Monday, May 16, 2011

On tipping...

I try to defy stereotypes. I believe there is a stereotype that younger people don't tip well. So. here is my personal philosophy on tipping.

1. 15% is a bare minimum. If I tip 15% I probably am talking to your manager or sending a complaint letter or email to your corporate office.
2. Normal, non-bad service will get between 18%-22%.
3. Normal, good service usually between 25-30% tip.
4. Amazing service, never having to ask for refills, everything is prompt, polite, and friendly? Especially if you are very busy? 33%-35% is not unheard of.
5. But, if you decide to charge a gratuity of 15% or 18% or whatever...that is all you will get. Especially if it is optional.

The thing is, I realize the following:
1. Servers are human, and have good days and bad days too.
2. Sometimes, servers are new at their job.
3. Often, servers have to payout their hostesses and bartenders in their tip totals.
4. Servers make WAY less than minimum wage.
5. When my wife was a server, she would have to put that she got at least a 10% tip into the register...even if the guest completely stiffed her.
6. If I become a regular customer, perhaps the server would recognize us, realize we tip well, and give us even better service in the future.
7. A lot of people think 15% is a maximum, and go down from there...
8. A tip is expected, and should be included when you budget for your meal. If you can't afford the tip, you shouldn't be eating out.

How do you choose to tip? Why?

Saturday, May 14, 2011

On non-interventionism...

In the 2000 Presidential race, George W. Bush espoused a non-interventionist foreign policy. A couple weeks ago, Sarah Palin got rid of her neo-conservative advisors and gave a speech in Colorado where she laid out her own non-interventionist foreign policy. Ron Paul has been a non-interventionist for YEARS, (you know, kind of like many of our Founders), yet the media continues to refer to him as an "isolationist." This is simply not accurate. I urge everyone to watch this video to get a simplified overview of a non-interventionist foreign policy. It also delves a little bit into the Federal Reserve. I have not and will not endorse a candidate for any partisan office, but I do want people to understand the facts and choose to support the candidate of their choice. I urge you to read some of Michael Schuerer's books about the "War on Terror" if you want to get a little deeper into that topic. He was a CIA analyst for 22 years and was on the Osama bin Laden task force for that organization. He also makes frequent appearances on the Fox News Channel. Oh yeah, and he was one of Ron Paul's foreign policy advisers in his 2008 campaign.



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A boring President?

A well written opinion piece from Andrew Canfield entitled We Need a Boring President Again

Sometimes it is preferable to be boring. After the roller coaster ride of current events that have unfolded both domestically and abroad over the previous decade, many of us might yearn for some boring times for a change. Massive ups and downs in the economic sphere have only been matched by equal turmoil in the political one: it seems the House and presidency are switching hands more than homes at the height of the real estate bubble.

This is true in our personal lives as well, as most of us value steadiness and seek to steer clear of massive peaks and valleys in our personal relationships and family lives. So if we place such a premium on the times marked by a lack of upheaval, why do we not look back fondly on those who presided over such times while in the Oval Office? Our presidents who reigned during times of war or massive government intervention are constantly glorified and placed on a pedestal, while the ones who presided during times of peace and economic expansion are rarely even brought up.

Praise is ceaselessly heaped on the Wilsons, FDRs, Trumans, Lincolns, and Johnsons of our past. Not to say these men did not do some good things during their terms, but is it unrealistic to expect the same sort of folk tales to be told about the presidents who avoided war, saving us from untold carnage by their diplomacy? What about the ones who stuck to laissez faire principles, the men who kept the budget balanced, currency strong, and the government off the backs of the American people? These names are only brought up as historical footnotes, chalked up as too “boring” for in depth discussion. Grover Cleveland and Calvin Coolidge come to mind; but I would wager most Americans have been taught little about the presidencies of these two men. I know I was not.
We need to teach the next generation about the men who placed peaceful international relations and a trust in market mechanisms at the forefront of their agenda, not necessarily the ones who, in the words of John Quincy Adams, sought to go overseas seeking “monsters to destroy.” Considering this sort of leader has been more the exception than the rule, learning about their administrations is valuable for those who want to curtail the massive apparatus that has emerged over the preceding decades.

While a holistic reading of our history is vitally important, we should not overlook the presidents who maintained a restrained view of presidential powers. In fact, America could use a boring president once again; after all, running the world and managing the economy is not exactly part of their job description. Our presidents need to be defined by what they don’t do, not just what they do. The urge to constantly be responding to this problem or that, intervening in this crisis or the next, has left us saddled with massive commitments we have no way of following through on. As the Republican presidential primary season gets underway in earnest over the next few months, perhaps we can look past the glamor and navel gazing, opting instead for the most boring of the bunch. Now that would be change we could all believe in.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

On homeschooling...

So, my wife and I have decided that we are going to attempt homeschooling our oldest daughter, who turns 5 years old in a week. This decision has come after much prayer and discussion. We will try for her Kindergarten year and reevaluate after that.

Now, you may not realize this, but there are several different types of home-educating. Some parents choose to do "school-at-home," some do unschooling, some use Charlotte Mason, some use Unit Studies, some use an online school. Some use a Waldorf method, some Montessori, some eclectic homeschooling, or some use the Thomas Jefferson method. Some explanations can be found here and here.

On top of the different philosophies for homeschooling, there are a plethora of curricula to choose from. You could choose an all-in-one boxed set, such as Horizons, or PACE, or Bob Jones, or A Beka. You could use a company that compiles the different books for you, such as Tapestry of Grace, or Sonlight. Or you could create your own. This would probably be the case if you chose to use a living books method of educating.

After doing much online and library research (which I LOVE to do) I became a fan of the Classical method as explained in the book The Well-Trained Mind, by Susan Wise Bauer. The thing about that is she doesn't really recommend starting formal education until the child is in First Grade or so. Until then, the important things are developing a love for learning and learning to read. Lucky, our almost-five-year old loves to learn.

She loves to watch movies and TV shows. We have Netflix Instant, and my two girls like to watch the normal kid shows that are on there, such as Dora the Explorer, and Diego. They often default to Spanish (well, Spanglish, really)when they are very tired or needing help. ¡Ay├║dame! is often heard when one sister is squishing the other one, or if they are stuck. Recently we have discovered a show called WordWorld. The girls LOVE this show. Ever since they started watching it, our oldest has been blending letters and reading and writing all kinds of words. So, I know she learns auditory/visually, at least.

We have decided to create our own curriculum instead of using a boxed set, or an expensive program that packages all the "best" books for each subject together. I don't think one size fits all when it comes to educating children. We wanted stuff that was fairly easy to teach, in order to ease all of us into it. Something "scripted" sounded good to us! We also wanted something academically challenging, while allowing us to have realistic expectations of what she will be able to learn. We also sought curriculum that would be interesting for my daughter. The following is a list of what we have decided on.

Phonics/Reading - The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading
The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching is written by the co-author of The Well-Trained Mind, Jessie Wise. According to my research, it is usually effective, and generally easy to teach. It is very scripted. It includes a little more than 200 lessons that should take 10-15 minutes to teach. The first 26 or so go over the letters of the alphabet and the sounds they each make, so we will most likely skip those lessons since dd already knows those very well. By the time all the lessons are complete, she should be reading at about a fourth-grade reading level or so. She also has the first set of BOB Books. She can read the first seven or eight of these easy reader books by herself. As she progresses, we will probably purchase the second and third set of BOB Books as well. And I imagine she will continue to watch WordWorld.

Writing - A Reason for Handwriting: Manuscript A. This is actually the second level (so, first grade) for this writing course. Our younger daughter is going to work on the K book. The oldest can write her letters pretty well, but has trouble neatly combining them into words and the words into sentences. The K level just focuses on individual letter formation. The A level does a review of all the letters, then starts into words and sentences.

Math - Math Mammoth Grade 1-A. The two basic types of math curriculum are mastery based, and spiral based. Math Mammoth is mastery-based, and gets rave reviews from other homeschoolers. It has been favorably compared to Singapore Math, while being easier to teach. It is a worktext, which means she will work the problems on the same pages that she will learn it from. Also, we got it as a download. Whenever our youngest is ready for school, we can just print out the pages again! We decided on the first grade level, since she already could do everything Math Mammoth expects a Kindergarten graduate to know. She has been doing this for a few days now and LOVES to do math!

Science - Magic School Bus DVDs. I felt science and history, while important, are not crucial for her to learn quite yet. However, with these DVDs, my wife will get a much needed break during the day, either for herself or to spend some time with the newborn. At the same time, I hope the seeds of a love for science may be planted within the girls. Science is a subject I struggled with at times in school, and I know learning something you enjoy is generally easier. There are pre-built science kits that correspond to the DVDs that we will probably purchase if there is a science subject she particularly enjoys learning about, such as space, or sound, or water, or bugs.

Bible - Big Truths for Little Kids. Big Truths for Little Kids goes through a children's catechism via stories to help teach solid theology at a level even 3-5 year olds can understand. The only concern that we do have is that it does have one lesson that teaches infant baptism. We are creedobaptists as opposed to paedobaptists, so we will either skip that particular lesson, or use it as an opportunity to teach the girls about Believer's Baptism. Otherwise, every lesson includes the catechism questions, questions about the story that was read, a Bible verse, and prayer suggestions. We will combine this with regular readings from The Jesus Storybook Bible, as well as continuing in AWANA for Scripture memorization.

We are all excited for this upcoming school year! We received our shipment from Amazon today, and we have looked through the books we ordered. We will be starting our oldest daughter's formal education very soon, and then we will probably take a bit of a break while my wife is settling back in after the birth of our third daughter in July. Please keep us in your prayers. We need continued peace, encouragement, patience, and joy. For both the teacher/parents and the little students.