Our Favorite Christmas Light Displays (2017 Edition)

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2013-12-20 20.36.17

There’s a Santa in the window!

It’s a family tradition to go drive around the suburbs and look at various Christmas light displays. In 2013, we shared some of our favorites. Now, I present the updated list with new finds in 2017! I included links to Google Maps.

The Mueller Investigation

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Just a quick way to process the news today:
When Robert Mueller was appointed to be the special counsel for the #TrumpRussia investigation, most Republican leaders and almost every Democrat praised the decision. Calling him a respectable, honest and detailed man.

Newt Gingrich: “Robert Mueller is superb choice to be special counsel. His reputation is impeccable for honesty and integrity.”
Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah): “Mueller is a great selection. Impeccable credentials. Should be widely accepted.”
Paul Ryan (R-WI): “My priority has been to ensure thorough and independent investigations… The addition of Robert Mueller as special counsel is consistent with this goal, and I welcome his role at the Department of Justice.”
Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.): “I have a lot of confidence in Bob Mueller. I think it was a good choice.”
Richard Burr (R-N.C): Mueller “will provide some certainty for the American people that the investigation will proceed fairly and free of political influence.”
Orrin Hatch (R-Utah): “I commend (Department of Justice) for bringing in an independent voice to help bring clarity to this situation.”
Paul Ryan (R-WI): “Remember, Bob Mueller is a Republican who was appointed by a Republican, who served in the Republican administration and crossed over, I mean, and stayed on until his term ended. But — I don’t think many people are saying Bob Mueller is a person who is a biased partisan. He’s really sort of anything but.”


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Happy 35th Birthday EPCOT Center. I’m not a eloquent writer, so I’ll keep this short.

As a child, I remember being in awe of that park. The focus on technology, learning, and imagination. Future World and CommuniCore were both educational and fun. The fiber-optic lights embedded in the concrete that twinkled at night. I remember loving Figment and the ride Horizons. Spaceship Earth, when lit up at night, may be the most beautiful icon in all of the Disney parks around the world.

As an adult, I now appreciate the cultural diversity of World Showcase. And of course my favorite part of World Showcase: the model train set in Germany. The walk around World Showcase is beautiful and only more beautiful during the flower and garden festival.

The power, beauty, and message of IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth brings me to tears.

Over the years, it’s lost some of its core attractions and some of it’s “hear and soul”. But, it has gained new attractions like Test Track and Soarin’ that make the park more thrilling. While some may be gone, it still retains it’s beauty.

EPCOT is what really sparked my love for Walt Disney World. I look forward to going back to it whenever I can.

Perhaps the word of “We Go On” sum it up best:
“We can see a new horizon built on all that we have done, and our dreams begin another thousand circles ’round the sun. We go on to the joy and through the tears. We go on to discover new frontiers. Moving on with the current of the years. We go on moving forward, now as one. Moving on with a spirit born to run. Ever on with each rising sun. To a new day… we go on.”

Happy Birthday EPCOT Center. Here’s to 100 more! See you in a few years old friend.

“May Epcot Center entertain, inform and inspire. And, above all, may it instill a new sense of belief and pride in man’s ability to shape a world that offers hope to people everywhere.”
— E. Cardon Walker, October 24, 1982

Thoughts On: Climate Change

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The climate is changing, it’s not for the better, and it’s man made.

CO2 is a proven green house gas. This is irrefutable. The more green house gases present in an atmosphere, the more solar energy that is trapped, and the more global climate changes. We were all taught this is grade school.

CO2 Levels: Pre-1950

source: https://climate.nasa.gov/vital-signs/carbon-dioxide/

The Earth has a natural cycle of carbon dioxide fluctuations, and it’s amazing consistent; spiking approximately every 100,000-150,000 years. Climatologists use air bubbles trapped in ancient ice to see what the atmosphere and climate were like in the past. Historically, ice ages have a CO2 ppm (part per million) of around 180. Warmer times have a CO2 ppm closer to 300. This fluctuation is normal, and not dangerous to the planet.

CO2 Levels Post-1950

source: https://climate.nasa.gov/climate_resources/24/

What is abnormal is the CO2 levels since 1900 and the introduction of automobiles and coal burning power plants. CO2 levels have NEVER gone above 300ppm in the last 400,000+ years (see the graph above). As of March 2017, CO2 levels have reached 405.6 ppm, over 100ppm higher than recent recorded history (see the graph to the right). CO2 levels have increased 22+ppm in the last 10 years alone.

All this leads me to my next point: the Earth’s temperature is rising. According to NOAA (via the Washington Post), “The latest one-, two-, three-, four- and five year periods — ending in March — rank as the warmest in 122 years of record-keeping for the Lower 48 states.” Climate.gov adds, “global average temperature is now higher than it has been for most of the last 11,300 years.” You’ll notice in the graphic to the right that Earth’s temperature has dramatically and abnormally increased since the industrial revolution. This can be directly matched with the increase in CO2 levels in that same time period.

We must not also overlook the effects of CO2 on the oceans. We learned in school that the oceans play an important roll in stabilizing the environment by absorbing CO2 in the air. According to National Geographic: “relatively new research is finding that the introduction of massive amounts of CO2 into the seas is altering water chemistry and affecting the life cycles of many marine organisms… When carbon dioxide dissolves in this ocean, carbonic acid is formed. This leads to higher acidity, mainly near the surface, which has been proven to inhibit shell growth in marine animals and is suspected as a cause of reproductive disorders in some fish.” They also add: “Over the past 300 million years, ocean pH has been slightly basic, averaging about 8.2. Today, it is around 8.1, a drop of 0.1 pH units, representing a 25-percent increase in acidity over the past two centuries.” If man-man CO2 emissions continue at their current rate, they project that the ocean’s pH may fall by another 0.5 units by the end of this century, reeking havoc on the oceans eco system.

Increased global temperatures will melt polar ice, ruin our ability to grow food and livestock, increase ocean levels, and devastate the oceans delicate ecosystem. It’s not an exaggeration to say that billions of people may die. These are just a few of the examples of how climate change will impact us and generations to come. It’s not #FakeNews, or an Alternative Fact, or a hoax invented by the Chinese. This is real, and this is dangerous.

The current administration wants to significantly slash the EPA, decrease fuel efficiency standards, and de-prioritize clean energy like solar and wind in favor of coal and oil. This cannot happen. We must invest in carbonless energy, increase fuel efficiency, push for electric and hydrogen powered cars, and protect our environment.

Our planet is hanging in the balance, and as of right now, it’s the only one we have.

Thoughts On: How I Will Vote

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During the course of the election, and in the weeks following, I did a lot of thinking about the future. Specifically, how various age groups desire to see the future of the world and the country.

It’s very obvious there is a substantial divide in the country on political ideologies. In many ways, it’s split almost 52/48 on people over the age of 44. But, what about the young adults whose voice hasn’t been heard yet?

I’ve heard people like myself called “libtards” and “dumb millennials.” Protesters are being marginalized by the president, other Republican leaders, and media outlets by saying they are being paid to protest (with no proof of this) or that they have no jobs. Of course this is meant to minimize and discredit their sincere desire to see a different America. One that doesn’t ban people of a specific faith. One that respects women. One that respects science.

In the most recent elections, people under the age of 44 have voted overwhelmingly against the republican party.  In 2016, only 39% of voters under the age of 44 voted for Donald Trump. 53% voted for Hillary Clinton, and 8% voted other (generally green or liberation). And that was with a very dislikable Democratic nominee. In 2012, the gap was similar, but with a slighter edge to Barack Obama. As I stated in a precious post, people of my generation generally have a different view of the America we want to see. A new generation of politically active young adults as arisen from the Obama years, but was stifled by a nominee many didn’t like.

So, after much thought, I decided on this: After my children, and grandchildren are old enough to form an informed world view (probably 30ish), I will sit down and talk to them about who they want to vote for, why, and what they want to see happen to our country and the world. I want to understand why they are voting they way they are. I want to see their world view. It might not be the same as mine, and that’s ok.

After all that, I will cast my vote how they plan on voting. Why? God willing, they will be around much longer than me. At some point, I will be gone and I want them to live in the America THEY want, not the America I want them to have.

Thoughts On: Jobs

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President Trump talks about bringing manufacturing jobs back to America. There’s nothing wrong with that. He’ll get the big press release of 1,000 here, or 5,000 there. He’ll brag about how awesome he is for making them come back or how companies are reinvesting in America. But, up to 88% of manufacturing jobs that were lost were taken by robots/automation, not China. And that’s just the beginning.

Advances in artificial intelligence, automation, renewable energies, and self driving vehicles are going to drastically going to change the American workforce in the next decade. Many jobs will become obsolete.

Artificial intelligence and automation will impact us in ways we cant even imagine. A.I. systems like Watson have already begin to help doctors diagnose patients in ways no human even could. A.I. will also power manufacturing automation and self driving vehicles. According to Fortune:  “The Bank of England estimates that 48% of human workers will eventually be replaced by robotics and software automation, and ArkInvest predicts that 76 million U.S. jobs will disappear in the next two decades.”

Renewable energies will also drastically change how we allocate jobs. Politicians continue to pander to coal states, but that industry is gasping for life in the new alternative energy economy. Today, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is higher than at any time in the last 650,000 years. It is imperative to cut carbon emissions from petroleum and coal before CO2 levels cross a point that ruins our planet’s eco system for generations to come. There are exciting developments in solar, nuclear fusion, and nuclear fission. A recent NOVA episode showed the significant improvements in nuclear reactor technology that is making the next generation far safer than ever before. Nuclear fusion is also starting to show promising results. Oil and coil jobs will be a thing of the past. We cannot and should not pander to coal and oil.

Self driving vehicles are nearly ready to hit the roads of America, and that’s a good thing. Every year, there are over 30,000 Motor vehicle deaths in United States. Self driving cars will eliminate most to all of those fatalities. Self driving cars and trucks will also eliminate the need for cab drivers, chauffeurs, and truck drivers. Some even think self driving cars will spawn a new industry of “call as you need them” cars, which would decrease the sales of automobiles, thereby decreasing automobile production and reducing the required labor. How will cars that crash less impact insurance companies? No one even knows that yet.

All of these are examples of how the labor force will change in the coming decades. We cannot burry our heads in the sand like an ostrich and say the jobs that always were will always be. We need to look to the future, not cling to the past. This will require continuing education or job retraining. But, it will need to be addressed sooner rather than later.

Thoughts On: Being A Democrat

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Just because many people of my generation have different views of how we want to see the future of our country and how we want to raise our children, that does not make us “libtards” (yes, a phrase I have seen used by people I know) or “dumb millennials” (also used by someone I know). It means we view things differently.

  • Some support women’s reproductive rights.
  • Some support LGBTQ rights.
  • Some want a true single payer universal healthcare system where ALL America’s are covered equally.
  • Some support free college for kids to provide them an opportunity to compete in a global economy without crushing debt.
  • Some want us to be better stewards of the global environment to preserve it for our grandchildren.
  • Some support a global economy without borders, because in the end we are all humans.

Just because some people have a different view of the future, they are not libtards or dumb millennials. We just view things differently than the status quo. We have the right to craft the country how we want to, and how our children want it (more on that in a later post). Someone shouldn’t live in fear of not being a “true Christian” because the have different views.

As for me, I support some of the things I listed above, some I don’t. But, I won’t stay silent on topics I find important. I won’t be silent on causes I believe in. I am always open to a respectful and factual debate.

Jason’s Gluten Free Deep Dish BBQ Chicken Pizza

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Makes one 14″ deep dish pizza, 8 slices.


  • 32 oz – LiveGFree (Aldi) Gluten Free Pizza Dough Mix
  • 3 oz – Olive Oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 cups – Hot Water
  • 2 cups – Sweet Baby Rays BBQ Sauce
  • 2 8oz. – Mozzarella Cheese Bricks
  • 2 cups – Shredded Mild Cheddar Cheese
  • 8oz – Chicken Tenders
  • 6 Strips of Bacon


  1. Slice chicken tenders into small pieces. Fully cook chicken. Set aside.
  2. Cook bacon until crispy. Chop into tiny pieces. Set aside.
  3. Chop mozzarella blocks into ⅛”-¼” thick slices. Set aside.
  4. Combine pizza mix, eggs, hot water, and olive oil. Mix until fully mixed.
  5. Oil a 14” deep dish pan with olive oil until fully coated.
  6. Place dough in the center of the pan and spread out. Push up the sides to create an edge. Set aside for 1 hour to rise.
  7. After the dough has risen, flatten the center. Cook for 10 minutes at 425.
  8. Remove pan from oven.
  9. Place the mozzarella to cover the entire pizza (there may be small gaps, they will fill in when the cheese melts)
  10. Sprinkle the cheddar cheese evenly throughout the pizza.
  11. Warm the BBQ sauce in the microwave to increase viscosity. This makes it easier to spread. Pour sauce over the cheese and spread to cover the whole pizza.
  12. Evenly distribute the chicken and bacon over the pizza.
  13. Back at 400 for 15-20 minutes.
  14. Cool for a few minutes, cut into 8 slices.

Thoughts On: Russian Influence in the Election

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Yes, Russia influenced an American election. Here’s why…

Donald J. Trump won Michigan by 11,612 votes, Wisconsin by 22,871, and Pennsylvania by 68,236. That is a total of 102,719 votes. Prior to the “Podesta emails“, Clinton had a significant or out side the margin or error lead in the polls in all 3 states. In the 3 weeks following the release of the Russian hacks, the race tightened. She started falling or Trump started pulling undecided voters.

A modest 2% change in voting in Michigan is 95,000+ votes (8x the margin of victory). A 2% change in voting in Pennsylvnia is 118,984 votes (1.74x the margin of victory). So, yes, it is VERY likely the Russian hacks influenced the election. How much? We can never know. But, a 1.5% change means Hillary Clinton is president. A 3% change is more than enough to drastically change an election. A 3% change means she wins WI, PA, MI, FL, and possibly NC.

My Favorite Time of the Year

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Fall and Winter is my favorite time of the year… if you factor out the snow. Specifically, I really enjoy late September through mid-January.

In late September and October, the trees start changing color. Beautiful shades of red and yellow. The smell of burning leaves and backyard fires. I love apple cider. It may be my favorite drink, but I only drink it in the fall. The exclusivity of apple cider makes it special. And let’s not forget all things apple cider flavored.

30175_easy_pumpkin_pieNext comes November. Fall is in full swing. With Halloween over, it’s only s few weeks until Thanksgiving. November heralds delicious pumpkin pie! No one made it better than “Aunt Betty”. She wasn’t my aunt, just a family friend, but she made the BEST pumpkin pie. I’ve never had a better one. And of course, I love all things pumpkin spice. mmmmmmm. The smell of turkey at Thanksgiving dinner with mashed potatoes and gravy. Cranberry sauce. Stuffing. There is no better dinner than a Thanksgiving dinner. And after Thanksgiving, you can make a DELICIOUS Holiday Turkey Sandwich will all of the leftovers!

2013-12-20 20.36.17Next up on the calendar: DECEMBER! Christmas is quickly approaching! The music of Christmas fills the air, even if the radio stations start playing it the day after Halloween. It’s so joyful, uplifting, and happy. Accompanying the music is, of course, the decorations. Putting up the tree with a fun Christmas movie on the TV (normally Elf or The Santa Clause) Oh how I love elaborate holiday displays. It’s no secret that I dream of one day having a “Clark Griswold” house, every inch covered in lights. Then there’s the food! Christmas cookie. Peppermint.

No doubt, this is my favorite season… if only there wasn’t snow.