Thursday, December 17, 2009

First Snowfall

I don't know what the precise conditions were that allowed for this. I know I've never seen anything like it before. These perfect specimens were very lightly blanketing the Jeep on the morning of Dec. 11th as I was taking Brookie to preschool. It was certainly cold enough to preserve these throughout the night. But why did they only barely stick to the windshield and not blow off? Most were on an edge - hardly any laid flat against the glass. How did just this small sprinkling occur and not more? What was the window of time available for me to see this spectacle, and why was I so fortunate? How rare is this? I wouldn't say this was life-changing, but I was pretty humbled by the event.

And Brooklyn was 10 minutes late for school because we paused so long to take it all in.

I really don't even know if these should technically be called snowflakes. They look more like the folded paper cutouts or the Hollywood version of the perfect snowflake (I'm thinking of 'Grinch' here). They certainly don't look like the big fluffy flakes we try to catch on our tongues.

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Well Said

Further proof that truth is stranger than fiction.

President Obama today stated that liberals were "on the precipice" of passing universal health care. I don't know what image that phrase conjures up in your mind, but something certainly popped into mine. And I double-checked the definition of the word 'precipice' just to be sure I'm not the idiot here.

Mr. Obama, a 'precipice' is, by definition, a very steep cliff. Even more appropriate, in this case, might be definition #2 from Websters, which reads "a greatly hazardous situation, verging on disaster".

That's it. Those are the only two possible meanings of the word - neither of which refer in any way to the great rosy pivotal moment in our nation's history that the president tries to present.

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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

YouTube Gems - Bottle Kids Are Back

I'm hopping mad right now about 'stuff' like global warming legislation, cap and trade, the fool that is Robert Gibbs, and the redirection of TARP loan repayments into bottomless cesspools instead of paying down the debt. Alas, I promised my fan that I would dramatically cut back on my politically-inspired ranting. Deep breath... Deep breath...

Remember those kids that played the theme from Tetris on glass bottles? Well, Madison and Brooklyn have been waiting a long time to share this one with you: Carol of the Bottles. Kids, you CAN try this at home.

Oh yeah, I'm also irate about the healthcare debate. And the White House's apparent inability to understand in the most basic terms how the economy works. That is all.

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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

YouTube Gems - Cool MJ Tribute

Regardless of your opinion of Michael Jackson, you can't deny the impressiveness of this video - way better than the technology that Star Wars acapella dude uses.

If you follow this through to YouTube's site you'll see that these guys have a few different videos. This MJ one is good, as is the cover of "Don't Stop Believing" from Journey. You can also safely click on Whitney Houston's "I Wanna Dance With Somebody" video from the Bonnie Hunt show.


You'll probably want to stay away from the "College Musical" episodes. They're pretty crude and definitely not appropriate for children, despite what the title might lead you to believe.

Don't say I didn't warn you.

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Monday, November 30, 2009

Hurricane Karsten

I came home from a meeting several days ago and found the house a bit warm. When I unlocked and the opened the doors to the office it felt like the blast of heat you feel when entering a Costco in the wintertime. "Whoa!" I shouted so that Sara would hear. "What happened in here?" We both realized the answer at the same time - Karsten.

The thermostat was set to 89 degrees. And though the house had not yet been able to reach that temperature, the register in the office had been pumping out hot air for hours into the closed room while the rest of the house with open doors and our open floor plan was much more equilibrated.

This incident didn't really surprise us. Karsten began as a minor blip on the radar out over the Pacific, sucking on tubes of toothpaste when he wanted a refreshing treat. But in recent months he has picked up quite a bit of steam. He became a tropical storm several weeks ago when he plugged in Sara's curling iron and left it setting on the carpet all day long.

But now he as reached full on hurricane status and made landfall at the same time. The thermostat incident was brought about by a combination of Karsten's fascination with buttons and switches and his recent discovery that our tall pub chairs are easy to push around on the wood floor with their felt anti-scuff pads on each leg. Karsten will spend hours of each day pushing the chairs around to all of the different wall switches, turning on ceiling fans, lamps, outdoor lights, and bathroom fans. This led him to figure out that he can carry the step stool from the bathroom for the carpeted areas where the chairs don't slide well. This is why we now keep our bedroom (to keep him out of the curling irons, deodorant, toothpaste, shampoo, etc.) and the office (computer hacking) locked up when not in use.

He's also using the chairs to help himself to anything he wants in the fridge, freezer or pantries.

Uncooked pasta.

Cheese sticks.

Ice cream.

It wouldn't be so bad if he actually ate the stuff he finds. I really don't understand how the boy weighs so much. Nothing seems to make it into he stomach except liquids. He's got vacuum-like suction and can down a sippy cup in mere seconds. The solids, however, are just a source of entertainment for Karsten. Crackers turn into powder when stomped on. The pasta makes a delightful amount of noise when dumped out slowly from atop the counter. Cheese sticks can be kneaded and molded into a variety of shapes and projectiles. And the ice cream - not only does he dirty every spoon he can find but he doesn't even have the decency to put it back in the freezer when he's done.

At least he seems to be past his toilet fixation. No more emergency baths or fishing toys out.

But he is starting to throw things down the stairs. Large things. If Karsten can lift it or at least push it, there is a very strong chance it will at some point take a tumble down to the ground floor.

I even had to buy a new keyboard off eBay for Sara's laptop just to use for spare parts to fix the original keyboard. The problem isn't so much that Karsten pops off the keys (he can even unlatch the lid so "hey Ducheznee - why don't you just close it?" is not a viable solution). The problem is that I can't ever seem to get them all back together (with their hinges and tiny rubber springs) without breaking or losing at least one piece.

Amazingly, Karsten can't climb out of his crib yet and doesn't try to take off his diaper. But I did catch him wearing a princess dress once, and that concerns me.

Roomba needs to invent a babysitting robot. Karsten could wear a bracelet or something that the robot would be able to track and follow him around with a video camera and a microphone. We would be able to monitor that feed from the computer or TV or maybe a portable device we carry with us.

UPDATE - Dec. 1st
Apparently this list will grow. Sara is presently cooking dinner and Karsten just tried to light a napkin on fire by inching it closer and closer beneath the pot of boiling water.

UPDATE - Dec. 4th
Karsten can now climb out of his crib. Brooklyn taught him. She was very proud of herself. Now Karsten sleeps with a lid on the crib.

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Friday, November 27, 2009

Yumb and Yumber

It's been a full year since the last Thanksgivagain, but just one day since we most recently enjoyed a Thanksgiving feast. The turkey on the left fed our small army on Thursday with Sara's family and on Friday we recycled the black one.

Until next year - Happy Thanksgivagain.

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Setting A Precedent

I found this article from Politico quite humorous and entertaining. While the press still has a very long way to go (south) with Obama before it reaches the same level of disdain with which it treated President Bush, this seems like a small step in the right direction.

The author has done some research into some of the crazy claims that routinely come out of the White House and both corrects erroneous statements and puts them into perspective. More specifically, Obama's (over)use of the word 'unprecedented', is called out. Indeed, his use of the word 'unprecedented' truly is without precedent.

One of my favorite parts is about halfway through the piece when the deputy press secretary defends the claims and pretends to know the will of the American people on the issues of health care reform and energy reform. If support for these bad ideas were truly overwhelming as he insinuates, why aren't they done yet? I mean, Obama owns both the executive and legislative branches and still can't seem to peddle his poison successfully.

Obama talks about a transparent government. And while there are a great many secretive dealings going on within his administration, I do believe he is at least living up to this particular promise - we can all see right through him. He's not fooling any but the most naive among us.

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Monday, November 23, 2009

Hero - Joe Lieberman?

The epic blunder that is the current push for health care reform managed to get one wheel off of the rails of self-destruction today, thanks to former Democratic Vice-Presidential nominee Joe Lieberman.

Lieberman says that he will not vote for a bill that includes any possibility of a public option. Democrats are depending on Lieberman's vote to reach the filibuster-proof 60 votes it needs to pass whatever they want.

While the public option is hardly the only thing devastatingly wrong with the Democrat sponsored version of the bill, I don't really care as long as it fails.

I don't even care whether Lieberman's intentions are genuine. Maybe he's just posturing for something. Maybe he really doesn't like the public option as he claims. Lieberman correctly points out that the federal government is already budgeting to be more than $21 trillion in debt within the next ten years and that a public option on health care will add a significant amount to that total.

The only thing I care about is that Lieberman is telling the truth. That would be reform that I could support - an honest politician - someone that says one thing and then does what he said he would do, instead of something else.

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Monday, November 16, 2009

The Fast and the Furious

Madison has a best friend at school. She's an adorable little girl that was also in her Kindergarten class last year and now sits next to Madison in the 1st grade. Sara arranged Madison's first real play date for her and her friend at our house one day last month. In the middle of the night Madison became ill. Unbeknownst to us at the time, her friend also became very sick. Her mom called us the next day to warn us that her daughter was sick and that the doctors thought it might be the swine flu.

Madison was really sick for a little more than a day and then began to recover. Her friend, however, became more and more ill. It is extremely serious. She is currently hospitalized in Intensive Care and has been put into a medically-induced coma. Whether or not it really was the swine flu, we don't know. She is now battling pneumonia. She's already missed five straight weeks of school.


Yesterday at church Madison learned about fasting from her Primary teacher. Later that afternoon, Madison excitedly suggested that we should all fast for her friend to get better - and so we did. She loves her friend. We used the opportunity to talk more about fasting. We skipped dinner last night and both Madison and Brooklyn even wanted to skip breakfast this morning to get their two meals in.

I hadn't been home more than 10 minutes from dropping Brooklyn off at preschool when her teacher called. She said that Brooklyn told her she couldn't eat the snack because she was fasting, and the teacher wanted to make sure she was understanding everything correctly and that she respected our wishes. I explained about Madison's friend and how Brooklyn was excited to participate, but that I didn't really expect her to skip two meals. She could certainly have snacks if she chose to.

Madison also told her teacher that she was fasting for her friend and classmate. Her teacher said that was a very nice thing to do. Lunch, however, brought with it an entirely different response. Madison easily fasted all the way until lunch time and was quite happy to do it. She really loves her friend. We had talked earlier in the morning about saying a short, silent prayer before she ate to properly end her fast. She's not the least bit timid about praying in public - at restaurants, Disneyland, wherever.

As she lowered her head at her table, one of the school's staff [name reluctantly withheld] interrupted her by saying, "You stop it with the silly prayer thing."

I'm pretty steamed about this. I'm ready to launch a crusade. It would have been one thing to say, "I'm sorry Madison, but the courts have removed God from schools." But to belittle a six-year-old for something so innocent as asking a blessing on her food??? Nearly 85% of the country believes in some form of god. She wasn't baptizing her friends with sprinkles from her Juicy-Juice or preaching the four horsemen from her lunch table. Madison quoted this verbatim several different times this afternoon, so I don't think she's making it up. I told Madison I wanted to call the principal to talk about it and she freaked out, "No, please don't call the school. Then I'll get in even more trouble. That's what happened to *Jimmy* (not his real name). The same thing happened to him and his mom called the school and then that teacher got him in trouble for telling. Promise me you won't call."

This wasn't helping to calm my ire at all. However, I agreed to not call the school at this point. I do want to talk to Jimmy's parents just to corroborate Madison's story about their son. This may well be the feather that tips my scale. We allow Satan in schools, so why not God? Fair is fair, right? But that's not even what I'm upset about. I'm mad that an adult at Madison's school - an authority figure - a role model - took a position like that and would denigrate a small child that had not done anything wrong. Is Madison supposed to feel ashamed now? Is she supposed to apologize? Does the teacher believe she saved Madison from heading down the 'dangerous' path of a god-fearing person? Why could the teacher have been more like Brookie's teacher? A simple phone call - "Did you know your daughter prays? With your permission, I'd like to give her a switchblade and a pack of Camels so she doesn't start to think she's actually a good person."

Why do we, the 85%, allow the other 15% to dictate all of the rules. We're the ants in A Bug's Life. There are waaaaay more people on our side but we feel weak against our would be grasshopper oppressors. If we were to ever unite under a common cause, no prayer-hating lunch supervisor would stand a snowball's chance.


I recounted to Madison the Old Testament story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego - three young men that were persecuted for praying. Brookie summed up the lesson nicely, saying that even if they're tossing her in the oven like Hansel and Gretel, she'll just keep right on praying.

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

YouTube Gems - Play

I am continually amazed at how creative some people are. This is really a simple idea and probably not very difficult at all to physically (digitally, really) create. But the process of conceptualizing the idea and then making it a reality - that's what impresses me so much.

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Chew Toy

Imagine laboring all day on something that you feel passionate about, only to have its supposed value fall on deaf ears or blind eyes.

Let's say you make Christmas fruitcakes. Your recipe has been handed down from generation to generation. You spend days planning, shopping, baking and wrapping dozens of your prized fruitcakes and give them freely to everyone you know.

Then, when visiting a friend at Easter, you notice one of your fruitcakes being used as a doorstop.

Or that TPS report you worked on for two weeks is tossed immediately to the recycle bin; unread.

Or that nice sweater you bought for your sister has been turned into a chew toy for the dog.

You can probably understand why these musicians are offended.

Turns out their "music" is perfect for "torturing" terrorists. The musicians are up in arms about it, but I'm not sure why.
  1. Are they upset that somebody holds their music in such poor regard that listening to it is considered torture?
  2. Are they upset that the terrorists are being forced to listen to their music as opposed to that of another, perhaps more talented, musician?
  3. Are they upset because they might not be receiving air play royalties?
  4. Are they upset that the terrorists are being made to listen to music as a form of torture, period, as opposed to having being ripped limb from limb or being buried in the Sahara up to their neck with honey poured over their head?
  5. Are they embarrassed that their music is of an inferior quality and they wanted to put up a better showing for the terrorists?
The musicians are 'saying' that #4 is true - that they think each terrorist should be given a six figure salary, a beautiful wife and a house in the foothills. But I'd bet a wooden nickel that the real reason is more like #1 - their feelings are hurt that their music is being used to punish people.

Why not view this as an opportunity? I mean, an entirely new demographic is being exposed to their life's work. If they believe their music is good, why wouldn't they think the terrorist will enjoy it and one day, when Obama sets them free, purchase the album for themselves and their entire clan?

I, for one, think the whole situation is hilarious.

From the military's perspective, I get it. Personally, I could probably handle Pearl Jam for a while, at least until my eardrums exploded. But R.E.M.? Not a chance. Give me the waterboarding, please.

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Thursday, November 5, 2009

YouTube Gems - Kiwi

This is, I think, the first YouTube video I ever saw. With 24 million views, there's a decent chance you may have already seen it.

"Kiwi" is a touching little short about a small but determined, flightless bird. We should all work so diligently to accomplish our dreams.

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Monday, November 2, 2009

Times Are Changing

When I woke Madison up for school this morning she immediately observed (in her Miracle Max's chocolate coated pill sudden outburst of speech manner), "Dad, it feels like we're going to be late today."

We weren't running late. She was expecting it to still be dark outside when she woke up. With the time change early Sunday morning she perceived that something was not as it should have been.

She surprised me further as we were watching the World Series this evening. "Dad, why do they wear white uniforms when they know they're just going to fall down and get them dirty? They should just make their whole uniform be the color [the accent color]."

I was thinking, Sunday morning, that it might be nice if the Earth's rotation were such that we needed to "fall back" every Saturday night. The constant clock adjustment would be annoying at first, but soon become routine. And that bonus hour of sleep every week would be a welcome change.

And while we're on the subject, I've often wondered why we even still have Daylight Savings. My understanding is that Daylight Savings was conceived as a way to give farmers more daylight hours with which to work. Aside from the obvious fact that adjusting a clock in either direction does not cause the sun to remain in the sky any longer or shorter than it otherwise would, what difference does it make if the average person wakes up in the dark or light?

In Madison's case, I wake her up at 7 AM. Well, this morning she noticed that some daylight had already been burned. And it's going to be darker one hour earlier than usual, too, meaning we'll have to turn lights on an hour earlier than normal, meaning we'll be using more electricity than normal.

Turns out I was wrong about the origins of Daylight Savings, but I can count Benjamin Franklin among my supporters for being a proponent of simply adjusting one's personal habits to take advantage of the free sunlight.

What do you think? Do you like Daylight Savings? How does it affect your life? How would you change the system?

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Saturday, October 31, 2009

You're a Good Sport, Charlie Brown

I had been hoping for the past year that Karsten's hair would not grow too much so that he could be Charlie Brown for Halloween. As you can see, everything worked out very nicely. Karsten even won the costume contest at our local Fred Meyer.

After visiting just a few houses on Halloween night, Karsten was extremely sticky and just too exhausted to actually stay upright in his wagon as I chauffeured him around. Don't tell him, but I skipped past several houses when he wasn't paying attention. Everything you can see in this picture, with exception of the sidewalk, has a thin layer of Karsten's candy-saliva mixture spread all over it. At one house he couldn't even manage to hold his hand out to accept the candy offering because his hand was quite literally stuck to his face.

Here's a courtesy link to the real award-winning prime time special, "You're a Good Sport, Charlie Brown."

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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Something Stingks

I am republishing this short piece from the Associate Press in its entirety because I think my 'summary' would be longer than the original.

NEW YORK – Sting isn't a religious man, but he says President Obama might be a divine answer to the world's problems.

"In many ways, he's sent from God," he joked in an interview, "because the world's a mess."

But Sting is serious in his belief that Obama is the best leader to navigate the world's problems. In an interview on Wednesday, the former Police frontman said that he spent some time with Obama and "found him to be very genuine, very present, clearly super-smart, and exactly what we need in the world."

"I can't think of anyone better qualified because of his background, his education, particularly in regard to Islam," he said.

Still, Sting acknowledged the president had a "difficult job" ahead of him.

The British singer, who released the seasonal album "On A Winter's Night" this week, said he's fascinated by American politics, Obama, and also by Obama's opponents on the right.

"It's aggressive and violent and full of fear," he said of the backlash against Obama. "They don't want change, they want things to feel the same because they feel safe there."

Sting, 58, said he's hopeful that the world's problems can be dealt with, but is frustrated that "we seem to be living in a currency of medieval ideas."

"My hope is that we can start talking about real issues and not caring about whether God cares about your hemline or your color," he said. "We are here to evolve as one family, and we can't be separate anymore."

President Obama made time in his schedule to meet with Sting?

Do people really look to Sting for guidance on stuff like this?

How many other candidates did Sting vet before arriving at his conclusion that Obama is best qualified?

What is it, specifically, about Obama's "background [and] his education, particularly in regard to Islam" that makes him a more appropriate president than, say, Lee Iaccoca, or Snoopy?

And why does the media seem to think that any meaningful number of people even care what actors and musicians have to say about politics?


On a similar note, did anyone see that our old friend Sean Penn, "personal friend of U.S. President Barack Obama" was in Venezuela meeting with Hugo Chavez? Yeah, he went there directly from Cuba where he was doing some investigative journalism for an upcoming Vanity Fair article about "how the Obama administration has affected Cuba," and was to meet with Fidel Castro.

Were there not any actual qualified journalists that could have paid some bills by virtue of that job?

Isn't travel to Cuba highly restricted? Should Penn be barred from reentering the U.S.?

Is anyone else disturbed that within the first two sentences of the story, Sean Penn, communist dictator Hugo Chavez, communist dictator Fidel Castro, and current U.S. president Barack Obama have all been linked to one another?

Does Obama have one single associate that is not currently or has not previously been involved in shady or highly suspect behavior? Tax cheats; convicted terrorists; communist sympathizers. The list goes on and on and grows by the day.

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Monday, October 26, 2009

Peter, Peter Pumpkin Eater

Tonight was pumpkin carving time in preparation for Halloween. You may recall my disdain for pumpkins from last year's pumpkin post - "Jack"-o-lantern. I don't know whether something had changed chemically within my being to make me like pumpkins or if I've simply become a broken man. But there were several small details which indicate I may actually be learning to enjoy the process.
  1. We bought multiple pumpkins
  2. I specifically selected a pumpkin with a bit of character, instead of seeking out the perfectly round specimen like I always have in the past
  3. I proactively sought out some potential ideas (thanks Google Images!) and let the kids vote on their favorite
  4. I initiated the event with the kids - Sara wasn't even home (she was grateful for that)
  5. Halfway in I realized that I had forgotten to don a pair of latex gloves to protect me from actual contact with the pumpkin guts - and I just shrugged it off
  6. The pumpkin didn't smell nearly as unpleasant as past experience had suggested
  7. I couldn't find any of our special carving tools but I persisted anyway with a paring knife
The winning design? Daddy's pumpkin eating Brookie's pumpkin!

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

End of an Era

The day I hoped would never come has arrived. The man - the legend - master carpenter Norm Abram is retiring from the New Yankee Workshop. Turns out it actually takes Norm much longer than 30 minutes to build each of his museum-quality projects each week. All of that work has finally gotten to him.

Norm will use his extra time to work on his home and personal projects. But don't worry, we'll still get to see him on episodes of This Old House.

I'm still searching for the photo of when I met the cardboard Norm at a Portland trade show I attended. I'll post that here if I can find it.

UPDATE - Found the pic. I only asked him one question and then like, a week later, he finally shut up.

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Monday, October 19, 2009

For Your Neflix Queue - Hogfather

I have no idea where this movie came from, or even how it ended up at the top of my Netflix queue, but it is absolutely brilliant. The timing of its arrival was also quite appropriate as we enter the holiday season.

Basically, the Hogfather is Santa Claus, only in some fictitious world that is remarkably like our own. The premise is your typical gotta-save-Christmas adventure, but that is just about the only thing typical about this film. For starters, it is over three hours long. The cast is full of fresh faces - new to us, but obviously not new to the craft as they are all excellent. Also, when the Hogfather (i.e. Santa) goes missing, it's none other than Death that steps in to fill his boots.

The film is not rated (I think it was made for TV), but I would guess it is a PG. There is no language or sex to speak of. There is some violence, but it is more like Goonie-thug violence - not silly, but not graphic or too serious.

Great cast, fantastic costumes and sets, unique cinematography, and a satisfying ending to boot. Consider adding the Hogfather to your holiday movie viewing schedule this year.

And Happy Hogswatch to you and yours.

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Friday, October 16, 2009

Not One Shred

Perhaps you've heard the metaphor of one bad strand having the power to destroy the beauty of an exquisite tapestry?

What happens when all of the strands are bad or ugly? Well, my friends, we are finding out right now. The latest element of the Obama tapestry to unravel is that iconic (and pretty cool-looking) stencil artsy piece by a guy name Shephard Fairey.

So what's all the fuss about? Well, turns out the photograph that Fairey used to design his piece did not belong to him. He did not have permission to use it. It is owned by a photographer who at the time was freelancing for the Associated Press. Apparently the AP and the photographer are not too keen on somebody else becoming rich and famous through illegal use of their image. Makes sense. That's ultimately why Jay and Silent Bob struck back, no?

Earlier this year one of Fairey's attorneys, Anthony Falzone, stated, "We believe fair use protects Shepard's right to do what he did here." Well, that was until the attorneys found out Fairey was putting them on about the source photograph. Today Fairey's legal team filed documents in federal court to withdraw from the case, stating that Fairey misled them. That's gotta be a bit embarrassing. If I've learned anything at all from television courtroom dramas, it is that, guilty or not, your attorney can't represent you if you don't tell them the truth.

To the AP I say, "You made your bed..." or maybe, "When you lie with dogs... ."
To Mr. Fairey I say, "Way to go."
To the president I say, "You need to surround yourself with better people -generally speaking. I am not aware of one single shred of honor or integrity within your administration. Everyone has an angle, an ugly past, a dirty little secret, a criminal record, or likewise. When E.F. Hutton spoke, I listened. When you speak, I cringe and change the channel."
To Mannie Garcia, the photo's copyright holder I say, "They're going to get all of us one way or another. If this is the worst of it for you then you got off easy."


The title of the AP article today read: Obama poster artist admits error. Yet the second sentence in the story is a quote from Fairey which reads: "In an attempt to conceal my mistake I submitted false images and deleted other images."

I'm sorry AP, but if you think blatant deceit and lying are the same as admitting an "error", you guys have some fundamental issues that need to be addressed to protect your longevity as a player in the global news industry.


Lest you think I only have this one example, I was in Target this evening and while browsing the $5.00 DVD rack I finally figured out why Obama's "yes we can" chant resonates so strongly with America's young voters that got him elected.

While I highly doubt that the Obama campaign has been secretly indoctrinating children for the past ten years - many of whom were of voting age last November - I certainly wouldn't put it past them to intentionally hijack that catch phrase and thereby the minds of millions of young people.

Bob the Builder's DVD "Yes We Can!" is available from Amazon for $9.98 and ships free with Super Saver Shipping. President Obama's documentary/horror, also titled "Yes We Can", is not optional. You will pay for it whether you want to or not.

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Thursday, October 8, 2009

Spending Money to Save

My wife's grandfather admitted to me what I'd long suspected: It is not unusual for him to spend several hours and waste a ton of gas driving all over town in order to pay a slightly better price on some insignificant product. "Spends $20 to save $2" is the cliché the family uses.

Well, "Spends $829 billion to save $81 billion" could well be the working title of the latest health care proposal. If you understand and can explain why this makes sense, please comment on this post and explain it to me (politely), because I sincerely do not understand. I'll also admit that I'm largely ignorant (I don't have time to read the 1,500+ pages of legal mumbo-jumbo).

The principle "problem" that this legislation attempts to solve (aside from Obama being able to claim his first victory) is to provide health insurance-type coverage for the roughly 50 million Americans citizens 'inhabitants' of the United States that currently only receive medical care by way of government-funded programs for the uninsured.

This latest solution, over which congressional Ds are practically wetting themselves, will reduce that uninsured total by half; meaning this huge solution that has been dominating the headlines for the past few months does not even solve the original problem. Originally, they were talking about $1.3 trillion to cover everybody. Now the bill is $829 billion to cover only half as many people (people, you'll recall, that are already 'covered' through government-funded programs).

Question #1: If the health care legislation will "save" us money, why does it "cost" so much money? Is this like how I can buy a $30,000 solar array for my home that will "save" me 27% on my monthly power bill and take 40 years to pay for itself - which is 15 years beyond its useful life? Or is it more like how us taxpayers each pitched in $4,500 to everyone with a 19 mpg car so that they could buy a 22 mpg car, a process which sparked the robust economic recovery we're now enjoying and saved the planet from cooking itself all in one sweet maneuver?

Question #2: What about the remaining 25 million people still left without health coverage? Will there be an additional piece of legislation in our future costing an additional $829 billion? I imagine their medical expenses will continue to be covered under the current plan. I don't know how much the government is spending on the 50 million people now, but I can't believe it amounts to $829 million billion over 10 years.

Here are the numbers: $829 million billion works out to $33,160 for each additional person (half of the 50 million people) covered during the 10 years of the plan. A family of five effectively gets $166k to cover its medical expenses. Does that seem like a lot to anyone else? Aside from some catastrophic injury or illness, how could any family spend anywhere close to that amount on medical care in 10 years? Major medical insurance policies are relatively inexpensive - like $30-$50/mo with a low deductible.

In other words, it would be a lot less expensive in the end if grandpa would simply pay the extra $0.10 for the loaf of bread at his local market than it would be for him to spend an hour driving 40 miles to a bakery that sells bread for less.

What would I do? My plan: If they want to control escalating health care costs (which is a worthy cause), go ahead and do it. But do it through laws and regulation - two powers actually granted to Congress (read: they are not appointed to provide services such as health care, auto manufacturing, etc.). I want to buy health insurance like I buy auto insurance. I want to be able to select coverage amounts, deductibles, and choose services from a menu. Why should a 55 yr old single man have to buy a one-size-fits-all plan that includes, for example, maternity care? Why should someone that does not consume tobacco or alcohol have to pay for services to treat those particular vices?

The real solution, as I see it, once again comes down to jobs. Most reasonable people will pay for their own health insurance when they can reasonably afford to do so. But when your choice is between food/clothing/shelter or health insurance, it is not a tough decision to make. Basic necessities. Unfortunately, jobs are currently disappearing at a 1/2 million per month clip. I'm not saying that everything was fine before Obama - it wasn't. But it is much more difficult to develop quality higher-paying jobs right now because all of the focus HAS to be on stopping the bleeding and then recovering the jobs lost already. Any jobs. We can't afford to be picky.

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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

YouTube Gems - Fun With Apple

Thanks Katie. This is great.

While we're here, may was well pile on:

Part I:

Part II:

For the record, I think Apple is fantastic.

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Monday, October 5, 2009

A Big Assumption

The headline that caught my eye this morning read, "GOP Rooting Against America". The author, one Glenn Thrush, does a decent job of presenting the facts of the story without injecting personal views. The premise is that a) Republicans called Democrats 'unpatriotic' when the Dems questioned the Bush administrations desire to defend America from what it viewed as threats (specifically: Iraq, intelligence, surveillance) and b) Democrats are now calling Republicans 'unpatriotic' for criticizing the Obama administration's extremely poor track record thus far on the economy (ineffective stimulus packages, continually rising unemployment) and the IOC's "snub" of Chicago as an Olympic host city despite Obama lending his star power to the sales pitch personally.

I suppose one could attempt to make that argument - if recklessly borrowing trillions of dollars to fund fruitless, ineffective ideological programs, systematically dismantling the world's greatest military, subsidizing ill advised home and auto purchases, perpetuating the entirely unproven fear of global warming solely for the purpose of consolidating power, refusing to wear an American flag lapel pin, and failing to salute the American flag during the National Anthem - if those activities are in fact patriotic, then I suppose opposition to such would have to be considered unpatriotic.

It was also silly to presume the city of Chicago was somehow the de facto front runner in its bid for the 2016 Olympic games. A "snub", as I understand it, is when the obvious choice is not made - like how Pee Wee Herman was somehow overlooked for the 1986 Oscar. To suggest that Madrid, Tokyo or Rio were less deserving than Chicago is, I think, an insult to those great cities. Why do the Olympics have to be in the US every time? That's not un-American of me to say. If I've learned anything at all from the Opening Ceremonies it is that the Olympics are about one world; one people. In my modest lifespan the US has already hosted four Olympics - two Summer and two Winter (Lake Placid, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Salt Lake). These Rio de Janeiro games, which are still seven years away, will be the FIRST time ever that ANY country in South America has hosted. How can anyone be upset or bitter about that? I'm happy for Rio. Brasil is an up-and-coming world power.

As a potential Olympic viewer, what backdrop would you rather see? a tropical paradise in the exotic, legendary land of Samba that most people have only read about? or Chicago, the scenery of which can be seen daily on WGN - the local Chicago television station that for some reason broadcasts to the entire nation on basic cable.

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Friday, October 2, 2009

Gooooooooool - Brasil

Parabens pra meus amigos brasileiros! Parabens mesmo.

Rio de Janeiro won its bid for the 2016 Olympic games. This will be the first time the Olympics visit South America, believe it or not. The Brazilians will be outstanding hosts, of that you can be sure. I'm excited for all of the NBC vignettes that will bring the marvelous beauty that is Brazil into the world's living rooms. At a minimum, I hope to be able to buy Guaraná Antárctica at my local supermarket when all is said and done.

Let me know if you're interested in a translation of the music.


Almost as gratifying is the humiliating beatdown received by President Obama and Omarosa. They flew into Denmark with all of the swagger and the cameras and the press to personally ensure the games would be awarded to Obama's "hometown" (I thought he said he was from Hawaii), Chicago, only to be eliminated in the very first round of voting. That means it wasn't even close!
To have the president of the United States and his wife personally appear, then this should happen in the first round is awful and totally undeserving.

I'm shocked. The whole thing doesn't make sense other than there has been a stupid bloc vote. 

- Kevan Gosper, Senior Australian IOC member
What's the problem? Obama has lambasted "American arrogance" and yet the assumption was that he need only show up in order to win the vote? That his presence would somehow matter to the IOC? Is that not arrogance? Erick Erickson of put it this way, "So Obama's pimped us to every two bit thug and dictator in the world, made promises to half the Olympic committee, and they did not even kiss him."

On the other hand, any day that Obama spends doing something other than presidenting (TM) is a good great day for America. That's one less trillion dollar expense he was able to conjure. One less non-elected and unaccountable czar put into a position of extraordinary power. One less non-reciprocated concession that weakens our national security. One less naive, wasteful commitment to "fight global warming." 


I find it hilarious and incredibly dishonorable how at every opportunity, Obama feels the need to take shots at President Bush. You've all heard it. Said one journalist, "Obama had held out the enticing prospect of a Chicago games helping to reconnect the United States with the world after the presidency of George W. Bush," - John Leicester, AP sports writer

Obama is like the insecure girlfriend: I'm prettier than her, right? I'm smarter than she is, right? I'm more fun to be with, right? You never loved her, did you? You're happier now, right?

Like it or not, George W. Bush was the president for eight years, which is at least four more years than you [this is directed at President Obama, whom I'm told follows this blog religiously] will "serve". That means Bush won two elections. Aside from the odd person that claims embarrassment at having voted for Bush, there are still many millions of Americans that would prefer Bush and all his warts to the legacy you are building (or destroying, depending upon your perspective). May your successor treat you with a bit more dignity than you have shown your predecessor.

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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

YouTube Gems - A Real Harmonica Hero

After you've mastered jail birding and corn cobbing on Harmonica Hero for Xbox, you just may be ready to take on Carnegie Hall like Buddy Greene.

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Monday, September 28, 2009

Frozen in Carbonite

Included in the package of my tax software this year was a one year limited free trial for Carbonite, the online data backup company. The "limit" was a maximum of 2 GB worth of data.

Carbonite is something I have been interested in since I first heard about it. Data backups have always been troubling for me. I can't seem to do them on a regular basis, for one thing. But more troublesome is what to do with the physical media once the backup has been created. I've tried several approaches over the years:
  • Zip disks
  • Backing up critical data onto CDs, then later, DVDs
  • Backing up critical data onto another machine, and vice versa
  • Backing up everything onto a Network Attached Storage (NAS) unit using RAID 1 and then 0
Aside from being a bit tedious (particularly the CDs and DVDs), none of these backups would help me in the event of theft, fire, flood, or other destruction of my home. Many experts recommend storing the backups with a relative or in a safety deposit box, but that adds yet another layer of complexity that makes it even less likely someone like me will conform.

Enter Carbonite. Carbonite represents one of the gems of cloud computing and perfectly solves the backup puzzle. Once installed, Carbonite begins working in the background to upload the data you specify to somewhere in the Matrix

I know a lot of people's hearts just stopped - upload personal data onto the Internet? Do not be afraid, young Jedi, the data passes through high-level encryption before leaving the computer, and then is transmitted using the same SSL level as any reputable e-commerce or banking web site. That level of SSL encryption alone has never been compromised, and coupled with the pre-transmission encryption, I feel quite confident about the integrity and security of my data.

I signed up for the free 2 GB service level from the offer in my tax software. Since I was comfortable with the security, I saw no harm in trying it out. I very quickly filled up my 2 GB quota. I had to make some sacrifices and prioritize certain data over other files. The software worked seamlessly. That is, except for every few days when I would get a "you've reached your limit" warning message because I was trying to stay as close to the 2 GB maximum as I could.

The other problem was that, as Sara and I have become more and more assimilated into our Borg hive, our digital photo collection has become increasingly relevant and critical. So critical, in fact, that I would rather somebody steal all of my financial information than the photos of our children over the past six years. In other words, my 2 free GBs was not nearly enough to satisfy my needs. The 2 GB was sufficient for all of my old school files and emails (from my pre-Gmail days), but my mind was still not at peace because all of my family photos, and to a lesser extent, home videos and music files, remained vulnerable.

I think you can see where I'm going with this.

I got a "special offer" email from Carbonite with a $10 discount for one year (off of the regular $50/yr (at the time, now $55), for unlimited storage capacity). That was enough to make me finally pull the trigger. Because of the discount, I actually maxed out the term to two years.

A week and a half later I got a little notice on my task bar that my computer had finally been backed up onto Carbonite. It had been slowly but surely backing up all of my data whenever the computer was idle. What a great feeling! No more worrying or kicking myself because my most recent backup is a year old. Now I am always current. To add or remove something from the backup is as simple as selecting an item from a right-click menu. Once the selection has been made everything else is automatic. My "My Photos" directory is set to back up. Every time I add new pictures from our camera those photos are automatically backed up. Totally worth the $40. That's less than $3.50/mo.!

I look at it this way: When you consider a 1 TB external drive sells for about $100 now, that's about two and a half years of Carbonite (or two years at the non-discounted full price). Hey, is that our friend from Singles Ward in this COMPUSA ad?

There is at least a fair chance that one or more of your hard drives will fail in that time period. With an external drive, I'm covered as recently as my last backup, provided that wasn't the drive that failed. With Carbonite, I'm covered up to the last minute I had an Internet connection. I've got enough bricked and/or obsolete hard drives lying around to know that all hard drives will eventually fail - it is just a question of when. Carbonite is like a hard drive that never fails and is as big as I need it to be. The price is competitive with non-cloud options, but without any of the hassle.

Said the Wall Street Journal, "You'll sleep better at night." True that.


Carbonite is not the only provider of this type of service. Another company is Mozy. Their offering is very similar, but I have no personal experience with them or their product and therefore cannot vouch for them.


If you do decide to try Carbonite because of something I've said here and you want to give me credit for referring you, I think if you use this link, we will each get a free month of service added to our accounts.

UPDATE: Nevermind. It looks like Carbonite wants me to fill out a form with specific email addresses in order to "refer" my friends. If you really, really care that I get credit for the referral, send me a quick email to and I will fill out Carbonite's silly form. I'm not sure if you'll get the free month without some type of referral. Otherwise, just head to to check it out.