My 2014 Blog in Review- Thanks to My Readers for a Great 1st Year!

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

After deciding to start my blog at the beginning of 2014, I have been diligent to post regularly on a variety of topics. I am very excited to have had readers in 94 countries! Thank you for reading, enjoying, and sharing my posts. Please continue to in 2015! I also mirror some articles on my blogspot site, http://lukeaustindaugherty.blogspot.com/ and Google+.

For all of my articles, poetry, essays, and updates, follow this blog on WordPress AND follow me on all the primary social media sites!

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lukeaustindaugherty

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LukraticMethod

Tumblr: http://lukeaustindaugherty.tumblr.com/

2015 will be a big year for me and my readers! I will be publishing my new book, “Love is the Middle,” in the spring. So, be looking for updates.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 12,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Gay Marriage Ban Overturned in Indiana! (for now) And This Former Homophobe is Happy About it!

Gay Marriage Ban Overturned in Indiana! (for now) And This Former Homophobe is Happy About it!

(click the link above for the Channel 13 story and video)

Great news LGBT friends and supporters of gay marriage! For now, the Indiana ban on gay marriage has been overturned by U.S. District Judge Richard Young. Since this is still Indiana, Attorney General Greg Zoeller will likely appeal today’s ruling and attempt to stay the ruling pending appeal. In the mean time, marriage licenses will be issued to gay couples.

As one who used to be against gay marriage and eventually came out of the dark ages ideologically, I am extremely happy with the current ruling. Congratulations to all those in Indiana who may now legally marry! And to all those who have fought the good fight for marriage equality, cheers to your hearty and victorious efforts!

If you are reading this and are still against gay marriage and/or the LGBT community at large, I implore you to read my story of changing my mind on the issue a few years ago. I think some of my past experiences may resonate with you. Click the link below for that previous blog post, “Confessions of a Former Homophobe.”

https://lukeaustindaugherty.wordpress.com/2014/01/28/confessions-of-a-former-homophobe-same-love/

A Prank Too Far- When Does a Prank Stop Being Funny?

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An interesting phenomenon has developed over the last several years via the reach of youtube- the rise of independent, “professional” pranksters. These are creative people who started out small, and due to their consistent and well-filmed prank videos, have reached a certain level of internet fame. For some, that fame and the ad revenue it produces even makes for a full time personal income allowing them more time to focus on their art of creating prank videos.

If you are into the prank videos on youtube, you may know some of the primary pranksters well. Many of their videos go so viral that even if you aren’t into watching the pranks, you will see the links posted on various social media sites. Other videos become so popular that they are referenced in major news stories nationally and internationally. A few of the “kings” of youtube prank channels are Jack Vale (the Pooter guy), edbassmaster, Roman Atwood, Vitaly at VitalyzdTV, Tom Mabe at MabeInAmerica, PrankvsPrank, The Scary Snowman, Dennis Roady, MagicofRahat, and others. Some of these pranksters have also learned the trick to being one of the “popular kids” as it were. That is, you team up and tell the populace that the other person is cool too. So, some popular pranksters often team-up to do videos and pranks together. It is brilliant cross marketing and pools their creative resources as well.

These viral pranks range greatly in their nature, style of execution, and subject matter. Some are just goofy “fart” pranks pulled off in public spots, stores, or elevators. See Jack Vale’s video’s for the best examples of these.

Others are also very simplistic in nature, but always have a great payoff, such as the Scary Snowman videos.

Hey, fake farts and people getting startled have always been and will always be funny. Video pranks will vary from those simple and relatively harmless versions all the way to some very potentially dangerous ones. Some pranksters have also made a real effort to use some of their pranks to benefit others or have done social experiments to raise awareness of some important issues. I applaud the noble efforts of such pranksters to use their art form in the service of helping others to whatever degree they can.

But, there are two other categories of prank videos that I would like to address. Actually, the two have some overlap. That is, pranks that can potentially (or likely) cause harm to the public and pranks that waste the resources of emergency or police services. I was inspired to address this issue after seeing several of those types of videos being discussed by people on Facebook in the last few weeks. It seems that there is a one-upmanship battle going on between the royalty of youtube pranksters. The nature of some of these pranks is getting more ridiculous and/or dangerous. Please know, I am not a “fuddy-duddy” that doesn’t get a kick out of a ton of the pranks I see. Yet, in day to day life, I am not a prankster myself. Since I don’t like being messed with personally, I don’t dish it out either. But, due to the rise of the “professional prankster” some of them think that saying, “IT’S JUST A PRANK!” after doing something crazy in public somehow puts them “on base” from any repercussions.

As a disclaimer and qualifier, I do not condone violence against another person merely over words or insult. I do support defending one’s self when you believe that you are in immediate danger, are being actively and physically intimidated, actually attacked, or are defending another person who is in one of those situations. I would assert that some of these pranksters are going too far and becoming reckless in a way that is dangerous to themselves and others with some recent pranks.

Since I have enjoyed watching youtube pranks for years, I have tried to hold back on being too judgmental on some “iffy” pranks that I have seen online. But, the first one I saw from a major prankster, in this case Roman Atwood, that I think definitely crossed the line is the one below:

The “Drive-by Shooting Prank” is just reckless, stupid, and dangerous. If you noticed, one person actually shot back at Atwood’s vehicle toward the end of the video. Atwood is lucky that the shooter was a poor shot and no one else had a car handy to chase his SUV down in to return real fire. Here are my main points of contention about that prank:
1. Going to a potentially high-crime neighborhood where people are already on edge and making random people think they are really being shot at is just negligent, unthinking, and lacks compassion. I would like Atwood or any other prankster who thinks such a prank is funny to consider what it would be like to walk out your front door, your small child in tow, to what you think is a real drive-by shooting pointed in your direction. Would that just be “ha-ha” funny? Would that just be all good after your and your child were terrified? I know there was not a small child apparent in the video, but I appeal to Atwood’s sensibilities (if he sees this blog) knowing his is a father.
2. The prankster his or herself could actually be injured.
3. The people who believe they are being shot at may assume that they know who is shooting at them: a neighboring gang, a person who they have had trouble with before, etc. and take revenge. Or, they may just go looking for a person who was driving the same kind of vehicle as the supposed shooter to get back at them. That is the type of thing that can happen in the real world.
4. Likely, police or emergency services are called because of such a situation. That wastes resources paid for by taxpayers at large for ridiculous reasons. It also can create a potential investigation that could falsely implicate an innocent person.

The recently posted video just below, “Killer Clown Scare Prank,” inspired a lengthy discussion on Facebook last week between quite a few people. (Graphic scenes)

That Killer Clown video is another example of a prank gone too far in my opinion. Many of the comments on Facebook had to do with the assertion that the person commenting would have reacted violently or shot the “clown.” Some of that may have been hyperbole, but I would say the majority of the people commenting were being literal. I myself live in a state, Indiana, which has a substantial amount of people who carry a concealed pistol, myself included. It would be reasonable in my opinion, especially in a city like Indianapolis with a crazy murder rate, to fire at a person who you believe is trying to attack you with a hammer, ax, knife, etc. It is inevitable that one of these pranksters engaging in highly irresponsible pranks will eventually be seriously hurt or killed. With so many real tweakers and violent people out there, as an individual on the street, you can’t just not act in a situation because there is a 1% chance you may be the target of a prank. Several pranksters have even been punched or slammed to the ground after doing a prank when they faked stealing a person’s property or said something highly offensive. Again, I don’t condone a violent reaction to words. But, you can’t expect to say crazy things to random people in public and not get hit eventually. Of course, it makes for great video and lots of “clicks,” so getting hit may be worth it to some pranksters. See the following for an example: (language warning)

Last, I would mention pranks that demean people. Even if done under the label of “helping” these pranks are in poor taste. Sure, people can do whatever they want for the most part and should be able to in making videos. But, I can also share my thoughts. In the following video, helping needy people is done in a way that is demeaning at the same time. If you’re going to give homeless folks money, do it in a way that doesn’t involve apparently blowing money out of your ass guys. Just because the homeless will take the money any way they can get it, does’t mean you should force them to grovel for money from your butt (of course, it isn’t really, but that isn’t the point)

In Atwood’s defense, he has fed the homeless and given money on several occasions in previous videos in much more tasteful ways (see the link below). And, he and his team have made tons of great prank videos as well. He is actually one of the best all-around pranksters online. Though, the push to get more and more sensational has to hit a wall at some point.

It is my hope that responsible pranking will continue. But, I implore youtube pranksters to mix in a bit of common sense and refrain from doing obviously dangerous pranks and/or pranks that waste police and emergency services. To my surprise, Roman Atwood, the prankster from the “Drive by Shooting” prank recently discovered a prank that was too much for even him. But hey, stealing gas when it’s over $4 a gallon could get you killed anywhere…

Thanks for reading and sharing! For a bit of comic relief, enjoy this classic SNL skit that relates to this blog perfectly 🙂

SNL Prankster Skit with Christopher Walken

Breaking Bad Naptown Style- A Baptist Pastor in Indy Starts a Drug Ring

Image Pastor Robert Jaynes (photo credit- Facebook)

It is like something from a movie script… fundamentalist Baptist pastor breaks bad and starts a multi-state, illegal drug ring worth millions of dollars while recruiting workers right out of his own church and little league affiliations. But, this story isn’t fiction.

Pastor Robert Jaynes, and church member, Kirk Parsons, have allegedly been running an illegal “Spice” ring for several years based on government documents. This multi-state Spice ring headquartered in Central Indiana is said to be one of the largest of its kind in U.S. history. On April 21st, twelve alleged members of their drug operation were formally charged with at least five felony counts each in the Circuit Court of Hancock County, In.

Image Kirk Parsons and Robert Jaynes (photo credit-Facebook)

“Spice” is a street name for synthetic cannabis that is produced by spraying natural herbs or flowers with chemicals, drying the product to process, and then bagging it in small quantities for distribution. The end product is typically smoked and produces psychoactive effects which are said to be similar to the effects of cannabis, though the actual effects are very unpredictable.

The current charges filed against the twelve individuals are all classified as Class C and D felonies and include, “Unlawful Manufacture, Distribution, Possession of Counterfeit Substance,” and, “Dealing in a Synthetic Drug or Synthetic Drug Lookalike Substance.” Included in the twelve people charged with all five felony counts are several members of Pastor Jaynes’ church and family. Pastor Jaynes’ wife, Stacey Jaynes, was charged as well as Kirk Parsons’ wife, Sherry Parsons.

Pastor Jaynes and Kirk Parsons have yet to be charged as the multi-agency investigation is still ongoing confirmed Indiana State Police Detective, Taylor Shafer. When I did a phone interview with Det. Shafer, he was not able to speak as to the details of the ongoing investigation. Yet, he did confirm that there is a sizable amount of public information about the twelve individuals available via the Hancock County Court file online. That file includes over twenty pages of evidence and details regarding the drug operation and conversations officials had with several members of the Spice ring and Pastor Jaynes. See the link just below to read the complete Court documents.

http://wishtv.com/sites/default/files/sites/14/2014/04/NewPal-defendants.pdf

Det. Shafer told me that after the law against Spice was passed in 2012 that closed previous loopholes, a decrease in the availability of Spice in Indiana has been achieved.  He also said an information sheet about the law had been provided by the State at that time to all business which may have sold the product while it was legal. Most of the smoke shops and gas stations that sold the product have ceased to do so. Though, Det. Shafer confirmed that some less scrupulous stores may still sell the product “under the counter” to trusted customers. He said that Indiana law enforcement was actively attempting to suss out such retailers to enforce relevant State laws and penalties upon them.

Two of the dangers of Spice (which also goes by other names such as, “K2”) that Det. Shafer mentioned are the issues of inconsistent and dangerous chemical formulas, as well as “hot spots” in the product due to sloppy production. A significant portion of the raw Spice chemical compound is imported illegally from other countries. These powders contain unknown quantities of different potentially dangerous chemicals. Also, when Spice producers are spraying the natural leaves with the solution of Spice compound, Acetone, Alcohol, and flavorings, the leaves are not always sprayed evenly. One bag of the finished product may be considerably more potent than another. Det. Shafer warned that many Spice users do not understand the process by which the drug is created nor the potential dangers. Users can experience temporary or permanent health issues from smoking bad Spice. It is easy to find examples of Spice “freak outs” online.

Here is a prime example- (Warning: disturbing images and language)

Based on the court documents, Jaynes and Parsons had been importing raw product in bulk from China. Their workers then manufactured the finished product at several Central Indiana locations. One of the individuals charged on the 21st said that his team would produce from 5,000-10,000 bags per day weighing 2-5 grams each. “Pirate Booty 3D,” was the primary name for their finished street product.

Before finishing our conversation, I said to Detective Shafer, “Based on the court charges, it appears that Jaynes and Parsons imported raw drug product, then they manufactured it locally, then distributed it locally, and then also distributed it across state lines. I then asked, “Would that not be a legal version of the ‘perfect storm’ to unleash against one’s self?” He confirmed that to be an accurate assessment of such a case. I greatly appreciate Det. Shafer’s timely response to my request for an interview and his informed answers to my questions that he was able to address.

Local station, Wish TV Channel 8, covered the story of the recent charges and the previous bust of some of the ring’s locations back in October of 2013.

http://wishtv.com/2014/04/21/12-people-charged-in-spice-bust/

What the story did not cover is the fact that one of the individuals charged with participating in the drug ring was also an IPS school teacher. Sources confirm that the now former IPS teacher was employed at James A Garfield/Phoenix Academy, School 31. Sherry Parsons, was a Reading & Literature teacher and did some after-school tutoring as well. These same sources say that the teacher, Sherry Parsons, was fired last week in a closed-door meeting. Students were not told the reason Mrs. Parsons was let go so close to the end of the school year and were left to speculate.

Sherry Parsons at school (photo credit-Facebook)

I called School 31 today to enquire about the situation. After being hung up on once by an office person who said, “I am not interested in those things,” I called back and was able to get the employee to confirm that Mrs. Parsons had worked at IPS School 31 and had been fired last week. I was then given the number to the main IPS office and told to call Human Resources for any further questions.

school 31 (photo credit-Facebook)

I immediately called the general IPS number and was forwarded to an HR representative for IPS. Unfortunately, the HR employee I spoke with was agitated by my attempts to ask several questions and refused to answer them. I told her that I was doing research for my blog article and that I know Mrs. Parsons had been an IPS teacher until last week and was currently charged with felony illegal drug distribution. She said, “This connection has not been made publicly!” I told her I understood that, which is why I was trying to get some answers before publishing my article. She said that IPS did not answer questions and there were matters of privacy at hand. I let her know that I understood matters of privacy and that specific questions may not be responded to, but that I would appreciate a few general questions being answered. She said that she would not answer any questions of any kind. I reminded the HR employee that the IPS budget was paid by the taxpayers and that the public should be able to ask at least general questions and expect a reasonable and respectful answer. I said that if I was the parent of a child at School 31 and found out that one of my child’s teachers had been charged with five felonies for drug manufacturing and distribution, I would want to be assured that the school system was doing an internal investigation to ensure that said teacher or her associates had not distributed any of those drugs to students. I was again hung up on…

One of the most ironic aspects of this whole case to me is that I personally know several of the individuals involved from a church affiliation about fifteen years ago. I met Pastor Jaynes when I was nineteen. He had been the Assistant Pastor of a church that I attended at the time and would sometimes come back to visit. I never had more than a handful of conversations with him over the years and none more recent than nearly a decade ago. Though I only knew him casually, the news of his alleged drug ring was very surprising to me. Kirk and Sherry Parsons were members of the church I attended back then and I considered them to be friends. They moved their church membership to Irvington Bible Baptist Church about a year later and I have rarely run into them over the last fifteen years. It is very disappointing to me that they were involved in this drug operation.

After getting off the phone with the IPS representative, I called the phone number on the sign for the Irvington Bible Baptist Church. I hoped to get in contact with Pastor Jaynes, but did not expect anyone to be at the church on a Thursday afternoon. To my surprise, he answered. Apparently the church phone number is actually his cell phone number. I told Pastor Jaynes my name and said that he may remember me. He said, “Sure, I remember you.” He asked how my family was doing and I said, “Fine.” I said that I was researching the issue from the news story the previous week for a blog I was writing. As I presumed would be the case, he said that his legal counsel had advised that he not speak about the case publicly. I remarked that the whole story seemed like a “big deal,” to which he replied, “Well… everything is not as it appears.” Having read the court documents extensively, I was aware of the implications of what Jaynes had already told police and what others in his ring had disclosed. Even if things are not as they seem in some ways, there is enough that is obviously wrong to be very troubling about this story as a whole. That said, everyone involved deserves their due process and fair day in court. I said to him, “From my past history in ministry, I know that typically when a pastor is going through similar situations, they tend to step down from the Senior Pastor role, at least temporarily, until things are sorted out.” I then asked, “Have you thought about letting another person assume your senior role in the short term?” He replied, “I have not made any decision to step down.” We then concluded our conversation after he asked me to pray for his family. He must not know that I am now an atheist.

irvington church (photo credit- Flickr)

I have known some very sincere and caring pastors in my life and some very selfish and manipulative ones. It is always a bad idea for a pastor to remain in the pulpit leading a church when he (or she) may have seriously compromised the integrity of the position. Unfortunately, for the selfish and manipulative brand of pastor, the elixir of power and praise keeps them in a position of “shepherding the sheep” even when they should vacate the pulpit. So, at present, Pastor Jaynes will be sharing the “good news” at the appointed hour next Sunday. After all, for Robert Jaynes, ministry at Irvington Bible Baptist Church is the “Spice” of life. Though, he may find that this verse will apply to him if and when some of his flock is potentially scattered by the winds of these felony charges and future trials to various prisons…

Woe be unto the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! saith the LORD.” Jeremiah 23:1

The following is a video mash-up of some of Pastor Jaynes’ preaching and singing that is posted publicly online. During the preaching, Kirk Parsons is sitting in the front row wearing a plaid shirt. There is also footage of a church hymn with Stacey Jaynes, Sherry Parsons, and Lillian Bledsoe (all part of the twelve charged) singing shoulder-to-shoulder while Kirk Parsons again sits in the front row, reminding me of Matthew 23:6 regarding Pharisees, “And (they) love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues.”   The irony of hearing Pastor Jaynes preach about how, “People don’t have character like they used to have!” during a tent revival at the same time his drug ring was in full swing in the summer of 2013 is nearly more than I can bear. I will say that I 100% support the religious freedom of all American citizens, including those at Irvington Bible Baptist Church. Yet, for those religious leaders who condemn others while secretly acting as a corrupting influence in our communities, there must be accountability. (The video has been edited for the sake of reducing overall length)

The Whisper

Humanity is as the surface of a vast pond

Being visibly stirred and moved by the actions of individuals

As one passerby casually tossed a stone in, then walked away

I saw that the ripples continued long after he was there to behold them

Going this way and that

Expanding in influence from the place where they began

 

So my friend

Find the largest and best stone you can

And cast it purposefully into the pond

Let its ripples roll to affect

And to be affected by those of others

Throw it high, throw it hard

So that even after your tenure at the pond is over

Still its ripples will roll

And even in death

Your life will whisper

What you yelled

While your lungs still owned breath

 

Remind yourself today

That this will not be forever

Your transient and brief pilgrimage on the lively side of earth’s soil is short

And the length of its precarious song, uncertain

Yet, while you live, make yourself at home

Do your worst to do your best

 

In the eons that came before you

Nothing of you was known

But for now, you are

And when it comes that you are not

Let not the latter condition of things

Be as the state of the former

When nothing of you had ever been whispered

Leave not this world in an underwhelmed state

Or indifferent and unmoved at your remembrance

 

As surely as you are here now

You will not be in one hundred years

Do not hide your face from that fact

Or be afraid to face it

This is the common story of billions who have passed

It will be for the billions who live now

And for billions more who will be born

 

Every one of us is not but the whisper of the century to come

Let us treat the world kindly while we live

So it will whisper kindly of us

When we have turned to dust

 

Copyright 2013-Luke Austin Daugherty

On Reviving an Aging Teapot & the Glory of Minor Triumphs

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Last Mother’s Day, I gave my wife a full set of vintage Revere Ware cookware. I had labored secretly over the several months previous to piece the set together, one item at a time. Since I am a full-time eBay seller, I’m always “picking” at thrift stores, auctions, and garage sales. Once I started to collect the individual pieces for my wife’s next gift, I knew it wouldn’t take me long to finish the task; a pot here, a lid there. So, on Mother’s Day 2013, the kids and I chased “Mom” out of the house for an hour, cleared out the old mish-mash bunch of pots and pans out of our cabinet. We replaced them with the new/vintage Revere Ware and put a big bow across the cabinet doors. When my wife got home, she loved her new gift. Because of the effort we had all put into it, her happiness was a satisfying triumph.

As an avid hot tea drinker in the midst of a family of avid tea drinkers, I was mildly disappointed when the “whistler” on my wife’s vintage Revere Ware teapot broke several months later. The little metal diaphragm finally worked loose from the lid due to age and use. The teapot, in contrast to the rest of the set I amassed, was of a more recent vintage and not quite as durably designed. The rest of the items were USA made cookware from the 1960s and back. But, the teapot was a Korean made unit, likely from the 1980s. It featured a plastic flip lid where the metal whistler piece was held tight with a plastic retainer rather than a metal rivet. Had the construction the teapot been that of a vintage, USA made Revere Ware unit with a metal rivet holding the whistler, I’m confident the teapot would still be daily whistling its intended tune.

With no whistler on the teapot, heating water became a bit annoying. Since the pot didn’t sound for a boil, you either had to check on it every few minutes or go in late to find it steaming like mad. This situation cast a bit of a shadow on our family teatime and begged to be remedied. For the mean time, we would tolerate the mute teapot. But, I knew that I would eventually run across a suitable replacement Revere Ware teapot as a product of my weekly “treasure hunting.” On one recent excursion, I found not only a similar teapot, but the EXACT same one in an 8×4 foot bin at my local Goodwill Outlet Store. Yet, I had to ask myself before glorying in the minor triumph of my find, “Is the whistler in good shape?” As I flipped up the little spring-loaded plastic lid, I saw to my delight that the whistler diaphragm was present and tightly affixed. With that question settled, I excitedly liberated it from the pile of donated wares and placed it safely in my Goodwill cart for purchase.

Still, there was one problem with this teapot that I would have to address before my family would be able to use it. The teapot’s previous owner had badly neglected its maintenance. First, the stainless steel top was very dirty and the copper bottom badly tarnished. Neither of those things bothered me since I often must clean up or polish acquisitions before selling them on eBay. Tidying up the externals of this teapot would just be “another day at the office.” The more difficult issue was that the inside suffered from a serious build-up of calcium and other hard-water distillates, apparently from many years of use. The entire bottom and most of the sides of the inner pot were heavily crusted. At first glance, I didn’t know if I would ultimately be successful in getting the inside of the pot to a usable condition due to the severity of the build-up, but I wanted to give it a try.

So, this week I decided to slay the foe of this calcium build up! I do apologize for my melodrama and realize that an aging teapot is no great issue in the grand scheme of things. But, though it was ultimately small matter, it was still a matter to be taken care of. I worked on the teapot a bit each day starting last Wednesday. There was a point, after my second attempt at getting the calcium to loosen up, when I thought I just might not get it clean and have to give it back to the Goodwill from whence it came. It took three primary cleaning phases to get the shale-like crust dissolved, broken up, and loosened from the metal. I measured some calcium fragments that came out of the pot with my digital caliper as being 4mm thick. The last batch of broken-up calcium from the third cleaning can be seen in this picture.

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When I got the inside of the teapot finished this afternoon, I cleaned and polished its outside surface. All said and done, after completing the task today, I felt like the valiant slayer of lesser dragons. I now sit here sipping Red Rose Original Pekoe tea from a 1930s Noritake china teacup as I type this sentence, having used the hot water from the revived teapot. All is right with the world…

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 “Now, enjoy a hot cup of tea from your revived teapot and revel in your minor triumph! Of such small triumphs is the happiness of daily life secured and the neglected cobwebs of melancholy swept out of its corners.”

Below, you’ll see a picture of the items needed to accomplish such a task yourself. Most teapots will not be in such an abysmal state as mine and will not require much effort to freshen up.

 Image

If you are only trying to remove tea stains from your teapot, use this method:

1. Put one cup of baking soda in the teapot

2. Fill it the rest of the way with water

3. Bring to a boil, then let it cool

4. If needed, due to severe staining, scrub around in the inside with a bottle brush and repeat steps 1 and 2

5. Rinse out the soda water and wash with soap and water

If you are removing minor calcium build-up, use this method:

1. Use a mixture of 1 part white vinegar to 2 parts water.

2. Bring to a boil, let it cool, and sit overnight to loosen the build-up. The water should be very milky looking when you pour it out.

3. Rinse and wash. Repeat the process if needed.

If you are removing a major calcium build-up, use this method:

1. Fill the teapot up to the top of the calcium build up with straight white vinegar.

2. Bring to a boil, let it cool, and sit overnight to loosen the heavy buildup.

3. Most likely, the build-up will not all be loose. Take a long, narrow knife that you don’t mind dulling up the end of a bit. Get the teapot into some good lighting where you can see down into the inside to detect the caked-on areas. Use your knife to scratch around and scrape the caked-on calcium.

4. Rinse the loosened pieces out and repeat as necessary until all is gone.

5. If the build-up is stubborn, repeat the entire process again.

To clean and polish the outside of a dirty metal teapot, use this method:

1. Give the outside a normal soap and water washing.

2. Use liberal amounts of Barkeeper’s Friend and a sponge to clean the tarnish and build-up from the stainless steel, brass, or copper.

3. For heavy areas, use a small amount of water and a lot of Barkeeper’s Friend to make a heavy paste all over the area. Let it sit for a few minutes to work on the tarnish. Rinse and repeat as needed.

4. A stubborn tarnish will need a significant amount of “elbow grease” to get clean. The outside of the teapot I was cleaning took me about 15 minutes of scrubbing to get completely bright.

5. Wash with soap and water normally

Now, enjoy a hot cup of tea from your revived teapot and revel in your minor triumph! Of such small triumphs is the happiness of daily life secured and the neglected cobwebs of melancholy swept out of its corners.

 

 

 

 

Smile. Things Are Getting Better…Really.

"Smiley Face" art by my daughter Lydia Daugherty

“Smiley Face” art by my daughter Lydia Daugherty

It’s easy to get bummed out about life; especially when your own isn’t going so smooth. But, there are legitimate reasons to be encouraged about things in general. As a human species, we are actually making real headway in some important areas.

From unintended pregnancies and absolute poverty, to overall violence and murder, statistics are improving. Since the numbers in these stats represent humans, the stats really mean something. The “macro view” of life today is a bit sunnier than it used to be.

I first took notice to some of these trends last year when exploring Dr. Steven Pinker’s work on violence and murder rates across the span of recorded human history. Not only have the rates of violence and murder gone down over the centuries as a whole, there have been some noticeable declines in the last half century.  If you’d like to see a condensed presentation of his work in the area of violence, please view his TED Talk, “The Surprising Decline in Violence,” in the link at the bottom. He has also done other extensive talks and writing on the subject.

After seeing a very recent video on some other improvements in the world from John Green, “GOOD NEWS: 14 Reasons 2014 May Be the Best Year Ever,” I decided to share some of the good news with my readers. He briefly covers some good related data in the video below.

Is there still plenty of room for humanity to improve? Sure. Do many people still suffer preventable ills and injustices? Of course they do. Are there still areas of the world where tragedy is the present norm? Yes. So, we still have much room for progress and there are lots of opportunities to make a difference.

For some though, I know there is a resistance to such assertions of global improvement. I have gotten some ideological “push back” in personal conversations from people who actually believe and/or hope things are getting worse on the large scale. I’ve also run across the same thing on social networking in some cases. In relation to these anecdotal experiences, I’d like to offer two possible reasons for the denial of human progress.

First, we humans tend to have a very myopic view of “life” in general. We project our own experiences onto the masses, unable to see things from the perspective of others. Such a self-regulated scope can have negative implications in two distinct ways: 1. if we “have it good” and are very optimistic in general, we can forget that many others don’t get along so well and/or may be suffering in ways that we could help alleviate. 2. If our own life is rough, we can be depressed about life in general and not realize that things are better for many others and can get better for us as well. That pessimism can create an infinite loop of negativity and a feeling of situational impotence in life.

The second reason is something I’d like to introduce. I have not seen this formally referred to before, so I’ll name it myself. I’ll call it an, “Apocalyptic Bias.” I have seen this bias at work personally in the lives of others and my own life in years past. For those that embrace the fundamental “end times” doctrines of some major religions or some cults, there is a tacit need for things to be getting worse. A particular holy book, prophet, or god said things would be declining, so they are. Also, when there is a deep cognitive desire for a forthcoming “salvation” to rescue one from the mundaneness of life, things must get worse before they get better. Any data that does not jive with such a worldview must be retooled, ignored, or spun in a way that fits the apocalyptic paradigm.

To allow that the overall picture of humanity is improving is to admit you are wrong theologically or that you might not be in the “chosen generation” to experience the Apocalypse, Rapture, etc. Either scenario makes for a potentially long, boring life working and paying taxes for decades before a natural death whisks you away from the lively side of this terrestrial plane.  Such a life is definitely not as exciting as parting skies, raining fire, demonic locusts, and angelic trumpets sounding.

All that said some important things are getting better. Why? There are multiple causes. Many people are helping others and improving their own selves as well. The world is getting smaller, so it’s easier for individuals and groups to have a global impact. Also, with the instantaneous dissemination of information via the internet, people around the world have access to positive ideas that they were not exposed to even a decade ago. Many who have only known backward and repressive dogmas in the past are being enlightened by the arts, superior ideologies, and science. More than ever, humans are empowered to write their own story or edit the one they were written into.

So my fellow homosapiens, turn those frowns upside down…

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ramBFRt1Uzk

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oUhA6fjgnLY

I Got a Golden Ticket! I’m Going to the Nye vs. Ham Debate!

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A week ago, I got super excited. It was announced that there was an upcoming debate scheduled between Bill Nye, the “Science Guy,” and Ken Ham on February 4th. Not only that, but it will be just a few hours away from me at the Creation Museum (so called) in Kentucky. Needless to say, I was planning to go.

I’ve seen a few similar debates live, but never between such “giants” of their field in person. Bill Nye, the ever sought out scientist who studied under Carl Sagan in college, will be arguing on the side of biological evolution. Ken Ham, the founder of the “Answers in Genesis” ministry and a young earth Creationist, will be arguing on the side of a literal “7 day” creation model via the God of the Bible. The official question is, “Is creation a viable model of origins?” I presume they mean the origin of humanity and not the origin of the universe in this case. Maybe they will cover both, though that would be a lot of “ground” as it were.

I’m not much for watching your typical sports games. No major sporting events hold much allure for me personally. But a real battle of science, philosophy, or ideology…NOW you’ve got my attention! I’ve watched hundreds of debates on youtube and other online sites. From Hitchens vs. Lennox, to Russell vs. Copleston, I’ve watched or listened to any and all I can find. The only thing that excites me more that such a debate is an actual dialogue, being so much the rarer in this world.

Many have asked the question, “Why would Nye even waste his time debating a young earth creationist anyway?!” Well, I’m glad he is. I think that Nye is a man of dialogue, much in the same fashion that his kindly and outspoken predecessor Carl Sagan was. Not that I have any pretentions about Nye opening Ham’s eyes to the merits of modern science. Giving up on a literal interpretation of the first book of the Bible would be very inconvenient when you’re just getting started on building a “life sized ark” project that isn’t doing too well financially. But perhaps some “collateral damage” can be caused in the name of enlightenment. After all, one doesn’t have to give up on a god to accept the Theory of Evolution as scientifically valid.

So last week, when I saw that tickets would be for sale on January 6th, I was counting the days. Unfortunately, the Answers in Genesis website didn’t say what time they would go on sale. Would it be midnight? I stayed up until 1am…no luck. Next, I set my alarm for 6 a.m. and woke up with a start at the appointed time. Still no registration up online or time announced for ticket sales; back to bed. I checked again at 9 a.m. and still nothing. I called the Creation Museum. The nice lady said tickets would be on sale at 10.  YES! At 9:55, I was clicking “refresh” once a minute. THEN, at 9:58, the registration icon popped up two minutes early! CLICK! “Error Code”… CLICK! “Error Code”…

I tried to call and the phones were on infinite loop of the pre-recorded museum message. I checked their facebook page while incessantly refreshing and trying to add tickets to my cart. Everyone else posting was having the same problem. By 10:15, AnswersInGenesis.org was still operating with the efficiency of the Obamacare website. Then came the horrible news…the live room of about 800 seats was sold out, so on to “plan b.” I’d have to try for the 200 seat simulcast room. After twenty more minutes of frustration, I almost gave up figuring it was sold out too. But, I wanted this bad! I was working two tabs, refreshing, adding to cart, refreshing, adding to cart, “error code.” Then it happened…my cart loaded!

So my friends, I have my “golden ticket.” I also booked my hotel, since I figured they’d be packed soon. It will be hard to decide whether to dress respectably or wear my “Hitch Slap” t-shirt from the “Cult of Dusty.” Either way, I’ll be there with bells on. I had to add a day pass for the museum to buy my ticket, so I’ll get to hang out early and ride a dinosaur. I won’t disappoint on my blog reporting, so be sure to follow me for updates. Keep an eye out for me if you go and say, “Hi.” After the debate, we can grab a beer. And even if we don’t agree, we can still have a dialogue.

See links for info:

Debate info page: http://www.answersingenesis.org/outreach/event/Nye-Ham-Debate/

Bill Nye on creationism: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gHbYJfwFgOU

Ken Ham response to Nye video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JxX11c1cSWU

A Snow Storm is Coming… NO BABY CARROT IS SAFE!

Camby, In. Meijer Store. 1/4/14 Photo Credit: Angela Daugherty

Camby, In. Meijer Store. 1/4/14 Photo Credit: Angela Daugherty

The weather man says a bad storm is brewing! It’s due to hit Central Indiana about 4 a.m. Sunday morning, 1/5/14. The temps are supposed to drop and the inches of snow will fall. We are predicted to get up to a foot of snow and below zero temperatures. To Floridians, that would be the Apocalypse, for some Alaskans…summer. 

My wife, like many thousands of other shoppers apparently, hit the grocery for a few “last minute” items today. She didn’t end up getting the ground beef we needed for our goulash and had to opt for ground turkey sausage, as it was the only ground meat left in the building. Actually, the ground turkey ended up being pretty good in the dish.

I know the “staple foods” are usually hit hard when a storm is coming. There is something about Hoosiers when it snows that makes them think, “THE SNOW COMETH! LET US FEAST UPON SLAIN LOAVES OF AUNT MILLIE’S SLICED BREAD!” The bread aisle, along with the milk and egg section is typically pretty empty after the hoards have swarmed.

But this time…even the baby carrots and sundry produce items fell prey to the stockpiling masses! My wife, Angela, took the above pictures this afternoon. Not even a sack of squishy, outdated bean sprouts was left…only one lonely container of sour cream.

So my fellow Midwesterners, try to stay safe and tucked in if it gets bad. Don’t drive any more than you have to. Enjoy a bit of down-time if the county puts out an emergency driving restriction. Snuggle up with a good book or stay in touch on social media. Have fun with the family and enjoy a home movie party.

At the very least, you’ll have plenty of baby carrots to snack on…

http://www.theindychannel.com/weather

“Cha-Ching!” Goes the Cell Phone: Year 6 for an Entrepreneur and Lessons Learned

On this day in 2008, at 30 years old, I made a big decision. After months of back and forth, I decided to start a business. I was a husband, father of five, and part-time professional singer/songwriter. But, my main gig was being a regional driver for a household goods moving company. Damn hard work.

At that time, I was working the same job I had in my early twenties. After leaving the moving business the first time, I said I’d never go back. But, after several years of busy concert schedules and limited flex time at my previous job, I made a deal with my old company; give me any time off that I ask for with thirty days’ notice and you can work me like a rented mule the rest of the time. They knew how I worked and my level of customer service, so they agreed. And to no surprise, they held up their end of the bargain, especially the second part.

I stayed there about three years before getting fed up with the road, illegal hours for a driver, some of the fools I had to manage on jobs, and my ever tiring back. Not that there weren’t perks. Most of my songs came from experiences I had travelling and two of my co-workers became my good friends. But, in the ending months of 2007, the fear of another year to come like the one before became scarier than the proposition of starting a business and failing. That was the key…being pushed passed the point of contempt for the “status quo” in my work life and the fallout it had on my family life. I was missing too much and was just too damn worn out when I was home. But, that’s what working 120 plus hours some weeks will do to you, even when you’re young and strong.

So, beginning 1/1/08, I started scheming on a way to make a big change. I didn’t have much money or many foreseeable options. I decided to start a “near industry” business to capitalize on my current contacts and skills. I gave myself 4 months to plan and execute the launch of my business.

I realized that what I would do at first may only be a stepping stone to anther venture, but it was a necessary one. I had to just create some space to live, think, and wait for and create other opportunities. It was a lot like “pulling guard” in Jiu Jitsu… I was creating a “safe place” from which to defend or attack in due time. A position I could potentially loose from, but hoped to just do work and catch my breath for the time being.

My business officially began April 1, 2008, a month early. I started a “3rd party company” that assisted moving companies with what was out of their scope. I did custom crating, pool table and grand piano servicing, appliances, and more. I created a turn-key business with zero debt and produced a living wage right out of the gate on a $3,000 start-up budget. Not bad if I say so myself.

But, actually doing it was scary as hell. I almost changed my mind a couple times in February ’08. I nearly scrapped the whole idea for the safety of the time clock boat anchor. Sure glad I didn’t.

Then, in the late summer of ’08, the economy crashed. The good thing was, since I worked for myself, I had a lot of options to adapt. When contracting work was slow from moving businesses, I hustled side work on Craigslist and by word of mouth. I did interior painting, drywall work, bought and sold, and scrapped tons of metal over the next couple years. Unfortunately, with the moving business hit hard, my 3rd party work got slower every year, so I had to hustle harder. Always hunting for side jobs got old and since people were getting broker, they did less home improvement…that meant less side jobs to go around.

The great thing was I still made a livable income in about half the hours that I used to work as an employee. Some weeks I’d have a few days off through the week then be really busy the next. But overall, I saw my family every day and was pretty energized to enjoy them. I got to spend lots of time with my wife, who is my best friend, for the first time in our marriage.

That said, in the spring of 2011 I desired to have a more stable type of business. My wife and I discussed options and came up with a new plan. I would escalate my part time hustle, buying and selling, to my main gig. The plan was to replace half our income in six months, before the slow season for my current business. The next phase was to completely replace our income with buying and selling in twelve months. We achieved the first phase in five months and completely replaced our income in nine months. The initial capital I had to invest at my first auction on May 15, 2011…$200. I bought five things that sold within a month for over $1,100 and we were off.

For the first four months, I only sold on Craigslist. Then in late August, I purchased a rare knife at an auction for $9. I knew I’d need greater exposure to get what it was worth. I listed it on ebay and a week later it sold for $490. I fell in love with ebay and within three months, it became my primary selling format.

It still is on 1/1/14 and we’ve come a long way. We now have three “Power Seller” and “Top Rated” ebay stores. I work less hours than ever, spend stupid amounts of time with my family, and basically do whatever the hell I want every day. I’m not rich in dollars, but if freedom is your currency, I’m a millionaire.

So at 12:54 a.m. today, I got my first sale of 2014. “Cha-Ching” went my ebay cell phone app. Not a big sale, just a $39 vintage coffee percolator that I bought for $3. I’ll have shipping, ebay, and paypal fees out of that, but will still net about $25ish. That “Cha-Ching” is less an audible symbol for money and more of freedom for me. Good job ebay on creating that Pavlovian response via your app by the way!

One thousand words later, I’ll briefly share some of the most important lessons I’ve learned in my business. I hope some of you might be able to get some use out of them if you’re interested in starting your own company or service as well.

  1. “Pulling the trigger” is the hardest thing– It is one thing to desire change, another to plan, but to execute a plan is the tipping point. That not only applies to business, but life in general. Most people are ruled by fear. They let the fear of “what if” bully them into settling for something they are dissatisfied with in life. You MUST master that fear and kick that bully’s ass in order to flip the script in your life.
  2. Bet on yourself- Every change has varying degrees of risk. But, do you know what people don’t think about? The risk that leaving everything the same has. Don’t be afraid to bet all your “chips” on yourself. Then, rise to the occasion and be your own hero.
  3. With a great plan and the right tools, you are more likely to succeed than to fail– I did not have a mentor when I started my business or anyone pushing me to do it. I did have people that supported me and that was invaluable. I also had the experiences of being exposed to business in my younger years by my mom, dad, and grandparents in different ways. Yet, I still needed other knowledge and information. I got that from the Internet and books. Some things (actually a lot of things) I had to figure out on the fly. But, you handle things as they come. I know the stats on start-up businesses failing. The thing is, many of the failures have distinct features in common. Poor planning is #1. Lack of understanding of the business being started is another vice. There is NOTHING you need to learn that you can’t find out. Do your due diligence and then make things happen.
  4. Sometimes, “You can’t get there from here.”– I’ve heard old timers from the mountains use that phrase jokingly to describe where they are from. But, it can be true situationally. You may not be able to jump right from your current “A” to your perfect world “B.” You might have to make some incremental changes toward your ultimate goal. Don’t be discouraged from the journey toward your goal just because it won’t be an instantaneous teleportation. Usually, the “good stuff” in life can take a lot of hard work. Sweat equity can be more important than investment capital. If you have less of one, you’ll probably need more of the other
  5. It’s worth it- There’s nothing like being able to thank your own former self for the good decisions he or she made that led you to where you wanted to be. There’s always more work to do and need to reinvent things. Start your journey off well and in time, if you stay the course, you’ll be glad you did.

As always, thank you for reading and sharing my blog! I am an independent poet, author, and singer/songwriter and I have my own ebay business to keep me as flexible as possible. But, writing takes time and if you appreciate what I do, if you have been moved or made to think by my writing, OR have just enjoyed something on my blog, please throw a buck or two in my tip jar!:) Your kind contribution may buy me a cup of coffee out at my next writing session. Click my easy paypal “tip jar” link that follows and THANKS! -Luke

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