Archive for September 2009

My Favorite Joke

September 24, 2009

This is my favorite joke. My father told me this a few years ago, and since I loved it so much, I actually remembered it. Now, this is a joke that is great because you can use any two states that you want. Or even any two countries. Today, I’m going to use Arkansas and Texas. I’m using Arkansas because, well, I’m from Arkansas. I’m using Texas as the other state because, well… you’ll see why after you read the joke.

Two guys, one from Arkansas and the other from Texas, were taking a road trip together through the country. They were driving down the road and the Arkansan said, “Ya know, I believe we done ought to make a stop on up here and pick us up some vittles for the road.”

“That’s not a bad idea,” said the man from Texas. “We’ll do that at the store up here.”

They pull over at the grocery store and the man from Arkansas enters and walks up to the counter.

“I need me some ‘naners, ‘maters and ‘taters, please.”

The man behind the counter looks at the Arkansan and says, “You’re from Arkansas, aren’t you?”

“Well, yes’ir I sure am! How did you reckon that out?”

“Well, sir, I can tell by the way you talk. Your accent gives it away.”

“Gooooolllly! Hot dawg! That’s somefin’ ain’t it?” The Arkansas exclaims as he walks out the store with the food.

The two friends hit the road again and the Arkansan turns to the Texan and says, “Ya know, they be able to tell whur you’re from just by tha way ya talk ’round here!”

“I don’t believe you at all,” says the Texan. “We’ll pull over at the next stop and I’m going to test this little theory out.

So they pull into the next store and the Texan hops out of the car and rushes up to the counter inside the store.

“I need some potatoes, tomatoes and bananas, please!”

The clerk replied, “You’re from Texas, aren’t you?”

“Yes I am! How could you tell, by the way that I talk?”

“No sir,” replied the clerk, “… This is a hardware store…”

*Joke Drum Line*

Banking Tips

September 9, 2009

I thought I’d write about banks today. Not in a controversial way, but rather, just to give some tips about basic banking for people that may not be too familiar with banking procedures. I know that when I started working for banks, I learned a heck of a lot about the ways that banks work and how those procedures can be tricky to the common account holder. There were many things I learned that tricked me in the past and got me in a little bit of trouble with fees and such. So here are a few facts and tips on how to avoid sending your account into the negative and getting slammed with insufficient funds fees (NSF’s).

First off, I’d like to talk about keeping a balanced register. Keeping a register of your bank account could be the single most important thing to do in order to make sure you don’t go negative. ALWAYS write down what you spend. ALWAYS write down your deposits and how much you withdraw TO THE PENNY! I know it’s hard to carry around a checkbook and register all the time, because they’re big and bulky, but at least keep one at home and don’t throw away your receipts until you write them down.

There are several things that can help an account holder with balancing a checkbook. First, if your bank offers it, sign up for the savings account that rounds up your purchase made with your debit card to the next dollar and puts the change in your savings. The two advantages to these accounts would be that it keeps every purchase you make at an even dollar amount, and it helps you save money with every purchase that adds pretty quick (more quickly than you may think). Just so I’m not confusing anyone, the way it works is when you make a purchase, say, for $24.50, the bank would round that purchase UP to $25 and take the $0.50 and put it into your savings account. So, if you make 4 purchases in one day of $23.25, $15.15, $6.10 and $5.75, $2.75 would be put into your savings account. You’re not losing the money, it’s just being transferred automatically to your savings account. It’s quite the handy little tool to have.

Secondly, when balancing your checkbook, VERY SELDOM trust the balance you receive from the ATM. ATM balances are deceiving. There are so many factors that you need to take into account when getting your balances from the bank, that it’s just better not to do so. When you get your balance from the bank, there are a lot of factors that come into play. First, have all of your transactions “hard-posted” yet? The term “hard-posted” means that the computers on both sides of the operation have finished communicating with each other and no more charges can be added to that particular transaction. When the computers are still in the process of communicating, and the initial charge has been deducted, but not finalized, that process is called “soft-posting.” This is when companies like gas stations, utility companies, or restaurants may put down a “pre-authorization” charge which could be different from the final and actual charge. This is just a process that ensures that they do get their money and it usually finishes clearing in a 24-hour period. Also, if you do have the rounding savings account, it usually takes about the same amount of time for the change to be switched between accounts. So, if you go to the bank to get a balance, go inside and ask the tellers if everything is done clearing from your account, and if not, make sure all the things clearing are what you remember purchasing. Don’t be afraid to ask the tellers questions either. They’re supposed to be nice and helpful, because that’s what they’re being paid to do. It’s possible you’ll catch them on a bad day or something, but we all have those at work sometimes.

There are several different things that you need to be aware of if you are a customer and you use your debit card a lot. First, when you use your debit card at a gas station, it is very important that you run it as a credit card transaction. I know it’s technically a debit card, but this does work! Gas stations are trying to ensure that they get their money from their customers, which is completely understandable. There have been instances in the past where people have used debit cards to purchase amounts of gas that came out to more than what was actually in the checking account of that customer, so the transaction was declined and the gas stations got ripped off. So now, gas stations are putting a pre-authorization of anywhere from $50 to $100 dollars on debit cards. If the account doesn’t have that much money in it, then the transaction could be declined. Now, these pre-authorization amounts do fall off in that 24-hour period I mentioned earlier, but they’re still there for that period, which can be a major inconvenience for account holders. However, if you run your debit card as a credit card, you will only receive a pre-authorization amount of $1. I don’t know why gas companies only put $1 on a credit card and $100 on a debit card, but that’s what they do. This is just a trick I use to avoid being denied other for other purchases I may have to make later in the day.

Secondly, when you eat at a restaurant and you leave a tip on your card, the charge for that tip may not show up for several days. The restaurant runs your initial charge for the meal before they run the tip charge and the waiter/waitress/bartender has to turn that receipt in to the manager in order to get the tip. When the manager receives these receipts, they have to re-run your card in order to collect the tip. They don’t re-run the whole purchase, just the tip amount that you put on the receipt. All this depends on how quickly the manager gets around to it and how many other similar transactions they have to do. And, once again, this is another transaction that may take a day or so to clear, once it is entered into the system.

Finally, there is one more thing you need to know about debit cards. If you use your debit card to make a purchase and it seems to go through immediately, but is rejected at a later time, the retailer legally has the ability to run that transaction again up to 6 months later. Likewise, if that transaction doesn’t go through for one reason or another, the retailer still has the ability to wait to charge your card for that same 6 month period. Now, when you make the purchase, it’s very unlikely that the bank is actually going to deny it if it is just a small purchase. Odds are, they are going to put the transaction through and slap you with a nice NSF (NSF’s are a major source of income for any bank). And, since the computers are going to be communicating for that 24-hour period, the bank could have that amount of time to deny said purchase (this mostly happens on larger amounts, as a way to help the bank avoid going too much in the hole on your account).

Another thing to keep your eye on would be fees. Fees of any kind can do some damage to your bank account. I know they seem like the common sense thing to do, and since banks are required to notify you of them up front, most people think they have a handle on them. However, to many a person, they can be quite confusing. Take NSF’s for example. An NSF is typically charged to your account when you either go over your balance (that is going into the negative) or when you have money in your account, but not enough to cover the cost of a purchase or charge being applied to your account. For instance, if you have $15 in your account and a charge of $16 is trying to come through, it is up to the bank whether or not to clear the charge (make it go through), but you WILL be charged an NSF. Once that first NSF is applied (the range is anywhere from $25 to $35), anytime you keep going over your balance, more NSF’s will be applied. That is, if you take your account into the negative territory, every time you make another purchase, another NSF will be added. That’s what catches a lot of people. The NSF is not a single time charge. It is often times a multiple charge.

A lot of people that get into trouble with NSF’s have “Overdraft Protection” on their account. Be aware folks, this is NOT a free service. The overdraft protection is a service that is used to make sure that bills/purchases will be paid if they are more than your balance. It should only be used when it is absolutely necessary and you should keep in mind that Overdraft Protection is NOT EXTRA MONEY IN YOUR ACCOUNT!!! Every time that you use your Overdraft Protection to make a payment, purchase or withdrawal, you WILL be charged an NSF. This is a quick way to run your account into the negative. The Overdraft Protection pays the amount into the negative and THEN stacks the fees on top of that. Careful, I’ve seen a lot of bad done with this. If you’re good at keeping track of your expenses, then I would strongly suggest you request that Overdraft be taken off of your account.

These are just a few tips that can help keep your balance in the positive and to keep the bank from “screwing” you, as I’ve heard so many times before. And even though you may not understand all of the fees or processes the banks use to keep track of accounts, it’s technically all in the paperwork that you receive when you open your account. So be careful, because 99% of all errors are technically the cause of the customer, not the bank. Unless you have an extremely good case or know someone that works in the bank, you’re probably not going to get these fees refunded to you. So, good luck with your banking. It’s not as complicated as it seems, if you just keep that checkbook balanced!

My Thoughts on Christianity Today.

September 3, 2009

OK, let’s get right into a controversial topic today. Let’s talk about Modern Christianity. Specifically, I want to talk about Christianity in America.

The “Christian Voice” of today seems to be vocalized by a very small percentage of the Christian population. We are stuck in a situation where there is about 10% of the Christian population that has a very loud presence in the world, and their thoughts and ideas overwhelm the thoughts and ideas of others. We have a small group of people who are shouting at the top of their lungs, trying to scare people into listening while the rest of us are trying to use reason and are talking in our “inside voices,” all the while being drowned out.

There seems to be an overwhelming thought that Christians today take radical stances on very controversial subjects. This thought is derived from that one side of the aisle speaking louder than anyone else. This side can quote the Bible for any reason, out of any book, to find verses that prove their point in a definitive matter. Their leaders have literally memorized the Bible in order to be able to pick and choose from it, so that they can lead their flock in a way that they deem fit.

Now, I’m not saying that the Bible can simply be discarded. For those of you who know me well, you know I’m a pretty devout Christian (just more in a spiritual sense, not the literal/strict-Biblical sense), and I do draw a lot from the Bible. It’s a great tool that tells the fantastic story of the world from the beginning all the way up to Jesus and a few years beyond. However, I believe that the Bible is more of a living document, instead of the Definitive Word, much like our Constitution.

Many of the rules that are being used today to make a stand on moral issues are derived from verses in the Old Testament. This is the perfect example of picking and choosing in order to make a point. Allow me to use one of my favorite examples. Many people who sit on the Conservative side of things quote Leviticus 18:22 in order to speak out against homosexuality. Which is fine. Absolutely OK. I honestly see nothing wrong with that as long as you follow the other rules in Leviticus as well as the rules in the other Books of Laws (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy) that Moses wrote at the same time, by the commandment of God, in order to give the tribe of Israelites rules to follow.  Keep in mind that these people were being led through the desert with no continuous supplies of  food or water and had just been freed from thousands of years of tyranny and slavery. They had no idea how to act as freed peoples or how to act “civilly.” It’s no wonder that the Books of Laws had some pretty weird stuff in them. They probably needed some strict rules in order to keep those folks in line.

So let’s look at some of those rules, starting with Leviticus 18:22 which states: Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination (KJV). So there’s that rule in the most widely-used version of the English Bible. Plain and simple. It says you can’t be lie down with another man as you do with a woman, because that’s a bad thing. Now, let us look at some other verses from the Books of Laws.

Exodus 21:7 states that a man may sell his daughter into slavery: And if a man sell his daughter to be a maidservant, she shall not go out as the menservants do (KJV). Now, it doesn’t explicitly say that a man is allowed to sell his daughter into slavery, but rather, it says that if a man chooses to do so, then his daughter won’t be let out like a man-servant. I think that pretty much says it’s an OK thing to do, so long as it is agreed that the father wants to sell the daughter and she won’t be let out like a man servant.

Another few verses from Leviticus. Let’s go with Leviticus 15:19- 24:

19And if a woman have an issue, and her issue in her flesh be blood, she shall be put apart seven days: and whosoever toucheth her shall be unclean until the even. 20And every thing that she lieth upon in her separation shall be unclean: every thing also that she sitteth upon shall be unclean. 21And whosoever toucheth her bed shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the even. 22And whosoever toucheth any thing that she sat upon shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the even. 23And if it be on her bed, or on any thing whereon she sitteth, when he toucheth it, he shall be unclean until the even (KJV).

For the modern society. This creates a whole mess of problems. Am I supposed to ask my female colleagues (many of whom could easily fire me on the spot) if they are in their “time of the month?” Would that be appropriate? Could I explain to them that I’m a God-fearing man and I’m simply trying to obey the rules of Yahweh?

Leviticus  25:44 states that we can own slaves: Both thy bondmen, and thy bondmaids, which thou shalt have, shall be of the heathen that are round about you; of them shall ye buy bondmen and bondmaids (KJV). Now, I know certain people around me are less educated than myself and maybe not as well-informed on many issues, but I have a hard time defining who among them is truly “heathen.” So, my question is, can I go to a local trailer park and pick out the family that doesn’t send their kids to school and doesn’t bathe as much as I do and simply enslave them? I think that could be defined as “heathen” in today’s age. So… that should be cool, right?

The list goes on and on. There are rules that govern what one can and cannot eat (don’t eat pork products or shell fish, both of which I myself find pretty damn tasty). What people can wear (did you know that if women don’t wear garments made from one cloth they can be burned at the stake?) and how to grow their crops so that God will be pleased.

The point is that you can’t pick and choose from the Old Testament. That’s not fair to anyone. From what I understand, and I’m a pretty bright bulb if I do say so myself, Christianity is based off of the teachings of Jesus Christ. Jesus came around in the New Testament. The Old Testament was a precursor to Jesus and explained how God treated our sins and our actions on Earth PRIOR TO giving us His only Son. When Jesus came into the world, He fulfilled the teachings and laws of the Old Testament. This didn’t make the Old Testament irrelevant, mind you, but rather, gave us new standards and rules to live under.

Jesus gave us two absolute commandments to live from, both of which were said in Leviticus, but the only two that He ever mentioned from the Old Testament and these were in Mark 12 : 30 – 31: 30And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. 31And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these (KJV, Italics are mine).

Sorry for making this such a long post today. But, it’s a topic that I love to talk about/discuss/argue. I know I went on and on, and by the end, I may have gotten off track a little bit. Either way, I really just wish that we could do as Jesus said to do and just start loving more and hating less. I don’t think when Jesus said to love one another, condemning someone because they have a different lifestyle or belief than you falls into that category. Jesus never turned anyone away when they were different. We all know the stories of how He talked to the prostitute at the well and ministered to the lepers when no one else would. He had conversations with tax collectors and thieves and saw the good in all of them. Just don’t be so quick to judge. Romans 12 (I’ll let you look this one up on your own) clearly states that there is a place for everyone, we’re all part of God’s creation and all vital to it. Leave the judgment and wrath up to God, that’s not our place, but rather, His alone.