading in might hurt us. Well, it did. Not only was I turned down by GMAC who currently holds my truck loan, I was also turned down by MidFlorida. Three years ago, they’d have been handing me the keys no questions asked. Now, I need paperwork, $5,000 and a vehicle to trade in since they did not understand why I needed a second vehicle. Danielle was devastated, and I was disappointed that my excellent credit means nothing these days. I was even talking to my accountant about it the other day. She needed a new car several months ago, and said it was the first time in 30 years that she had to provide “tax returns” to prove her income.

So back to the Kia. I like the Kia. I know it has it’s downsides. So I decided to fix them. This last weekend, I fixed the A/C. It was quite simple actually. The cable that opens the blower was loose. I put it in it’s place, and now the A/C blows like it should, air that is. It was always cold, just no air came out of the vents. The next, and more complicated, was the radio. I had a radio for the car, but no speakers. So off to two different WalMarts and I have speakers. I install them after quite a bit of MacGyvering, and even put in a cable for Danielle’s iPod, which she just loves. I also had enough time to install a spare tire cover in the truck, so that the groceries don’t lay on the tire. Oh, and I fixed the windshield washer. It had green gunk stuck in the left sprayer. Last, but not least, I gave it a good washing. Now, it’s practically like brand new, and Danielle actually enjoys driving it now.

I’ve noticed a lot of people lately sticking to their old cars and making them last longer. I’d have to say this is the first time the “ecomony” has affected me. Hopefully, things will get better. That Obama, he’s gonna fix it all!

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I want a drink.

So for those of you who don’t know, me and Danielle have moved in together. She has moved into my house. My father came down from North Carolina, and added a new bedroom. My life has been getting more structured as I create my future. This past week, Danielle prepared for a trip to Oregon to visit her friend Misty. I dropped her off at the airport on Thursday morning (at 5am!) and will pick her up on Tuesday evening. Since that point, I have been in charge of Noah and Nora. I took them back home, gave them breakfast, then took them to school. Their father had them for the next two nights. I picked them up again on Saturday around noon. In a way, I actually missed them and looked forward to picking them up. So far, it’s been a great experience. Today at church, everyone asked where Danielle was, and as I told them, they felt sorry for me that I had the children all alone, and that I must be having a hard time. However, I told them that it has been the exact opposite. On Saturday, for the first few hours or so, they were whiny and yelling at each other, making demands, lying, etc. However, by around 5:30, I started my plan for structure. I called them back in the house as it was getting near dinner time, and they need to clean their rooms before dinner and prepare to eat. They both cleaned their rooms (well, sorta, I did point out a few things on the floor) while I cooked dinner. While still cooking, I put a movie on for Nora, and Noah quietly played with his mouse. I called them both to dinner, and they sat and quietly ate all of their dinner (they love Hamburger Helper, who doesn’t). After dinner, they took a bath, and we continued with the rest of the movie, all of us quietly sitting together on the couch. No fighting, no pushing, no climbing. When the movie was over, it was time for bed. Nora has been crying before bed lately, but not a peep. Noah went down easier than I had thought. They fell asleep shortly there after. This morning was just as good. Noah this morning was playing with his mouse without asking, and I told him to put it back, and he did right away. I put the mouse up high, and he appeared to realize the consequences of his actions and how he will not get to play with him today. During breakfast, they demanded a drink. “I want a drink,” they would say. I’d reply with, “Good for you.” It took Noah about 5 times before he realized he needed to ask without me saying anything. He’s been getting quicker as the day goes on. Nora is not quite understanding yet, but when she is corrected, she does ask, “May… I… have… *muffled by the cup*”. I take the cup off her face and correct her mumbling. During church, they of course got their fill of sweets as the older ladies pump them full of sugar. As we were leaving, Nora lost her doggie, and I told her as we were going in that if she brings it and loses it, we are not going to go find it. She didn’t cry as we were leaving. We get to Publix to find some lunch, and Noah asks if he can have a cookie (Danielle always gets them a cookie in Publix). I told them no, they already had donuts they weren’t supposed to have. They don’t whine. Both trips in the car were quiet. No fighting, in fact, barely any talking. Just the quiet hum of the car (ok, not so quiet, I’m still working on my shifting skills), and the sound of the wind blowing. Now, they are outside playing, and I hear no yelling and screaming. Of course, I just saw Noah running off with ashes, so I must go check on that and put out any necessary fires. It isn’t perfect, but it’s been a great experience.

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Electric Car

I was driving (yeah, like I’d never be doing that) along side a Smart car the other day and was curious if it was electric or gas. It turns out it is fuel. However, the price starts at $12K. I’ve heard about Chevy coming out with an electric car (the Volt) that you can plug into a standard outlet to charge it up instead of relying on a fuel engine that charges the batteries (which apparently, it still has a fuel engine, but different from a hybrid). I found out that Chevy plans on releasing this car starting at $40K or so. Really? I did the math. You can buy a Kia for about $12K these days. So to get the Chevy Volt, you’d have to spend an extra $28K. One of the selling points of an electric/hybrid vehicle is the “mpg” fuel savings. Gas it currently going for $2 a gallon. Do you know how many fill ups $28K (how much more you’d be spending to get the Volt) translates into? At $2 a gallon, that is 14,000 gallons. Let’s assume the Kia has a 12 gallon tank. That is 1166 fillups. Let’s assume you fill up once a week (you don’t go far to work or something). That is 22 years (longer than the Kia OR the Volt would last) of fill ups at $2 a gallon. If it were up to $4 a gallon, well, just half everything, so 11 years of fillups at $4 a gallon.

So where am I saving on fuel? My electric car still needs fuel. It needs expensive batteries. I can’t just go about anywhere to get it serviced (in fact, is there even a place in Polk County that will service, or carry parts for the internals of a hybrid). I’ve heard there are subsidies, but only $7,500. Ok, so 16 years of fillups at $2 a gallon.

So in conclusion, I will not be spending anywhere near $40,000 for an electric vehicle. A $12,000 Kia would be fine for me. If you’d like to play with the numbers, here is the spreadsheet (Excel XLS/OpenOffice ODS) I created to do the math.

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