Category Archives: Service to others

Alpha Phi Omega

Once I give my money to the government, it is no longer my money

My wise old grandmother

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Texas A&M UniversityDuring the Summer of 1975 when I was a Junior at Texas A&M University, I pledged a Greek organization called Alpha Phi Omega National Service Fraternity (hereafter, “APO”). When my friends asked me the difference between APO and other Greek fraternities and sororities, I explained it thusly:

Fraternities and sororities spend 80% of their time partying. APO spends 80% of its time helping others.

Alpha Phi OmegaFrom August 1973 to June 1975, I was without my wise old grandmother. She was in Kingsville, Texas, and I was 300 miles away at Texas A&M. APO came into my life and continued to remind me, through today, that there is, indeed, always someone worse off than me.

My wise old grandother had always told me, “There is always someone worse off than you are.” She usually said that as I was complaining about pruning the oleanders, mowing the lawn, hanging the laundry, washing the dishes, cleaning my room………. APO continues in me with the words of my wise old grandmother.

So today, for those who love charities and real pumpkins, here’s what I want you to do. Yes, this involves planning and work, but it’s always fun. And I have some work music for you, too:

Before you do anything else, pick a number from 1 to 100. Write it down.

Cancer Survivors Park, San Diego, CaliforniaNow, since October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and October 31 is Halloween, take the family out to the pumpkin patch and get a real pumpkin, one that has seeds inside. Take the pumpkin home, cut off the top so you can get to the insides, and get all those seeds out of there. Young children often like this part of our project because they get to get all yukky and oogy.

Take the seeds, separate them from the rest of the pumpkin guts, wash the seeds, and set them aside to dry. Continue cleaning out your pumpkin and carving a face into it for use on the front porch for the next few days.

Cancer Survivors Park, San Diego, CaliforniaWhen the seeds have dried, count them! Write down the number of seeds. I usually get about 300 seeds out of my pumpkins, which are average size. Small pumpkins will have fewer seeds, and those really really really really big pumpkins will have more.

Once you have counted the seeds, roast them! They make great snacks, have lots of good fiber, and your children will be bragging to the neighborhood, “We roasted our pumpkin seeds to eat! I have some here. Do you want one?”

Here’s a good pumpkin seed recipe: Roasted pumpkin seeds.

PumpkinsOkay, remember those two numbers we wrote down? Take the first number, that between 1 and 100, and multiple it by the second number, the number of seeds, to get a final number. For example, if you chose 25 and had 300 seeds, your final number would be 7,500. Drop the two zeroes, and you have 75.

Now I want you to write a check to your favorite charity, or to a cancer charity in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, for $75. If $75 is too much for you right now, that’s okay. Write a check for whatever amount you can. As we have seen in President Obama’s grassroots money-raising, every little bit helps.

MoneyRemember that your donation is often tax-deductible, so in addition to helping people who are less fortunate than you, you just lowered your taxes!

I donate to various charities on a quarterly basis, and since September is the end of the third quarter, I use pumpkin event to donate to cancer organizations during October. I also never complain about how the government spends its money, for two reasons:

  1. Once I give my money to the government, it is no longer my money. It’s the government’s money.
  2. The government rarely gets much money from me because I’m not from the rich 1% and I use deductions to lower my tax burden. I figure I can do a better job of spending my money than the government can do spending its money.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

This post approved by Zoey the Cool Cat

Looking for real estate services in San Diego County?
I can highly recommend
James Frimmer, Realtor
Century 21 Award, DRE #01458572

If you’re looking for a home inspector,
I recommend Russel Ray — that’s me!Real Estate Solutions

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

A Geek 2 To

Great customer service doesn’t come from India


Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Whenever I need something beyond groceries, gasoline, and other daily needs, I like to do a lot of searching to find the best person or company to meet my needs. I don’t shop by price, reserving that tactic for groceries, gasoline, and other daily needs.

In the early morning hours of September 1, 2011, I had a serious computer problem. Not a great time to be having such problems because so many businesses close for holidays. I knew that if I didn’t get my problem resolved on Thursday or Friday, it was highly likely that it wouldn’t be resolved until the following Tuesday. I might have to spend four or five days not blogging. That would be devastating….

I resorted to a Google search for “San Diego mobile computer repair.” I called the first person in the returns, but he couldn’t come out until Friday morning at 8:30. I really wanted someone on Thursday afternoon, or even Thursday evening.

I called the second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh……….. companies. None of them could come out until Tuesday after Labor Day. Sounds like some people wanted the weekend off.

I returned to #1 and asked if 8:30 on Friday morning was still open. It was. How lucky for me.

A Geek 2 ToThat #1 company was aGeek2Go.

My Geek, Nick, arrived a few minutes earlier than 8:30. After just an hour of testing things, he determined that it was the power supply. Unfortunately, I had a mini-tower computer, and power supplies for my brand weren’t available. However, Nick found one on the Internet for just a few hundred dollars. Add in shipping and installation, and the cost would be more than a brand new computer. I guess you know what I did.

Because of my description of how my computer failed, Nick thought that the hard drive might also be damaged. While I was buying a new computer and setting it up, Nick took my hard drive back to his office to recover a life-critical file. He emailed it to me that afternoon. Too bad I gave him the wrong file name; I was now on life support.

On Saturday morning Nick brought my hard drive back, set up so that I could use it as an external hard drive. All my files were there, including the critical one. The fact that I had no idea what the file name was makes a good case for doing things manually. My computers are so automated that I don’t remember file names like in the olden days. I just click on little icons and everything runs automatically.

Working geekaGeek2Go‘s price was reasonable, and Nick was the ultimate professional; knowledgeable, personable, and helpful. To get all three in any one individual, especially here in Southern California where so many people are of the ME generation, was an unexpected surprise and pleasure.. So thanks, Nick! Here’s to you!

If any local readers need quick computer repair at reasonable prices, I can highly recommend aGeek2Go, in case you don’t have one in the family.

If you’re looking for a web site host, they run eMaginable. Dollar-for-dollar, feature-for-feature, you’ll find the Web’s best hosting plans at eMaginable. Their plans aren’t cheap, they’re affordable. Big difference! All of their state-of-the-art hosting plans come complete with FREE 24/7 technical support.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I'm Zoey the Cool Cat, and I approve this post

Looking for real estate services in San Diego County?
I can highly recommend
James Frimmer, Realtor
Century 21 Award, DRE #01458572

If you’re looking for a home inspector,
I recommend Russel Ray — that’s me!Real Estate Solutions

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Eric Cooper

My best employee ever has quit…. Goodbye, Eric. Stay in touch!

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos


In late April 2011, I hired an unemployed studio photographer named Eric Cooper to catalog my 53,000 pictures. I had just upgraded my very old Photoshop 8 to Photoshop CS5 and bought Lightroom 4. In order to edit photos on those cool programs, you have to be able to find your photos!

Add to that the “problem” that I continued to take 300-600 pictures each and every day and you can see where I was and why I needed him.

He got everything cataloged and keyworded in just over nine months. Now all I have to do is catalog and keyword the pictures that I take each day — keep up in other words. Hmmm. Just like work….

At about the time Eric was finishing, I was leaving my old blogging platform of 3½ years and creating a new WordPress blogging platform. Eric initially helped me get everything established, both my home inspection WordPress web site and my Russel Ray Photos WordPress blog, as well as my spouse’s WordPress real estate web site.

While he was doing that, he got emotionally involved with the WordPress software and decided to become a WordPress guru. It’s a complete break for him because, except for the past 18 months six unemployed and twelve with Russel Ray Photos, he’s been a studio photographer all his business life. The Great Recession pretty much destroyed family discretionary income, though, which meant that studio photographers were having a tough time.

Eric recently got full-time employment with a software company that creates WordPress themes, plug-in, widgets, wadgets, gidgets, and gadgets. Yesterday was his last day with me. Goodbye, Eric! Good luck in your new venture. Stay in touch, because I know where you live!

Eric Cooper


Now, to get myself out of my depression, I think a trip this morning to the San Diego Zoo is just the thing. Maybe about 300 pictures?

Scarlet violetear at the San Diego Zoo

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Fight organized crime

My rant for the political season

Ever wonder why rich people get into politics? I used to, but no more.

When I was a junior at Texas A&M University, Phil Gramm was my Economics 301 professor. He was tenured at the time but left in 1978 for public office, eventually becoming one of the two United States Senators from Texas. When he decided not to run for re-election, I read that he had a campaign war chest of $64 million, which he got to keep, and after only 17 years as a Senator and 23 years in public office. He would never have made $64 million in 23 years as a tenured economics professor. Even Nobel laureates don’t make that kind of money.

Therein lies the secret to politics. It’s not about serving the public. It’s about making money, either through that campaign war chest, various benefits (sometimes illegal) as a so-called public servant (see San Diego’s own Duke Cunningham), or the money that comes afterwards through all the connections made while in politics (see Newt Gingrich).

Here in California we have term limits on many public offices, something that I’m highly in favor of. Unfortunately, when someone is “termed out of office,” all they do is go run for a different office. And because they have name recognition and money, they often win. When they are termed out of that office, it’s on to another office. And round and round we go….

I think there should be no such thing as a career politician. That’s where the problem is. If you want to take a break from your regular job and serve the public, great. Go do it. But don’t expect politics to be your road to riches. Two, four, or six years, and that’s it! Go back to your real job. Make it so that people have to take four or six years off before they are able to run for another public office. If they want to continue serving the public during those years, well, anyone can volunteer for just about anything. Let’s have some new people with new ideas.

If two terms is good enough for the President of the United States, it should be good enough for anyone.

Career politicians are nothing but organized crime, but we can….

Fight organized crime

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This post approved by Zoey the Cool Cat

An inherent desire to help others

Alpha Phi OmegaThis post is dedicated to the men and women of Xi Delta chapter of Alpha Phi Omega, National Co-ed Service Fraternity, at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas.

Throughout my life I have had this inherent desire to help other people. It started at Henrietta M. King High School in Kingsville, Texas, when I joined Key Club, a service organization that is in many high schools throughout the nation.

It continued at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas, when I pledged Alpha Phi Omega, National Service Fraternity. Texas A&M was founded as a military college in 1876. Women were admitted for the first time in 1964, and social fraternities finally found their way to campus in the mid-1970s. Alpha Phi Omega was one of the first Greek letter organizations allowed on campus; Xi Delta chapter was founded at Texas A&M in 1962.

Alpha Phi OmegaAlpha Phi Omega introduced me to Special Olympics, Muscular Dystrophy Association, Red Cross, American Heart Association, blood drives, assisted care facilities, animal shelters, and so much more. I became aware of the world and the people who were suffering, hungry, homeless…. Xi Delta chapter at Texas A&M awarded me its Distinguished Service Key in 1977, its highest honor.

I remained involved with Alpha Phi Omega for fifteen years after college but I also broadened my experiences by becoming directly involved with Special Olympics, Muscular Dystrophy Association, Red Cross, and American Heart Association.

When I moved to San Diego from College Station, Texas, in 1993, helping other people had to take a back seat to helping myself get established in a new locale. Although I haven’t spent a lot of time helping others since 1993, I do make it a point to donate money to the organizations that I was involved with in the past. They need money just as much as they need volunteers.

Xi Delta is celebrating fifty years of service to its members, the Texas A&M campus, the Bryan/College Station community, and the United States of America.

Here’s to another fifty years of service…. In the Southeastern Conference! Gig ’em, Aggies!

Texas A&M University

This post approved by Zoey the Cool Cat