Friday, December 3, 2010

Watch out!

We think he'll be scooting by Christmas...

video

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Caleb

Mod Marquee Blue Baby Announcements
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View the entire collection of cards.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Shelving

Been a little busy the past few months, of course, with Rachael's and my beautiful son Caleb. He has been a lot of work but also a great joy. Rachael took a year off of work and brought all of her teaching material home and we needed storage. So, in the midst of trying to keep my job, while catching up on some sleep I was able to build some closet shelving and a built in bookshelf. Building the shelving and the built in bookshelf was pretty straight forward and I use MDF boards for the material. The time consuming part was caulking, puttying and painting the shelves. Rachael would have like a little more of my time during that process. Overall, this turned out fairly well, and I even was able to add crown moulding to all of the bedrooms and bathrooms upstairs. Also, I have to give a thanks to a coworker Jose who built the doors for me. Below are some pics of my process of making the built-in bookshelves.
Dead space - good candidate for a bookshelf

Bookshelf built - done with the easy part
Put up the rest of the crown molding. After caulking put on the primer
Done painting
Put on the doors
Painted the doors
Done!!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Toastmasters Speech #10 "Inspire Your Audience"

Let your Yes be Yes and your No be No

Yesterday, I sat at the computer racking my brain on how to inspire the audience.  I am not sure about you, but for me, it has always been difficult to choose a topic to speak about, and even more try to make it fit within the constraints of the Toastmaster speech.  So, as I was sitting and thinking about how to inspire you guys....and the doorbell rang...another solicitor.  This guy was trying to sell some coupons for something that I did not need from some store that I never heard of.  This guy would just continue to talk and I could not get a word in.  All that I could think about how to get rid of this guys and what excuse that I could make to have this guy leave.  Finally, when I did say no, he asked why and I said I don’t want it.  He continued to give his spiel about how I needed it...I said no...then he gave a spiel about how he was trying to make a living.  Oh no, the trying to make a living guild trip...I say no...and he would not budge...finally I gave a forceful no and blatantly said that I don’t want the product.  He finally left and I was thinking.  What a pain?  Why is it difficult for me to say no to others?  Why is that others cannot respect my answer of a no?  What a great idea for a speech.  Today, fellow Toastmasters,  I would like to inspire you to “Let your “Yes” be “Yes” and your “No” be “No”.

Let your Yes be Yes and your No be No.  It is easy to say Yes to someone, but why is it  so difficult to say no.  There are some that won’t take no for an answer.  They may use the guilt method by saying “to step up” or “what else do you have to do?”, and “Nobody else can do it”.  If you are like me then you tend to assume responsibility for the situation just because the person asked even if the request is unreasonable.  My advice is to set boundaries for yourself and learn to clearly communicate your boundaries.     How many of you have that friend who only calls when they need help, and they have that knack to get you to do something for them even if you don’t want to do it.  I have that one friend, who only seems to call me when he needs a favor to which I have difficulty saying no.  I have moved him 4 times in the last 5 years and he has tried to recruit me into his many pyramid schemes.  I finally caught on.  I wanted to help him out but sometimes he ropes me in to do more than I should, so Just recently he asked if I could help him move his shed to which I said yes with the stipulation that I only had 2 hours.  I got to his place and I found that he was moving again.  We moved the shed and he asked if I could move the rest of his stuff, to which I replied “No”, I only had 2 hours.  That felt good and my friend clearly knew the boundaries that I had set.    

Let your Yes be Yes and your No be No.  Take time to consider the what you are asked.  This keeps you from saying Yes under pressure.  I have been trying to get in the habit and asking the person if I could think about their request before I give my answer.  This allows me to seriously consider whether I want to say yes to the request, whether I have the capacity to say fulfill the request, and whether the request is valid.  As a side note if they don’t allow for you to have the time then just say no and say that you were not give ample time to think about it.  I was asked by a member from my church to fill a leadership role, to which I said I will need to think and pray about it and talk with my wife.  Unfortunately, he said he needed my response now, so I said “NO”....He was taken aback and then conceded by saying that he would give me some time.  I later thought about it and found that I would be able to do it.    

Let your Yes be Yes and your No be No.  How many of you are people pleasers like myself?  It is difficult to say No because you feel like you are letting the other person down.  How many feel that saying No could ruin your friendship or jeopardize your standing at work.  Saying No could hurt someones feelings which might be true.   But sometimes we tend to let go of what is important to us in favor of what another person wants.  This can cause us to take on more than we can handle and spread ourselves thin.  We get burned out.  Plus with saying yes to everything does not allow us to assess the value of the things we are asked.  We are just being pressured into saying yes.  I have a coworker that I work closely with on a project in years past.  Since then, I have moved on to other projects and he is still supporting the old project and he comes to ask favors to support this old project, to which I have said yes.  Of course, just recently I have been incredibly busy finishing a project and my coworker came needing another favor.  I said I did not have the time to which he pressured me by saying that his project needed to be finished soon.  I said let’s talk to our boss and he stopped asking me.  Of course, at first he was not happy about it and did not talk to me for a few days, but since then he has got over it. 

Let your Yes be Yes and your No be No.  A good way to be good at saying “No” is to find what you want to say Yes to in life.  Setting priorities is a good way to find those things that will fit into your life, and those that cannot.  For instance, if you want to have more time with you family then say no to those things that keep you away from home.  If you need to exercise, make it a point to say no to things that keep you from exercising.  My Achilles heel is pushy solicitors.  They have a product they are selling or they are asking for donations for a non-profit organization, or a panhandler asks for money, and it is difficult for me to say no.  So, I had to have a list, which is very short, of things I would say yes to when approached.  For instance, I will decline giving money to a panhandler but will definitely buy them a bite to eat.  I will say yes to girl scout cookies, but will decline every other product or non-profit organization.  The point is to accept those things that you would want to give a resounding “Yes”.

Let your Yes be Yes and your No be No.  Now that I have explained a little about why it is difficult to say no.  I just wanted to discuss a little bit about taking serious consideration about saying yes and making commitments.  As I said before, it is easy to say Yes, the hard part is actually fulfilling your promise.   It could be said flippantly.  The point that I am trying to make is to seriously consider what you are saying “yes” to.  If you say “yes” are you able to fulfill that commitment?  Sometimes the commitment might have been more difficult than you thought.  Do your best to to fulfill you commitments to the best of your ability.  Just this weekend, as I was banging my head trying to write a speech, the thought of not doing the speech did come up, but, I thought, I signed up for it so I better make sure that I do it.  So let your yes be yes.

In conclusion, we all lead hectic lives.  We juggle between family, friends, our jobs, our hobbies, and our never ending to-do lists.  Even in Toastmasters with filling of roles, officer training, speech contests, district conferences there are more activities and events that we can handle. .  We can’t do everything so we have to learn to say no.  We have to set clear boundaries, we have to give ourselves time to think about making commitments, we can’t please everyone, we have to prioritize and find that yes, and we have to fulfill the commitments that we said yes to.  This allows us to let our yes be yes and our no be no.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Mistakes

New post on Rachael's blog. Check it out here.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Monday, July 12, 2010

One Month

New post on Rachael's blog. Check it out here.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Welcome Caleb Matthew Becker

It happened on a dark a stormy morning in Austin.  The thunder and lightning woke both Rachael and I, although Rachael might have been woken up by more pressing issues...regular contractions.  It was June 9th at 3am and Rachael was starting to go into labor.  So we headed to the hospital to have a little baby, and that is what occurred.  At 4:40 pm, we welcomed Caleb Matthew Becker to the world.  He weighed in at 6 lbs 9 oz with a length of 19 and 3/4 inches.  The nurses thought he was such a handsome little guy.  I must agree.  Rachael did such a wonderful job and pushed with all her might in great anticipation to see the guy who has been kicking her from inside.  We were able to see the amazing miracle of birth and the precious child that the Lord God "fearfully and wonderfully made"....Now comes the hard part....

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Why I Believe in God

Rachael made a new post on her blog. Check it out here.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Rachael is blogging again!

Rachael put up a new post on her blog. Check it out here.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Toastmasters Speech #9 "Persuade with Power"

I Am Entitled

About 3 years ago my wife and I went to East Austin to help with a group called Mission Possible who ministers and empowers the poor and homeless.  We helped clean up some buildings, aided in projects for low income families, and we gave food to the homeless.  It was an eye opening experience and changed my perspective about the poor.  I can remember many things, but the thing I most remember is talking to the Mission Possible director and asking him what was one of the most difficult challenges that he sees when trying to help the poor.  He said it was government entitlements like welfare and medicaid.  He said he tries to help the poor become productive, but most do not want a job or job training because they would rather collect government entitlements. It opened my eyes to some of the shortfalls of entitlements.  So this brings up the popular question.  Do entitlements help those in need or do they create a life-long dependency?  Everyone agrees that there are needy people that cannot sustain themselves with the burden of children, disabilities, and unfortunate circumstances but are government entitlement programs the answer?   Today, I would like to discuss this debate and attempt to convince you about why entitlements in the U.S. are problematic.

My first reason that entitlements in the U.S. are problematic is that it causes a visious cycle of dependance on welfare.  As the director of mission possible explained, those who are recieving government entitlements don't want to work.  He also explained that those who depend on entitlements teach their children to depend on entitlements instead on teaching personal responsibility.  Why would a person work if they were given entitlements for free?  This dependency on welfare fails to teach able bodied cititizens how to improve their own condition.

My second reason that entitlements in the U.S. are problematic is because of the abuses of the entitlement systems.  How many have ever seen a person paying with food stamps who is wearing expensive clothes driving away in an expensive SUV?  Now, it is difficult to tell how frequently this occurs, but does it seem like that person needs government entitlements?  There are some entitlements that are going to people who find loopholes in the system.  How many of you have heard stories of single mothers living with their partners who have many children just to get welfare checks.  Or how about the many abuses of the medicaid and medicare systems by the health providers and patients.  The FBI conservatively estimates that over 10% of medicaid is lost to fraud.  Some examples of medicaid abuse reported by the General Accountabilty Office are
•    doctors billing for over 24 hours of work
•    phony companies invoicing for phantom services
•    pharmacists filling prescriptions for dead patients
•    prescriptions written by dead physicians
•    home health-care companies demanding payment for treating clients who are actually in the hospital
This oversight with entitlements is rampant and it is difficult for large government entities to keep track of where the money goes.

Thirdly, government entitlements cause a social divide between those who work and pay taxes and those who depend on entitlements.  Remember the person paying with food stamps driving away in an SUV?  It can be frustrating if you are paying into a system that is supposed to help the poor yet you see this abuse.  It can also be frustrating when those who are able to work choose not to because they would rather recieve entitlements.  Because of this abuse of the system, my natural inclination is to look at an entitlement recepient with disdain.  You can see how this can foster resentment between the working class and the poor.

Fourthly, to me the main problem with entitlements is that it is unsustainable.  This table shows the US federal, state and local government expenditures on entitlements which includes welfare, social security, and medicare/medicaid.  Not to overwhelm you with too many numbers, but we can see from this table that since 1970 the percentage of total governement spending on entitlements has increased from 37% to over 77% of total government spending.  This trend cannot be sustained.  Governor Schwarzenegger is learning this firsthand with a $19 billion budget shortfall in CA in which he had to make some difficult decisions and proposed to reduce entitlement spending.  To me, this is just the beginning of budget shortfalls due to the burden of funding entitlements.

Finally, with all my arguments against entitlements, a person may ask what about those who are helpless like the disabled, injured, the single mothers?  What would happen if we ended entitlements?   They may say, isn't it our moral obligation to help those in need?  To that answer I say yes, but is it the governments responsibility to force taxpayers into that system, or would it be better to have a system where people actually have the choice to give to a reputable charity?  Before entitlements, churches and charities were able to give local hand's on care for poor people and could more easily distinguish those who had a real need.  To those who say it is a moral obligation then give time and money to charities who help the poor.  Simple as that.

In conclusion, I have given you my reason for why the entitlement system in the US is problematic.  I have explained the problems of dependency on the system, the abuse of the system, the resentment that can occur between taxpayers and those who are unwilling to work.  I have also explained how the funding US entitlements is becoming more and more unsustainable.  We can all agree that we should care for the poor and the destitute, but the methods to help them have been and will continue to be debated.  In my opinion, help for the poor should not be mandated by a large government system but rather a local charity or church who can personally care for the needy.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Overblown Politics

You gotta love to so-called pundits Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and now President Obama. They have condemned this Arizona Law (SB 1070) that allows enforcement officers to ask for immigration documents if there is "reasonable suspicion". They call it "misguided", "prejudice", and "irresponsible". There have been huge rallies across the US condemning the AZ law and many are organizing boycotts of travel to Arizona.

The thing that baffles me is that the requirement for an immigrant to carry papers is already a federal law. Follow this link and turn to page 8. In addition, look at US Code - Section 1304 : Forms for registration and fingerprinting. Subsection (e) says:

(e) Personal possession of registration or receipt card; penalties. Every alien, eighteen years of age and over, shall at all times carry with him and have in his personal possession any certificate of alien registration or alien registration receipt card issued to him pursuant to subsection (d) of this section. Any alien who fails to comply with the provisions of this subsection shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and shall upon conviction for each offense be fined not to exceed $100 or be imprisoned not more than thirty days, or both.

It is a federal requirement for a legal alien to carry their papers. If an enforcement officer ask for your papers that you are required to carry then everything is fine. Of course, if you never had papers then you are here illegally. You broke the law. What is the problem with this AZ law?

I am tired of the overblown politics that occur. It is just another political ploy. Don't get me wrong, I care for these people, but a law must be enforced. A United States without borders is not sustainable and must be controlled.

I would love to hear your opinion.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Blogger Templates

I found that blogspot has a new utility to update the look and feel of your blog at

Blogger Template Designer

For the next few weeks you might be seeing some updates to the style and look of the page. Let me know if there are any that you like.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Toastmasters Speech #8 "Get Comfortable with Visual Aids"

Microprocessors

How many have heard of microprocessors? What do you think about when you hear the term? Do you think about computers like a Dell or Apple? Of course. How about an iPhone or a cell phone or an Xbox? Ok, I can see that. What about an engine controller or a washing machine or a coffee maker? Wait a second. Microprocessors are widespread. Most electronics contains some form of a microprocessor, which is the central brain or processing unit of the device. So, why are microprocessors so widespread and used in such a wide variety of applications? How does a microprocessor work and how does it process the data? Today, I would like to answer some of these questions as I explain the history of the microprocessor, the architecture of the microprocessor, and a simple example of how microprocessors work.

Before the microprocessor was invented, most fabricated digital circuits were custom made for only one purpose. It could only perform a specific function and could not be used for anything else, you could not reprogram it and it was difficult to make updates to the hardware. This resulted in a long development cycle. That is when in 1969 an Intel employee named Ted Hoff, invented a general purpose device called a microprocessor that could be easily programmable. This allowed companies to have a much quicker development cycle in which they only had to develop software for an already available microprocessor and easily make edits to the program or software for quick enhancements or fixes.

So we know why we need microprocessors, but know we want to know what is inside a microprocessor? This right (pic 1) here is an simplified diagram of a microprocessor. It consists of an Arithmetic Logic Unit (ALU) which performs addition and subtraction, an instruction fetcher and instruction decoder, registers to locally store data, and a memory interface to store data and the instructions. When a computer first strarts up, a program is stored in memory and the instruction fetcher will grab the first instruction from memory. This instruction is passed on to the instruction decode to determine the operation. Basically, the instruction decode can perform 3 operations; add or subtract using the ALU (Arithmetic/Logic Unit), move data from one memory location to another, or make a decision and jump to a new set of instructions. This is the basic architecture of a microprocessor.

How many of you have ever heard of binary code? It is just basically 1's and 0's. Now how many of you can read this (pic2)? I can't either. Thank goodness a microprocessor can. What this represents is a set of instructions that simple microprocessor can read. Of course no one else can, but using the following tables we can decode exactly what the microprocessor is instructed to do. Now if you feel a little overwhelmed by this table, that is OK, this is only here for reference. From this table (pic3) we can see, for example, the instruction ADD gets mapped to the binary value 10. You can also see from the next table (pic4) that a register and a memory location is also mapped to a binary value. Using these tables we can encode an instruction to add of register A and register B (pic5). Building on that example, (pic6) we are able to decipher the binary code that I showed you before. This shows that the microprocessor is instructed to load the contents of memory 1 to register A, and load the contents of memory2 to register B, Add register A and register B and put the result in register A. Then finally store the value of register A into memory3. Congratulations, you just finished your first software program.

In conclusion, I have given you an overview of the history and operation of the microprocessor. We have seen why microprocessors are necessary for quick development and can support of a variety of applications, and we have seen a simple example of how a microprocessor works. When Ted Hoff invented the microprocessor, little did he know the impact that microprocessor would have on the world the next 40 years, and now it would be difficult to imagine a life without microprocessors.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Do Not Try This at Home

Disclaimer: This is Rachael's first actual post on this blog, and if it forshadows events to come, let's hope we're all out of the way...

So here I was, perusing the fridge after a long day of work. Matt wouldn't be home for awhile, and I was hungry. Not wanting to really spend that much time on dinner, I decided to make myself a salad-delicious and healthy. Of course, I thought, I should have some protein. Too bad I forgot to buy any meat at the store on Saturday. It sure would be nice if I had some eggs boiled.

Well, why not? I decided that since I didn't want to spend 30 minutes cooking a whole pot of eggs, I could make my tummy happy and just do one in the microwave in 5 minutes. I mean, I've boiled water in there before. I got a small glass measuring cup, put the egg in the bottom, and covered it with water. Then, I set the container in the microwave to boil.

Just about the time I was arranging the leaves in my bowl, an explosion erupted from the microwave, and it automatically shut off. Realizing my egg has just been blasted to smithereens, I opened the door, hoping that at least the glass didn't shatter. Bits of water and egg guts dripped from the microwave ceiling and oozed their way out the front and onto the stove. Gross.

Needless to say, boiling an egg in the microwave apparently does not work. Who knew??? It was, however, curious to find actual chunks of cooked egg floating on the tray. I thought about eating these, but quickly came to my senses and threw them out. 20 minutes and a whole roll of paper towels later, my microwave actually looks clean, and it still works. Darn.

I sit here now, munching on my tasty, eggless salad (though I did find some nuts in the pantry for protein). Next time I think I will opt for Ramen instead.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Toastmasters Speech #7 "Research Your Topic"

Haiti

As many of you know, on Jan. 12, 2010 the nation of Haiti suffered through an earthquake with a magnitude 7.0 on the Richter scale. This earthquake basically destroyed the city of Port au Prince leaving an estimated 150,000 people dead. My wife and I were particularly interested because we sponsor a 13 year old Haitian girl name Lossile Joseph, with whom we have been corresponding for the last 5 years. Even though, we sponsor Lossile, I have to admit that I know little about the culture and history of Haiti, so I thought what better opportunity to learn about Haiti than by giving a Toastmasters speech. As I was doing research about Haiti, I kept asking the question “Why is Haiti so poor?” So today, I would like to answer that question as I take you through the history of Haiti, during the first recorded settlement, the slave revolution, and finally the condition of Haiti after the slave revolution.

The First recorded history of Haiti, started in 1492 when the Spaniard Columbus “sailed the ocean blue” and landed on the island of Hispanola. The Spanish colonized on Hispanola migrating to the Eastern side of the island which is present day Dominican Republic. Around 1697, the French also had interests and settled on the western side naming the colony, Saint-Dominique, which is present day Haiti. Because the land was so fertile, the French eventually started plantations which grew sugar, coffee, tobacco, and cocoa and needed laborers to work. Therefore, hundreds of thousands of slaves were imported from Africa and literally worked to death. At the height of production near the end of the 18th century, Haiti produced 40% to 60% of Europe’s sugar and coffee. This was a highly profitable business for the French, but it was at the expense of many African slaves lives.

This brings us to the slave revolution. In 1791, during the time of the French revolution, word of the French revolution got to the slaves in Haiti, and over 480,000 slaves rebelled against the French colonists. History Professor Natasha Lightfoot of Columbia University estimated that the slaves outnumbered the colonists 10 to 1. This revolt was lead by General Toussaint Louverture that eventually turned into a 13 year war ending with a last unsuccessful effort by France’s Napoleon to stop the revolt. The war ended on January 1, 1804 when General Jean-Jacques Dessalines declared the nation to be no longer Saint-Dominique but Haiti. It was the first and only successful slave revolution. An interesting side note was pointed out by CBS correspondent Anthony Mason about the new Haitian flag, “Its new flag was derived from the French tricolor, which was turned on its side - and the white stripe symbolically stripped off.”

Unfortunately, the years that followed after the independence of Haiti did not see the same prosperity as before. The French felt their land was stolen and demanded reparations before they would trade with Haiti. Other European countries and the US joined France’s boycott to Haiti mainly due to the downright prejudice. Another possible reason the US did not trade with Haiti was stated by Professor Page of Miami University, “After they became independent, they ended up in a situation where – number one – they were considered a threat by the entire rest of the region because the rest of the region, especially the United States, owned slaves. A slave rebellion is not a good thing to have so close to a nation that owned several million slaves of their own.” Haiti was not even able to begin trade with the rest of the world until 1838, and this was at a high price. This restriction of trade devastated Haiti. Haiti was also plagued by an unstable government and numerous despotic heads of states, which ruthlessly ravaged the people and the resources of the country. Haiti could never recover and may never recover because according to Professor Page 80%-90% of Haiti is illiterate and is unable to neither innovate nor attract industries. This is why Haiti is so poor.

In conclusion, I have given you a brief history of the nation of Haiti and because of the harsh treatment of the Haitian people before and after the slave revolt, what we have left is a predominately poor nation. Lately, there have been many futile attempts to get Haiti prosperous, but all attempts have failed, probably due to ulterior motives or probably due to an underestimate of the true scope of the problem. The earthquake in Haiti was a tragedy, but out of this tragedy can be optimism. More Americans and the rest of the world are being educated about the economic climate in Haiti and we can only hope that action can come because of this interest.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Yo Adrian!

Today we were able to witness "Rocky Balboa" Becker's first boxing practice as he was punching his fists back and forth. He weighs in at a healthy 10 oz. and will be competing in the lightweight division. "Rocky's" record is 0-0 and his first fight is scheduled on June 11, 2010.

If you haven't guessed, Rachael and I had the official ultrasound and will be having a BOY! The lady doing the ultrasound said he was very active and was moving his arms back and forth like a boxer. So, I believe his name should be "Rocky Balboa" Becker. Rachael has not fully agreed to the name but I hope that she will warm up to the idea.

Thanks for your prayers!