I hope you, your family, and friends all have a
Very, Very Merry Christmas!
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Saturday, December 20, 2008
I am: supposed to be relaxing for Christmas break.
I think: this is the first time I have been officially tagged by name.
I know: I like being with my family.
I want: my efforts with POS to pay off.
I have: two of everything.
I dislike: green veggies. And so does my stomach, very much.
I miss: having a lot of friends around all of the time, a roommate with similar interests, and having all of my family together this Christmas (missing one sister).
I fear: the state and direction of our society.
I feel: like I have had a good year, even if it has been stressful.
I hear: vocal disappointment with BYU's performance tonight.
I smell: like I probably need a shower.
I crave: Jelly Bellys right now.
I cry: at movies way too frequently.
I search: for new, more creative, ways to do things.
I wonder: should I stay or should I go?
I regret: nothing.
I wish: this weren't so hard to fill out with meaningful answers.
I love: my family and friends.
I care: when someone I love has a bad day.
I always: sleep too little and work too much.
I worry: I may never have the opportunity to marry.
I am not: lonely, even though I spend a lot of time by myself.
I remember: being able to remember everything.
I believe: I can fly.
I sing: in the car sometimes.
I don't: have much to say most of the time.
I argue: very rarely, and only for things I know to be true.
I write: software.
I win: if I can finish every question here.
I lose: anytime I participate in sports.
I listen: constantly. I am an observer, and take everything in.
I don't understand: chemistry. At all.
I can usually be found: in my cave, otherwise known as an office, bedroom, or studio.
I need: for business to improve, or I'll have to start looking for a job pretty soon. :(
I forget: what I had for dinner more than two days ago.
I am happy: always, even if I have a "bad day."
I tag: any family or friends reading this that hasn't done it already.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
So today is the day I fly to my parents' house for Christmas break. I hate flying. Not because I have any fear of flying, but because I can't stand being cooped up in the atomically small space of an airline seat, tied in with a seatbelt by Hercules himself, prevented from even breathing or blinking, let alone getting up to walk around. I'm one of those people that has to always be doing something, and to be told I can't move is fairly irritating. Add to that the inevitable delays due to weather or whatever, the increased risk of picking up some unknown incurable disease from the guy coughing in your face, and it just isn't a fun experience.
So on my first leg of the flight I am walking down the aisle to find my seat when a guy in front of me makes a motion to the lady sitting in the seat next to mine that my seat is actually his. (He didn't speak English, and apparently speaking only Spanish makes it difficult to discern the difference between 22F and 23D?) Anyway, the lady asks him if he will trade seats with her brother, and he apparently understands this (apparently this request is easier to understand than the letters and numbers on the seats), so he starts to make a move toward the seat she had pointed to just a second beforehand. So my seat has just been given away to someone else. I speak up, and mention that the seat is actually mine, and the lady seems confused as to what is going on (wouldn't you be?) and in reaction to her confusion she starts to get up to allow me to sit down, even though she had already made it known that she would like to have her brother sit next to her (I don't think she thought I was within earshot of the earlier request). So I asked her if she still wanted to trade seats, she said yes, and she pointed out which seat was her brother's assigned seat. Which is unfortunate in a way, because this woman was by far the most beautiful on the plane (and she was single), and she seems very nice. I rarely have the opportunity to sit next to a single girl, let alone one as beautiful as she... perfect shoulder-length brunette hair, deep brown eyes. Anyway, as I am settling into my seat the woman in the seat next to my new one starts talking to her husband, seated on her other side, in a voice that would normally be reserved for conversations taking place across the stadium of a football game between two rival teams. I have no doubt whatsoever that everyone within 6 or 7 rows could very clearly make out everything she was saying, even while listening to their iPods. Oh boy. This is going to be a fun flight.
Not only was she loud, she also liked to think out loud. And read every headline in her paper. And summarize every article. Nobody is even listening to her, but she goes on and on. If I had been actually paying any attention I could tell you about every article in the section of the paper she was reading, with intimate detail.
Her poor husband is first trying to get some work done on his laptop, then get some sleep, but she just keeps yapping away. Man, is she loud! And saying absolutely nothing worth saying. And she's got one of those voices that makes my hair stand on end... think Fran Drescher, or Janice on Friends. At one point she was trying to joke with the flight attendant that her husband beats her, but it isn't funny, both because of what she is saying, and the way she is saying it. And she is very elbowsy. I stopped counting how many times I got poked in my side after the numbness set in.
About a half hour into my flight I put in my in-ear monitor headphones, which seal out almost all external noise very well. Thank goodness I charged my Zune before I left so I had something to drown out the nasal chatter from the woman next to me. Normal headphones certainly wouldn't have done the trick.
As soon as the flight landed she promptly announced to everyone nearby that she had to get out of the plane immediately, because she only had 45 minutes until her next flight. Considering that this flight was 2 hours late, I have a feeling that just about everybody on the plane had a connection within a matter of minutes, but, of course, this doesn't occur to her (the attractive woman behind me replied to her comment by indicating she had 5 minutes to make her flight, but this didn't seem to matter). She then proceeds to boss her husband around like he is a little boy that doesn't know how the egress of airplanes works. Very embarrassing for him, I assure you. By this time I think everybody was feeling bad for this guy.
How do people end up like that? Having absolutely no regard for anyone around them at all? Treating everyone like they are morons?
So I think I should be given a medal. I gave up my seat next to a stunningly beautiful and polite single woman to sit next to the loudest, most obnoxious woman on the plane, being poked in the ribs throughout the trip. Is that deserving of something?
Saturday, December 13, 2008
My cousin Colleen posted this on her blog and it seemed fun.
Rules are: Anything you have done has to be in bold. How much have you done?
1. Started your own blog
2. Slept under the stars
3. Played in a band (sort of… ward talent show)
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than you can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland
8. Climbed a mountain
9. Held a Praying Mantis
10. Sang a solo
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch (photography)
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning
17. Been to the Statue of Liberty
18. Grown your own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa at the Louvre
20. Slept on an train
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitch hiked
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Run a Marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
31. Hit a home run
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught yourself a new language
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied (short-lived, though)
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David
41. Sung karaoke
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had your portrait painted (if a caricature counts)
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater
55. Been in a movie
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies
62. Gone whale watching
63. Got flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma
65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten Caviar
72. Tied a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a Bone
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car (twice!)
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had your picture in the newspaper
85. Read the entire Bible
86. Visited the White House (I’m not going to count just being on the grounds)
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone’s life
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one
94. Had a baby
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a law suit
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee
100. Visited Italy
Friday, December 12, 2008
I filled up the tank in my truck last week for less than $30. That is amazing! Not too long ago it cost me $80 to fill the same tank on the same truck. Low gas prices make me happy.
The ironic thing, though, is this comes at a time when I don’t drive much. I noticed on the sticker on my windshield that it has been six months since my last oil change, yet I have driven less than 2000 miles since then. And about 500 of those miles have been airport trips, so in reality I’m only averaging about 250 miles per month. That really isn’t very much. But it’s happening when gas prices are the lowest they have been since I got my truck. The ironing is delicious.
I get really excited when I have packages arriving at my doorstep. And it really doesn’t matter what’s inside. It could be an empty box and I’d still get excited. It’s just fun to open a box in anticipation of what it may be hiding.
Once a year we experience the joy that is Christmas, with Santa Claus visiting and leaving gifts for young and old. So how happy am I when the Brown Santa Claus visits periodically the rest of the year to leave his presents at my door.
Yay for packages.
Sunday, December 7, 2008
My grandmother on my dad's side of the family passed away this last Monday morning, December 1st. She was 92, and ever since she broke a hip a few years ago her health had been going downhill, so it wasn't totally unexpected, but it is always a bit of a shock when someone you know leaves us.
Although it is sad that I won't see her again in this life, at the same time this is a chance to take joy in knowing that her departure does not mean the end of the relationship that I have with her. It also means that she will be together with her husband, who passed away 27 years and one day before she did. She loved my grandpa dearly, and has missed his company for a very long time.
Though a sad occasion, it did bring her immediate and extended family together. My parents flew into town on Wednesday. All of my dad's living siblings and most of her grandchildren also made it a point to be here. Even Grandma's living brothers and sisters came as well.
Grandma's funeral was on Saturday morning, and though there were tears shed, we all knew that she is in a better place now, reunited with Grandpa. The Spirit was definitely present during the service, and we all knew that Grandma had lived an amazing life and she is surely going to receive a great eternal reward. The service focused on Grandma's strength and on the gospel of Jesus Christ. It was wonderful.
During the viewing just prior to the funeral I took a few minutes to just stand and look at her, and take some time to reflect upon the portion of her life that I have been around to see. Every memory I have of her is positive; there hasn't been a single moment with Grandma where I don't have fond memories of her.
Seeing her body in the casket was a faith building experience as well. It was her body laying there, but her spirit was clearly not a part of it. The presence I have always felt when she was nearby was missing. Everything about her that made her who she was was not there. But at the same time there was a quiet peace that everything was happening as it is meant to. I knew that she continues to live, even if it isn't here with us.
I will miss my Grandma. She was genuinely very loving. She was a pillar of strength through adversity. She was gentle, but firm. She always set a great example for everyone. Even down to the day she died she did all that was asked of her, and more. She wanted the best for everyone. She offered gentle guidance to her children and grandchildren, demonstrating her love for them.
You would never hear Grandma complain. But when you asked how she was doing, she wouldn't lie to you if things were difficult. Her manner was matter-of-fact, though... she wasn't complaining; just stating facts of her circumstances. She would tell you things as she saw them, not how she thought you wanted to hear it. She was incredibly honest, almost to a fault.
Though I haven't ever lived close by her, I always knew that she loved me and that she cared about what was happening in my life, even though I am one of many grandchildren. She was also very generous with me and all of my relatives; every Christmas, up until this last year, she always made sure that we had something that we wanted, even during those years when it was difficult to do so. And she contributed generously toward my mission.
She knew what was important in life, and knew how to avoid those things that aren't. She never had any interest in material possessions other than to make sure that others' needs were being met and that they were happy. She took joy in blessing the lives of others. She and her family were always willing to share whatever they had with those that were less fortunate, even during those times when they really didn't have anything to spare by definition of the rest of the world. She always put on a face of optimism, no matter how difficult her circumstances. And she always put the needs of everyone else ahead of her own, even down to the end of her life.
She lived a life of quiet dignity, never seeking any attention for her acts of quiet service. She was the sort of person you could always depend on. Any time anyone would ask her to do anything, they could rest assured that it would be done, be done well, and be done quickly.
She raised seven wonderful children, all of which have lived upstanding lives. All five of her sons served LDS missions and have served in prominent church positions. Almost all of her grandsons also served missions, as well as several granddaughters. And she has been more than supportive of every one of them in any way she can. She even served two full-time missions of her own.
Grandma, you will be missed. But we all know that we will see you again, and that you must be rejoicing in reuniting with Grandpa. I am grateful that you have been a part of my life for 35 years. I, and all of your family, love you with all of our hearts.
Saturday, November 29, 2008
It's pretty rare that I find a CD these days where I actually like most of the songs. The last decade or so has been mostly pretty disappointing, with most CDs having one, maybe two, decent songs on them. Certainly not like when I was in junior high, or high school, when most CDs (yes, CDs did exist in those days) had at least four or five good songs.
So I was pleased to discover that most of the songs on Paramore's Riot are actually good. After a decade of disappointment I have mostly given up on popular music releases, but after being exposed to two good songs from Paramore in Rock Band 2 and Guitar Hero World Tour (That's What You Get and Misery Business are hands down my two favorite songs in these games), I decided to give their CD a chance, and I actually like it. Normally I'm not a huge fan of music that is really heavy on distorted guitars, but for some reason Riot breaks away from that stereotype enough for me to really enjoy it. It isn't all stellar, of course, but the majority of its tracks are better than most of the mediocre-at-its-best "music" that comes out of the recording industry these days.
I won't go into a lengthy description of the CD (most of which are usually meaningless anyway), but I will say that the 30-second samples you get on Amazon's web site are actually a pretty good representation of what the album is like. In addition to being well written, there is enough variety in its style to keep things interesting. So if you're into that kind of thing, I recommend this disc.
Generally I follow the unwritten rule of not listening to Christmas music unless Thanksgiving has passed, and the new year is still ahead of us. Last year I bought the Christmas DVD by Celtic Woman right around Christmas so I didn't have much time to listen to it before my Christmas music got put away. But during Thanksgiving dinner I put the DVD in and really liked it. Enough that the CD will be on my regular rotation through this holiday season. Which is impressive because my collection of Christmas CDs is pretty extensive (49 albums at current count), so for anything to stand out says something about it.
The album is available in the form of MP3 downloads, a CD, and a DVD video of their concert. I just wish the tracks on the CD were rearranged so its most powerful number, O Holy Night, were at the end instead of being right up front, and that their concert DVDs weren't lip synced. Oh well.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
You may have seen these commercials for Guitar Hero: World Tour on television… they have been playing relatively frequently for some time now.
These make me laugh. Not only did they select a song for the commercials that doesn’t appear in the game, they also selected a song that doesn’t even have any guitars in it (at least not the portions of the song they used anyway). I know they were doing a parody of a scene from Risky Business, but maybe they should have saved this idea for Piano Hero instead?
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Microsoft has just released the following commercial for their new Xbox 360 game, Lips:
I can't believe the awesomeness of this commercial. Mostly because of the song. It's easily in my top 5 favorites from the 80s. It's even my ringtone on my phone. And it one of the best and most clever music videos ever made.
Sunday, November 16, 2008
I like to make these little mini pizzas for dinner about once a week, consisting of a pre-made crust, pre-made sauce, shredded mozzarella cheese, and 9 pepperoni slices. They are very good, and only take about a minute to prepare. I am eating one right now as I write this. Yummmmmmmm.
But I noticed that instructions on the cheese told me to "Use by 07:59 12/22/08" and, unfortunately, this raised more questions than it answered. So I have composed this letter to the fine folks at the dairy:
Dear Mr. (or Ms.) Dairy,
My mozzarella cheese told me to use before 07:59 12/22/08. While I appreciate the guideline on how long the cheese should remain edible, this particular instruction generated more questions in my mind than the number of questions that it answered. In particular:
1. If you are specifying the hour and minute that the cheese expires, why did you not include the seconds?
2. What happens to me if I eat my cheese at 8 AM on December 22nd?
3. What does "use" mean? Does it just have to be cooked by that time, or must it be eaten? Does the preparation stage count? Or, more importantly, if it is still sitting in my stomach at 8 AM will I become violently ill? Or might my face fall off?
4. What takes place in the cheese at 07:59 on December 22nd? Is there an embedded microorganism that releases a colorless, odorless gas that causes the cheese to turn green? Or does the bacteria have its own little alarm clock set to go off at that time?
5. How does the cheese know the date and time anyway? And does its clock compensate for the recent change out of daylight saving time?
6. How do I know the cheese clock is accurate? If it is running fast it will go bad before 7:59, or possibly before December 22nd. This seems important.
7. Which time zone is 07:59 in? Can I prolong the life of my cheese by taking it to the west coast?
8. What is the exact required temperature setting for my refrigerator to make sure that my cheese expires precisely at 07:59 AM on December 22nd? How many times am I allowed to open the door each day? If the refrigerator's light bulb is burned out, what effect does that have on the life of my cheese? What other foods are allowed to cohabitate in the refrigerator with my cheese, and in what quantity?
9. Would it be better for cheese to expire late in the afternoon or evening than the morning? Mozzarella cheese isn't used in very many breakfast foods. And I am very rare up before 7:59 AM. 7:59 AM would make more sense for cheddar; I could use it in an omelette or breakfast burrito.
10. Why is my cheese telling me what to do anyway?
If you have answers to the above questions I would be very grateful for a response.
Thank you for your time, and for a great product (unless you are reading this after 07:59 AM 12/22/08, in which case the product will have expired and no longer be so great).
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Why do people always want to hop or jump in the shower? Something about water… wet slick surfaces… lack of traction… make that sound very unsafe.
And why is everyone always firing at Will? If I were named Will I think I’d stay inside all of the time.
Sunday, November 9, 2008
Again, another combined computer and multimedia tip.
What’s that file?
The names we have on your computer files often aren’t descriptive enough for us to know what they actually contain. And sometimes it isn’t appropriate to rename a file (say, for example, if you want to keep the ordered sequence of files intact) so we need another way to tag our files to help us keep track of their contents.
Windows XP and Mac OS X all make this not only possible, but relatively easy. (The capability to do this has been removed from Vista, the reasons for which are long, detailed, and boring.) Each of these operating systems have the ability to store a comment, completely separate from the filename and the contents of the file.
To make these comments visible, open the folder containing the files you wish to view. You must then tell your computer that you want to view your files in a detailed list format, and enable the Comments column of that view:
1. Select the View menu, then select Details.
2. Select the View menu, then Choose Details, turn on Comments, click OK.
Mac OS X:
1. Select the View menu, then select As List.
2. Select the View menu, then Show View Options. Turn on Comments.
Adding or editing comments for a file is pretty straightforward from there:
1. Right-click a file, select Properties.
2. Select the Summary page.
3. Locate the Comments entry, click it, and enter your comments.
Mac OS X:
1. Select the file, then File / Get Info.
2. Enter the comments in the Spotlight Comments box.
This is a great way to tag photographs, music, etc. with data that you can’t or don’t want to store as part of the filename.
Friday, November 7, 2008
I can't sit still. I have a really hard time sitting and doing next to nothing, whether it be to watch TV, read, even talk on the phone. My mind goes a million miles an hour, thinking about everything that I need to do, as well as everything I want to do. I just can't get the various projects I have out of my mind no matter what I do.
There are times when I should be relaxing to maintain my sanity. We can't just work all of the time, right? But every time I try I feel guilty that I'm not doing something productive.
I can't go to sleep at night because I have so many things that I want to do. And I'm only getting about 5-6 hours of sleep (or less) every night because I want to get back to work on different projects as soon as I can.
I find myself not taking time to eat. One "meal" a day is all I take time for, and even then it's only long enough to prepare whatever I eat (usually something quick, like cereal, or a sandwich) and eat while I'm doing something else.
I sometimes don't answer the phone when friends call, just because I'm right in the middle of an idea that I don't want to interrupt.
The funny thing about this is that none of this seems to be causing me any stress. Deadlines and pressure from people to finish other non-work-related projects cause some stress, but not any of the "work" I'm involved with.
Is this a mental illness?
(This is meant as a rhetorical question; I'm not asking for responses.)
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
November 4, 2008 will go down in history as a very sad day in American history. After months of many heated opinions and exchanges of harsh words, it is official. One voice has silenced another, at the peril of those that aren't as vocal.
I am referring, of course, to a compound mandate from the Federal Communication Commission that effective this next February it will become illegal for nearly all wireless microphones (and wireless in-ear-monitor systems) in existence today to be used. (Did you think I was talking about something else?) And then, as the second part of the double whammy, the frequencies they opened up after making the current frequencies illegal are now open for use for wireless Internet access and other wireless digital services.
So first they are making existing microphones illegal by making it illegal to transmit in the frequencies currently in use. And then, after they assigned a new radio band for microphones, they decided to allow other services onto that same band, creating interference. Just think of how hard it is to have a conversation at a rock concert and you begin to understand the implications of this.
The first part is frustrating enough. Existing microphones shouldn't cause significant interference with any devices on the current radio bands because of their very short range, so there wasn't really a need to make their use illegal. They have co-existed with UHF television just fine for years. A grandfather clause would have been perfect. Then the FCC pushes us into a radio band that hasn't been used in the past, so no equipment is even available for purchase. And then they are allowing that radio band to be used for other things, creating a huge potential for interference. The only way to combat this new interference is to invest in new, much more expensive equipment, if you can even find it.
Those of us that currently own wireless equipment have had virtually no warning, and we haven't had any time to prepare to phase out and replace what we already have. In the past when the FCC has made changes like this it hasn't affected low power equipment, so we haven't had to worry about replacing equipment. And because it will become illegal to use what we now have, the stuff we have invested thousands and thousands of dollars in is officially now becoming totally worthless -- nobody will buy it because it isn't really legal to use it.
Since the government is now offering coupons to make the transition to digital TV easier for people with analog televisions, maybe they ought to offer subsidy coupons to wireless microphone owners. Okay, I'm not really serious about that... I am very much opposed to the "something for nothing" mentality, and I have always felt that it was wrong for the government to use tax revenues to benefit a small group of people. But it sure would be nice if this were handled differently, because if I were to replace all of the wireless microphones I currently have with models with roughly the same level of performance, it would cost me roughly 12 x $2,500 = $30,000 or more, plus another $1,500 for my wireless in-ear-monitor system. Ouch. And I'm not one of the ones hit hardest. Performing groups with more wireless systems have to use computerized, even higher end equipment to make sure that none of the microphones interfere with one another, so it will cost them a lot more.
Monday, November 3, 2008
Most of the time I avoid political and social commentary on my blog. But right now I have a lot of thoughts in my head that I want to get down during this election season.
I realize that some reading this blog will oppose (maybe even strongly) my viewpoint. That is fine; we are all entitled to our own opinions. The only thing I ask is, that should you reply, you be courteous in your comments. I don’t lash out at those that have differing opinions than my own, and I request the same courtesy be given to me. You may express your opinions and beliefs, but any comments that are hostile or contain adult language WILL be deleted. My blog, my rules.
First of all, I really dislike both of the Presidential candidates that we have running right now. I don’t think that either one is qualified to run anything, least of all the most powerful country in the world. Neither one has any history of being able to make important decisions when they are put forward. With all of the problems we have in the country right now I believe the most qualified person that has been involved in the election process was eliminated partly due to his religious beliefs, despite the fact that those core beliefs are probably what the country most needs right now. Mitt Romney has a strong moral character, and is economically very wise. Since we are in the midst of financial turmoil, someone with experience in fiscal issues would be an ideal person to make the decisions necessary to begin the road to fixing some of the challenges that face this country (to put it in the words of my friend Jared, “this country needs a CEO”). Romney certainly isn’t perfect, but I believe that of those that the American public has had to choose from during this election cycle, he was probably the most fit for the job. He certainly did a number of great things while in office in Massachusetts.
While I can’t endorse either Presidential candidate, I couldn’t possibly sleep at night if I were to cast a vote for Barack Obama. He seems to believe in everything that I think is causing this country to experience many of the problems that we are facing. And I believe it boils down to one core issue: taking away consequences for the actions of the citizens of the country. Punishing the people that are doing the responsible thing, while rewarding those that choose to take no responsibility for their actions.
Allow me to explain. Obama’s current tax proposal rewards those paying the least in (or even no) taxes, and punishes those that are paying the most. Those not currently paying taxes would get a tax credit… effectively meaning that they would be given a reward for not working. Those that are working, and are providing jobs for others who do likewise, are punished with higher taxes. And this nonsense of the tax rates only being increased for the most wealthy is pure spin. Obama wants to raise the capital gains tax from 15% to 20%, whereas McCain wants to maintain 15% long-term, with a two-year drop to 7.5%. This is a tax that people pay on their earnings when they cash in their investments. So anyone being responsible enough to save for the future is punished, while those spending everything they earn are, in effect, rewarded for their behavior. Obama also wants to maintain the AMT, which is just evil in its own right because it penalizes for being married and having children. While I don’t love McCain by any measure, he is in favor of cutting corporate taxes (currently at 35%, one of the highest rates in the civilized world, to 25%), where Obama talks about cutting tax loopholes for corporations, raising their effective rates. It is the corporations that provide the vast, vast majority of jobs in this country, why are they being punished so harshly for promoting the general welfare of the people? (If corporations didn’t pay so much, wouldn’t that mean more jobs, which means more tax revenue for the government?)
The only tax that Obama talks about cutting is the federal income tax, which for me only personally makes up about 20% of the taxes I pay. Obama’s plan actually includes more tax hikes, most of them quite hefty, for nearly every other tax under federal control. But nobody is talking about that. And has anyone mentioned that our tax load is more than ten times what it was a century ago. Is that really necessary, and is our government really providing ten times the services that they used to? Certainly not, because if they did they’d be showing up at my doorstep three times a day with my meals. Shouldn’t we be figuring out ways to significantly cut our tax burden instead of finding ways to make it worse? Our current tax system is pretty messed up, and Obama’s plan only makes it worse.
Along those same lines, the health care proposal by Mr. Obama just scares me. Basically it boils down to providing health care for those that don’t have it. What is to prevent those that currently have it and choose to no longer pay for it from enrolling in a government-sponsored plan? The current numbers for the cost of such a plan don’t include these individuals. And once we’ve gone down that road, it’s only a matter of time before health care becomes a “right” granted to all, and provided by the government. Looking at the health care system in Canada and England ought to scare us enough to realize that this doesn’t work. No competition = expensive with poor service. To argue that things wouldn’t go this way is a bit naive… how many people are going to electively pay for their own health insurance if the government will pick up the tab for you? Certainly not the majority of the population, and certainly not the companies that are currently providing healthcare for their employees. They are all about the bottom line, and they would experience enormous savings by abandoning their health benefit programs if someone else (the government) would take that over… all it takes is to find a way to pull it off. Just keep in mind that Social Security was once a program designed for a small portion of the population too. And now it’s mandated by law. And we see how well that works. (On a side note, the tax burden for social security for self-employed individuals is several times higher than their federal income tax load… Shouldn’t this be one of those issues that is talked about?)
Why don’t we address the core issues of why health care is so expensive? We don’t hear any talk about regulating frivolous lawsuits or reducing the cost of malpractice insurance, or even placing a tax on expensive prescription medication so companies have an incentive to bring the price down.
I believe that in general government-sponsored social programs just don’t work. So why do we keep creating and funding them? These programs are part of why our tax load is so heavy. Many of the programs we currently have probably ought to be reviewed to see if they are really effective, and get rid of those that aren’t. And privatize nearly all of them so they have to start being responsible with their resources. If they can’t survive on their own, they probably have no right to exist in the first place.
Take welfare, for example. Individuals can earn more on welfare or unemployment than you can working a minimum wage job in most states. (One of my old roommates was living on unemployment while he was living here and was making far more at that than he ever did by working.) What incentive does that provide for people to be responsible? I realize that some people are not able to work, and there ought to be programs in place to help them… but only after family and charitable organizations are no longer able to. But to be paying the way for those that just choose to not work is irresponsible and certain economic doom. It’s worse than communism. And these are also the people that are being given tax credits under Obama’s plan.
Another is the current financial crisis we are in. One of the main reasons for the collapse of several large banks is bad loans given to home owners. And the reason that many of these are bad is that they are given to individuals that aren’t able, or choose not to, pay them back. The banks are required by law to offer these loans. It is the result of a bad law enacted in the late 1970s, and strengthened in the mid 1990s. And this same law is also supported by Obama. He even worked on lawsuit cases in the 1990s against banks that refused to grant these types of loans. And too many of his contributors and primary advisors are directly involved, and directly responsible. Even though he hasn’t necessarily had his hand directly in the issues, his attitudes are a mirror image of those that got us into the mess in the first place. Again, choice (buy a home) without consequence (having to pay for it).
Continuing the idea of social issues…. Obama really scares me. When asked about abortion, his response is, “we may not agree on abortion, but what we can agree on is that there are too many teen pregnancies.” True, we do agree on that, but he really just completely avoided the question. The real belief there is he supports choice without consequence, or “pro-choice.” Shouldn’t the idea of taking the life away from an unborn baby be absolutely reprehensible? To most, I think it is. But Obama and other liberals take your attention away from the core issue of what is essentially murder (the worst sin that can be committed under LDS doctrine aside from the unpardonable sin) by shift it to being a matter of the freedom of choice for the mother, ignoring entirely the life of the baby. Hmmm. Sounds like exactly what Satan would say if he was asked the same question. If someone is so lax in their attitude toward such a serious issue, where else is their judgment unsound? Shouldn’t we be trying to teach people to be responsible in their actions rather than bailing them out of their bad decisions? I know abortion is only one issue, but usually it serves as a good litmus test as to someone’s sense of personal morality and responsibility.
I believe that many of the core beliefs of the liberals of this country would lead us nowhere but a world of hurt. Many of their positions reflect a step towards the government taking away our agency, forcing us live according to their ideals. And these are the very ideas that are have been represented by and are coming forth from Barack Obama. His past tells us so.
What’s even more scary is that we have a very left-leaning congress, so if we end up with a left-leaning President as well, the potential for a whole lot of liberal legislation is very high. (What surprises me so much is that congress’s approval rating is well below 20%, even lower than President Bush’s, yet most up for reelection are likely to be reinstated. What’s up with that?)
People will say anything to get elected. Just listening to their campaigns really tells you nothing about what they truly believe and intend to do when in office. How much of what has been promised by elected presidents during their campaigns of the past has actually come to fruition? Not much. To find out what someone really believes you have to look at their past… Their past accomplishments, opinions expressed in the past through writings and votes on various issues. Actions speak a lot more than words, so sometimes it isn’t what you hear people talking about, it is what they aren’t talking about that is more scary. I believe this is the case for both of our candidates, but much more-so of Barack Obama. From watching him over the past four years, it just seems his basic philosophy is to take away responsibility and consequences for poor decisions, and his voting record and past speeches demonstrate this. Nobody is ever going to learn, grow, and become better people if everybody is being bailed out for every poor decision they have ever made. It just digs us deeper and deeper into an immorality hole.
The LDS Church and Homosexual Issues
With so many people upset with the Church over their stance on Gay Marriage, the last days are certainly upon us. We’ve been promised again and again that the prophet wouldn’t lead us astray, yet this is the claim of some groups, even within some members of the Church itself. Pretty sad.
What I don’t understand is why pro-gay groups are so upset. The standard within the Church for gays is exactly the same as it is for heterosexuals. Myself, being unmarried, am asked to live the exact same type of life as those that experience homosexual feelings and tendencies: no sex outside of marriage. Yet you don’t see groups of single people beating at the doors of the Church asking for an exception to the rules. I’m sure the drives and desires that heterosexual individuals like myself experience are just as strong as those experienced by any homosexual individual. But we aren’t complaining. We understand that what is being asked of us is the best thing for us from both a mortal and eternal perspective. So we commit ourselves to live the principle. End of story.
As far as the issue of gay marriage itself, the idea of allowing it is terrifying to me. Not because I believe that gays have any fewer individual rights, but because of the implications of what could happen with legalized marriage between homosexuals. (Marriage isn’t a right anyway, it’s a privilege granted to primarily create a protective, morally strong, environment in which to raise children. It isn’t about validation of love; the idea of marrying for love is a very new concept in the history of the world, and those marrying primarily for love seem to be a lot more likely to divorce later, so maybe it isn’t the best reason that has existed anyway. Take a look at a secular argument against gay marriage that can be found here.)
Once gay marriage is legalized and endorsed by the government, other forms of “marriage” can start to creep in. What happens when individuals want to marry multiple partners? Or when a father decides to marry his daughter? Or, heaven forbid, an individual decides to marry something non-human? Twenty or thirty years ago the idea of allowing homosexuals to marry was absolutely ludicrous, the same way that these other ideas seem outlandish and morally abhorrent today. Yet that is the path that we are on once the government endorses homosexual marriage. Not to mention that gay rights groups are already fighting to have their beliefs taught in schools (with no rights for the parents to be notified or prevent it) and to force churches to perform these marriages. What ever happened to the right to believe and worship in the way we choose?
If gays want to have some of the benefits given to heterosexual married couples, that might be okay. Hospital visitation rights can probably be extended to anyone that an individual chooses, insurance benefits could probably be granted to anyone an employee chooses (so long as they choose to pick up the tab of the extra cost) without disrupting society much. It might be nice to be able to tell a hospital that I’d like a close friend be granted visitation rights. And there are actually legal ways of doing this in place in most states already. But to take things all the way to granting marriage to homosexuals is just going too far and sets a very dangerous precedent for the future.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Instead of two separate tips this week, here’s one that applies to both computers and multimedia.
A Better Way to Coil Cables
We’ve all been frustrated by knots and twists in cables, rope, hoses, or extension cords when trying to undo a wrapped coil. Fortunately there is a way to wrap the cables/rope/hoses so that they don’t get all tangled.
The problem comes from what happens when you coil up a cable in the first place. For each loop in the coil, the cable is twisted one time around (unless it is rolled up on a spool). By the time you get to the end of a long cable, that is a lot of twists, and because the force they create within the cable has to go somewhere it usually ends up in twists and knots.
To prevent this from happening, you can wrap the cable in such a way that every twist that is added is also negated with a twist in the opposite direction. It is a little hard to explain, but I’ll attempt it anyway. Here are the steps:
1. Start with the end of the cable in your hand. To make the following steps easier to describe I’m going to assume the cable is in your right hand, with the end facing away from you.
2. Grab the remaining portion of the cable (let’s call it the “tail”) with your left hand, palm downward. Bring this hand straight over to your right hand, palms facing each other. This creates a loop with the tail on the outside of the bundle.
3. For the next loop, grab the tail with your left hand, this time with your palm facing upward. Give your left hand a clockwise turn so that your palms are both facing the same direction (toward the left), and add the newly created loop to the bundle. The “tail” will be coming from inside the bundle, between the existing portion of the bundle and the new loop you just created. This will undo the twist created in step 2 because it adds a twist in the opposite direction.
4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 until you have reached the end of the cable.
It is a lot harder to describe than it actually is to do. But what you’ll end up with is a bundle of cable that won’t knot up. And when you need to un-wind it, just grab one end and throw the bundle; it should come undone very neatly.
This technique also drastically reduces the amount of damage that is done to cables and ropes from being wrapped in a twisted fashion. They’ll last a lot longer and look a lot better.
Here are some sample videos I found on the Internet demonstrating this technique:
And some pictures:
Friday, October 24, 2008
I have to laugh a little bit inside whenever I see the word “convenience” used somewhere these days. Or maybe cry. It seems that some people using it seem to misunderstand its intended definition.
For example, in two of the Little Caesars stores running our POS software, they don’t accept credit cards for payment. Instead they accept debit cards. A sign listed on their window, another on the counter, and yet another on each register says, “For your convenience there is a $1.50 fee for debit card transactions.” I’d like to know in what universe it would be convenient for me to pay an extra $1.50 for a service offered for free just about everywhere else.
Another example at a bank… “For your convenience we will be closed on Columbus Day.” That isn’t the least bit convenient for me; in fact it is quite the opposite; it is a wasted trip if someone doesn’t know it is closed, and forces them to come back another day.
What’s next? “For your convenience we will be performing a full frontal lobotomy on you when you go to bed tonight.”
The other kicker is from web sites that sell tickets to various events, like movies and concerts. There is a “convenience fee.” What is that about? They’re charging us more money because it is more convenient for both them and me? What kind of screwed up logic is that?
In conclusion (as if this is a formal paper, heheheh) whenever the word “convenient” shows up anywhere now it sets off alarm bells. Unless the word has been redefined as “another way to empty your bank account” without informing either myself or the fine folks at Merriam-Webster. To those that have redefined this word in this way, here’s another word for you: bogus.
P.S. Reminder: Movie night featuring Iron Man is tonight at 8:30pm.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Pet Peeves, part II
Its really annoying too me when people can’t seam two get there spelling write on some very common words. It really isn’t that hard too keep them strait. Yet these words are interchanged all of the thyme. ***
- They’re, Their, There: They are, belongs to them, and a place. They’re going to get their books over there.
- Here, hear: This place, listen. You can hear the ocean from over here.
- You’re, your: You are, belongs to you. You’re going to get in trouble if you don’t clean your room.
- Too, to, two: Also, a preposition or part of an infinitive, and a number. I’m going to get two ice cream cones, too!
- Its, it’s: belonging to it, it is. It’s a shame that the groundhog saw its shadow.
- Pitcher, picture: Liquid storage device, photograph or painting. If you take my picture, I’ll make you a pitcher of lemonade.
- Who’s, whose: Who is or who has, possession. Who’s going to do whose dishes?
- Further vs. farther: In addition to, more distance. * Further more, the concert is farther than I want to drive.
- Then vs. than: part of a conditional phrase or indication of time, used when making comparisons (often accompanies more, less, or fewer). If you get me a soda then I will give you more jellybeans than Jimmy.
- Affect vs. effect: verb, noun. ** Will the effect of a declining stock market affect my pay raise?
- Please don’t bear testimony or speak in the name of my son. I don’t have one, and even if I did, I don’t think I’d want anyone speaking in his name without consulting me first.
* Except when used as an adjective, either further or farther can indicate more time or distance. Farther always indicates distance (think: ‘more far’). ** In most cases the way we use the words today; affect is also used rarely as a noun, and effect as a verb. But those cases are very rare. *** There are nine spelling errors in the first paragraph of this post. How many did you catch?
Battery Dies, Finally!
The battery on my razor finally died today. So it lasted for four months on a single charge. Amazing.
It sounds like we might have more people coming for movie night this week than I originally thought would be able to make it. So I accelerated part of my living room makeover schedule slightly and bought a sofa last night to create tiered stadium seating. I picked it up this afternoon and it’s now sitting on a temporary platform until I have the time to build and carpet the real one. With the addition of this sofa, I should have comfortable seating for around 14-15 people easily, more if we all pretend to be good friends.
Monday, October 20, 2008
Even though the Living Room isn’t quite done, I think I’d like to start doing movie nights beginning this week.
This coming Friday (Oct 24th) we’re going to watch Iron Man at 8:30pm. In glorious full high definition, on a huge projection screen, with full 7.1 surround sound. :) It’s going to be an amazing movie watching experience!!!
For this first movie-going experience, it’ll be Bring Your Own Snacks. We’ll figure out some other arrangement for food later.
Hopefully I’ll get to a point where I can start doing movie nights regularly (weekly?). I’d like to finish the room upgrades before it becomes that regular, but it is in my plans to do so. Stay tuned.
If you don’t know where I live and want to come, email me (email@example.com) and I’ll give you the address and directions.
I have also created a facebook group where I will post updates on what is playing and when. For automatic notifications please join the group.
Sunday, October 19, 2008
The painters are gone; they have “done their job.” Or so goes the theory. I’m still not impressed, but we live with what we got.
I’ll just start with the pictures. Click to enlarge. Pardon the mess; it’s still very much a work in progress.
It looks a lot different, doesn’t it! The white walls are quite a change over the hideous wallpaper. I still would have preferred tan walls, but I wasn’t the one paying the painters, so I can’t complain too much.
Those of you that have been here will notice that there is a large piece of furniture missing. I got rid of my desk. One whack with a sledgehammer and it fell to the floor in two large pieces. (It was too big to get out the door, so it had to be broken up.) Breaking the rest of it up was really easy, and we were able to fit the whole thing in the garbage cans. Good riddance! Now I just need to figure out where to put everything that was in and on it (that’s what’s in the boxes). The monitors, one professional inkjet printer, and the speaker system are all still available for the asking.
So this leaves me the opportunity to build a platform behind the couch to setup a second tier for the home theater… pseudo stadium seating! I don’t know when I’ll get to it, but I hope it’s sooner than later. I’d like to start doing movie nights regularly and I can only seat so many people with the existing furniture arrangement. Keep your fingers crossed that I’ll find the time and resources to get it done quickly.
Computer Tip: Start Search & Spotlight
Here’s a tip for finding programs and files faster on Vista and OS X. Sorry, XP users; there is no easy equivalent feature for you without add-on software.
In both Windows Vista and Mac OS X there is an easier way to find your programs and files than navigating through your Programs menu or the Finder. Use Start Search or Spotlight instead.
In Windows Vista, click the Start button (or press the Start key on your keyboard) and begin typing part of the name of the program or file you are looking for. Windows will search for any matches and place them in the Start menu. You can either click on the one that you want, or use the arrow keys and Enter to select one from the list. I use this method exclusively for finding programs in Vista because it is much faster than clicking All Programs and finding what I want there.
Most Mac owners already know this trick, but just in case you don’t: In Mac OS X, click the magnifying glass in the upper right of the menu bar, or press Cmd + Space, and begin typing the name of the program or file you want. Then, just like in Vista, click on the one you want or use the arrow keys and Enter to select an entry in the list. Spotlight search results can be customized under System Preferences to include or exclude the various types of files on your computer, and to change the order in which they appear.
Multimedia Tip: Organizing Photos
If you have had a digital camera for a while I hope by now you’ve come up with a system that makes it easy to go back and find your photos. Trying to manage one large folder with hundreds or thousands of files sure isn’t easy.
With the tens of thousands of pictures I have taken in the last few years I had to come up with an efficient method for cataloging images. So here’s what I’ve come up with.
Inside my Pictures folder I have about a dozen major categories… People, Places, Events, etc. Inside each of those folders is a subfolder with the name of the person/group, place, event, as well as a date. Then within that folder I might break things up even more. So if I had been taking engagement pictures for Tim & Angie, the folder would be People\Tim & Angie – May 2008\Engagement or something like that.
Using that system I can always very quickly find the images that I want. I have seen some people organize their photos solely by date, which might seem logical, but in the long term it gets hard to remember when a given event took place, or the day you took photos of your cousin Harry. But if I do want to search by date, I can just use my computer’s search feature to look for the month and year as part of the folder name. Easy as pie.
There are some software programs available that are designed to help organize photos, and some are very good. But in my experience most of them start to choke on large numbers of images, so personally I have given up on them. But no matter, the system of using folder has served me very well for a decade.
Friday, October 17, 2008
I’m not sure I understand the need for web pages to automatically play music while visiting. Most site visitors are usually not on a given page long enough to listen to a whole song (or even enough of it to be interesting) so every new page results in the music starting over or a change of song at every click. Anyway, most of the time while I’m browsing the web I either have the TV or my own music already on, resulting in an acoustical landscape wasteland. And none of the sites that do this allow me to turn the music off permanently. Argh.
I just got back from Spokane last night. Overall a fairly productive trip, despite a shipping mistake by our equipment supplier preventing us from having the computers we needed for the installation by the time we needed it. Fortunately we were able to make other arrangements.
I got to ride a Segway in the parking lot of the store where we were doing our installation. Those are fun!
We (Rob, Jared, and I) stopped in at the local indoor go-kart racing track while we were there. Rob definitely had the best times and best technique. But it was a lot of fun, despite the sore muscle in my back from tugging at the wheel for the duration of the 40-minute race.
We were also in a wee little car accident on the way home from the track. We got rear-ended by a guy in a pickup truck who claimed his brakes were malfunctioning. They weren’t; he just wasn’t paying close enough attention. Both Rob and Jared saw it coming in their mirrors. I didn’t see it, but from something Rob said I knew we were about to get hit. The damage to the car wasn’t too bad, though the trunk lid and rear bumper will have to be replaced. And the most significant “injury” to us were sore necks and shoulders for both Rob and me. Jared seems to have survived unscathed.
Update: Either the Go-Kart racing or the accident did more damage than I thought. My lower back is sore enough that I'm having a really hard time picking up anything that weighs more than about 25 pounds. D'oh.
I was disappointed to find out when I got home that our landlord decided to paint our living room white. Boring!!! They asked for my opinion when they told me they were going to paint it, and I said that I’d like to see a light tan, but I guess they felt like white was the better choice. Interesting.
I’m severely disappointed by the quality of the painter’s work. They have missed a few rather large sections of the wall. And the area of the kitchen ceiling they were supposed to repair just got a skim coat of mud without any sanding before or after, with no attempt to match the surrounding texture. It looks awful.
The paint on the walls of the bathroom has been peeling for some time (apparently when it was painted the last time around the painters didn’t use the proper type of paint for a humid bathroom environment, and the paint now collects mold and peels or falls off if you breathe or look at it funny), and it was supposed to be fixed, but their solution has been to scrape off the very edges of the peeling portions and cover it up with a coat of paint. Not cool. I can guarantee that a week from now the peeling will resume; just running my fingers across the wall or ceiling results in paint falling off; it just doesn’t adhere to the wall any more, and the painter knows it (they knocked off a 8”x8” square section of paint in one fell swoop while investigating the problem. And you can clearly see areas that are rotting behind the existing surface which, of course, are not being worked on. And they haven’t even attempted to fix the areas of the wall that were damaged by a water from a broken water heater a few years ago. There is also a big section of wall under the mirror that wasn’t painted last time around that is still the wrong color. Sigh.
Update: I just talked to the "boss" and they're going to work on the kitchen and bathroom some more, and they fixed the largest spot that was missed in the living room. Whew!
I have only been around for a few hours of what they are doing, but they certainly aren’t in any hurry. The entire job should have been finished in a day, and we’re now on day three with only 3/4 of the job done. They’ll work on something for a few minutes, then leave for quite a while. The guy working on the bathroom has spent about 20 minutes out of the 4 hours he has been here so far today. Pretty sad.
Not only am I disappointed by the color, quality of work, and how long it is taking, but also by the fact that I know I would have done a much better job on my own. I offered to do the work to my landlords. I guess they don’t have any confidence in my abilities, though. But I know I could have done a much better job than what is being done right now; these guys don’t seem to care in the slightest about what they are doing.
Sunday, October 12, 2008
Computer Tip: Free Protection
Looking for a free solution for anti-virus and anti-spyware software? You're in luck; there are options available.
Free Anti-Virus #1: AntiVir
AntiVir is very highly rated, and they offer a free version for personal use on a single computer. Personally I like this one better than other free solutions; it feels more polished.
Free Anti-Virus #2: AVG
This is the one that it seems like everyone knows about. It does fairly well at detecting viruses, but it seems to struggle with removing even some of the more common ones. Nevertheless, it is still a decent solution. Also for personal use.
Free Anti-Spyware #1: Microsoft Windows Defender
This is first because you may already have it. It is include with Windows Vista, and is available as a free download for anyone running Windows XP. It isn't the best solution available; it tends to miss some spyware detected by other solutions, but as basic protection it is fine.
Free Anti-Spyware #2: Malwarebytes Anti-Malware
Technically it isn't free; there is a $24.95 registration fee to unlock real-time protection. However, the trial version is fully functional as far as scanning and removal is concerned. it features better detection than many other solutions. Download here.
I've see copies of Ad Aware and SpyBot running on a lot of computers as free solutions to spyware problems. I have omitted both here because, while once effective, they both have slipped in their ability to detect a wide variety of spyware infections. If you are running one of these products, it would be best to supplement it with one of the products listed above. You can install multiple anti-spyware solutions (just make sure that no more than one is set to scan in real-time), but I don't recommend installing multiple anti-virus products.
Recommended Commercial Solution
I have been recommending Webroot's Antivirus with AntiSpyware for a while now, and it is holding up quite well. It's Anti-spyware feature is top rated, as is the anti-virus feature. But I especially like it because they offer 3 and 5-computer subscriptions for just a few dollars more than the price of the single computer offering, and if you renew before your subscription expires they give a discount.
The absolute best way to prevent viruses and spyware is to use caution when on the Internet. When visiting a web site you can't fully trust, don't allow it to install anything on your computer. If it pops up a request to install anything, just say no. One of the more common ploys in use today is the request to install a "codec" to install a video. Just don't fall for it.
Along with that, making sure your computer stays up-to-date by checking for and installing Windows updates frequently and automatically. This can go a long way toward avoiding infections in the first place. If you aren't updating as often as you should, it's a good time to start.
Checking for and installing updates also applies to Macs too. Despite what you may hear, there are exploits for problems with OS X in the wild. Macs that are not kept up-to-date can be hacked into faster than Windows Vista, for example.
Ironic as it might be, I actually don't run my computers with anti-virus and anti-spyware scanners turned on. There hasn't been a need because I just haven't ever had a virus. Spyware, on the other hand, does manage to work its way on to my computers, so I set them to scan once a week. But most of the time all they find are cookies, which actually aren't harmful.
Multimedia Tip: Zoom, Zoom, Zoom!
The most common reason people use the zoom feature of the camera is to attempt to get closer to the subject they are shooting. While zooming does make small objects bigger, it has other effects on an image that aren't immediately obvious. Allow me to explain.
Standing back from an object and zooming in on it produces a very small field of view. If you were to draw a line from the camera to one of the objects at the left edge of the frame, and another line from the camera to the an object at the right side of the frame, this angle would be very small. Objects in this field of view may be large, but they lose any sense of size and depth. The ratio of the size of your subject vs. the size of the background is small. In effect, zooming in compresses space and distance, making objects close to and far away from the camera seem to be at the same distance. As a result, images appear flat, lacking the details that give our eyes a feeling of distance, texture, and reality, and are less exciting visually than those taken with a wide angle lens. (To compensate, make sure your primary light source isn't coming from behind or above you; side lighting helps to re-establish the feeling of depth.)
Stepping forward and zooming out has a different effect altogether. Again, draw an imaginary line from the camera to an object at the left edge of the frame, and another from the camera to an object on the right edge. The angle between the lines is much wider. Objects in the field of view tend to appear smaller than they would if you zoom in, but the sense of distance and space is larger. Zooming out exaggerates space and distance; objects closer the camera feel closer than they really are, and objects farther away feel a lot farther away than they are in reality. If you have ever seen a building, venue or room on TV then seen it later in real life, it usually appears much larger on TV because of the use of wide angle lenses.
So how do you use this when composing a picture? First of all, when taking portraits, stepping in too close and zooming out to compensate will cause distorted features on your subject. Any body part close to the camera will be perceived to be larger than it really is, and conversely any body parts farther away will appear to be smaller than they do in real life. So if making someone's nose or forehead look too big is your goal, step in an zoom out. Otherwise, step back and zoom in. But not too much; we don't want noses to disappear because they have no depth, or ears to appear too close to the face. For SLR cameras, a good guideline is 85mm divided by your camera's focal length multiplier (1.5 on Nikon, resulting in 57mm; or 1.6 on most Canon bodies, for 53mm).
Sometimes we want to convey a message that whatever we are taking a picture of is large, or to make the space between two objects look bigger than it really is. That's when we step forward and zoom out. For the widest views, a wide angle lens is required, however, so you might be limited in just how wide you can go.
Ultimately, however, the Zoom on a camera should be use more like a cropping tool than an attempt to get physically closer to our subject. The vast majority of the time you'll get a more realistic picture if you just step closer and zoom out.
Friday, October 10, 2008
It has taken me about eight hours to move stuff away from the walls in preparation for wallpaper removal and for painting next week. Two hours the first night to do the front half of the room, and another six to do the second half. The second half took a lot longer because I had to move two bookshelves, and my desk, all of which have been sitting in the same place for more than a decade. As a result of moving things around, I have thrown out several hundred pounds of stuff, and have created a real mess.
The up side is that the living room already looks a LOT better without the sleeping bag wallpaper, even if it is rather bland at the moment.
I also promised a picture of the wiring behind my home theater equipment, so here you go:
One casualty of moving everything around is my desk. It just didn’t want to be moved (it’s about 300 pounds), and when Brent and I finally got it to move it decided to crack in half. It’s barely holding together at the moment, but it isn’t going to be usable again. So I guess I’m forced to retire the old office area now.
So I’m getting rid of some old stuff that I won’t need any longer with the old office gone. To start with, the computer monitors need to go. So I’m giving away a 19”, two 17”, and one 15” CRT computer monitor. They all work great, I just won’t need them any longer. If you need a monitor, they’re available for the taking; just stop by and pick one up. (Shipping probably won’t be an option; it costs $75 and up to ship a monitor these days.)
Specs: 19” will handle 1600x1200 at 75 Hz, 17”s will do 1152x864 at 75 Hz (or 1280x1024 at 60 Hz), and the 15” will do 1024x768.
I also have a professional quality Epson inkjet printer that I’m giving away. It needs new ink cartridges (which will run about $100) and a good cleaning. It has seen very little use and probably has only been used to print a couple hundred pages total. It is one of those models that can print on CDs. I just don’t use it, and won’t have a place for it.
More free stuff will follow once I’ve had a chance to triage the remaining pile of stuff. I’ll start by posting info on my blog for my faithful followers, and anything left after a few days will go up on facebook, then ksl.com.
Thursday, October 9, 2008
So General Conference was this last weekend. But I didn’t get to see much of it; both of the guys I’m working with on our Point-of-Sale application were tied up with other things, so all customer questions and problems fell on my shoulders. So I pretty much missed most of Conference. The part of the Saturday morning session when I could have watched because I wasn’t on a support call was missed because I only got four hours of sleep so I pretty much dozed off right after getting off the phone. Fortunately I did record it, so I can watch it over the coming weeks.
Saturday night after conference Brad and I headed up to Riverton to visit some old friends. Our friend Jessica had flown into town from Dallas, and wanted to meet a bunch of friends at Lalis’s apartment that night. Jenn and Ariel were also there as well as some other people I didn’t know. It was fun to see everyone. Lots of good memories.
Since we hadn’t seen Jess since before her mission, Brad and I went to lunch with her yesterday. Brad had to leave to get back to his studies, but I brought Jess back to my place and we watched August Rush and played some Guitar Hero for a bit. (Don’t worry, Jared, I had my laptop and cell phone nearby during the movie, and took care of the issues that came up during that two hour window. I’m not a slacker.)
In a few days I’m flying back to Spokane to help install our software in another Little Caesar’s up there, and to have a multi-day powwow with the rest of the Custom Register Solutions
party patrol personnel. Have you ever noticed that the word powwow is half Ws?
While I’m gone my living room is going to be painted (hooray!!! no more 1980s sleeping bag wallpaper!). So between now and then I have to move everything away from the walls. It’s going to be especially fun moving a 300-pound desk that has been sitting in the same place for ten years. And the bookshelves which have been there for eleven. I can’t wait to see
who what is behind those. I spent a few hours tonight moving my TV and audio equipment away from one wall so the wallpaper can be removed from behind it tomorrow. (I’ll have to remember to take a picture of the wiring involved in a fully equipped home theater setup while it’s visible… it’s impressive.) I’ll need to finish moving everything before Saturday morning when they want to remove the rest of the wallpaper. I’ll also need to do a bunch of rewiring between now and then to “neaten up” the room. No more visible wires dangling from the ceiling or clinging on the base of the wall around the corner into the next room… at least as much as I can get away with it, anyway.
As part of the living room makeover I plan to remove the computer and desk behind the couch to add a second row of stadium seating, and to build a new professional rack for all of the A/V equipment. I was also going to mount my new TV on the wall, but the more I think about that the more I think that isn’t such a great idea; it wouldn’t be visible at all from the kitchen or one of the couches if it were on the wall. So I’ll have to build a nice (and simple) stand for it at some point. Things to ponder.
My friend Dave is also getting close to needing my help wiring his studio. He’s has built a video editing / audio recording studio in his dad’s back yard and it’s now time to run the wires before putting up the drywall. We went over the last little details before purchasing the wires last night. But I still need to figure out how to terminate the wiring. We’re going to be installing about 2 miles of wiring in a couple hundred cables, and I’ll have to add ends to the vast majority of them unless I can teach him how to do it. Fun.
The POS stuff is going well. We’ve had about twenty sales in the last two weeks. And we’re getting more referrals all of the time. Nearly everybody we show the software to is buying it. I also just found out that we are trying to get into a tradeshow/convention thing in early November. Which means I’ll have some big changes, as well as a demonstration video, to make between now and then.
If only I had something to do with my time.
Life Tip #1
Don’t let yourself get so busy that you don’t have time to write Tips of the Week for your blog. And don’t let people talk you into projects that you really don’t have the time to work on, no matter how much they beg. And when two of your business partners are both unavailable for a significant period of time, don’t try to plan on doing anything besides answering customers’ questions and fixing problems. And don’t even think about sleep when your landlord wants to remove the wallpaper and paint your living room with less than twelve hours’ notice while all of the above is going on. And certainly don’t waste time on silly online physics games, no matter how fun they are.
Computer Tip: Making Multiple Selections; Copy & Paste Files
If you have a list of files or objects on your computer and want to select more than one, you probably already know that you can hold down the Control (or Cmd on Mac) key while clicking on each one of them to add them to your selection.
You might even know that you can click on one file, then hold Shift while clicking on another to select all of the files between the two.
What you might not know, however is that you can use a combination of both Shift and Control (Cmd) to add a group of files to a selection without deselecting your previous selection (I can’t think of a better way to say that). For example: If you have files File A through File Z in a folder, and want to select the “vowel” files as well as G through K, first click on File A without any keyboard modifiers, then hold Control (Cmd) while clicking on File E, I, O, and U. Then to add the range G through K, continue to hold Control (Cmd) and click on File G. Then add the Shift key (so you are holding both the Control and Shift keys) and click on File K. Make sense? Click A, hold Control, click E, I, O, U, G, add Shift, click K. Got it? Good.
Now for the fun part. Say you want to make a copy of these files into another folder, but don’t have the destination folder open (so you can’t just drag them). Press Control+C (Cmd+C) to copy the list of files to the clipboard. Then navigate to the destination and press Control+V (Cmd+V). Or to move the files instead of copying, use Control+X (Cmd+X) to Cut instead of Copy.
Bonus tip: In Microsoft Word, if you want to select a rectangle-shaped area of text/pictures, hold down the Alt key while dragging over that rectangle.
Multimedia Tip: Free and Cheap alternatives to Photoshop
Not everyone needs the full power of Photoshop. Or can afford the hefty price tag. There are some nice cheap and free alternatives. And all of the choices below offer the basic tools necessary to perform the most common repairs and effects.
Cheap Alternative #1: Adobe Photoshop Elements.
Photoshop Elements is a stripped-down cousin of Photoshop. It has most of the more important elements of the full product, for around $80.
Cheap Alternative #2: Corel Paint Shop Pro
Paint Shop Pro started out as a simple image retouching program over a decade ago. Since that time it is trying to become more and more like Adobe’s flagship product. It does more than Photoshop Elements, but it isn’t quite as easy to use. And it isn’t as well known, so getting help if you have a question might be a bit of a challenge. Price is about $90.
Free Alternative #1: The GIMP
The GIMP is a free photo editing program. But because it’s free it doesn’t have the polish of its commercial competitors. The user interface is a bit weird, and it is very slow to make changes in photos, but it is otherwise a fairly capable piece of software.
Free Alternative #2: Photoshop Express
Adobe has created a really stripped-down version of Photoshop and put it up on a web site for all of the world to use. No software to install, just go to www.photoshop.com/express and begin making basic image corrections for free. They even give you 2GB of online storage and your own web site to show off your photos.
Sunday, October 5, 2008
As I pulled on to my street coming home from Salt Lake tonight my GPS in my truck instructed me to: “Perform a U-turn where allowed, then perform a U-turn where allowed.” Hmmm. Why not just say, “do a doughnut?” You can’t make this stuff up, folks!
I don’t know if others will appreciate this as much as I do, and I’m kind of a nerd for getting excited about it.
I’ve been using the same electric razor for about ten years now. (It’s a really nice one so I keep giving it new blades and replacing the batteries when they won’t take a charge any longer.) Back at the end of June it wasn’t taking a charge any longer, so I replaced the batteries, and immediately charged them for the normal half hour. It is now the beginning of October and it is still running on that same charge. I haven’t had to charge it in over three months! On the original set of batteries it would go for about 40 minutes (around 4-5 shaves, or about one week) before the batteries would be dead and it needed to be charged again. So far it has run for somewhere around 8.5 hours on one charge! And it’s still going! Those are some pretty amazing batteries. Note to self: buy battery manufacturer’s stock; they’ve got something special going on.
Sunday, September 28, 2008
Computer Tip: Laptop Battery Life
In a conversation I had earlier this week with a friend it became pretty evident that there are many misconceptions out there about the best ways to take care of the battery on a laptop to give it optimum life. So here's an attempt to clear some of that up.
Most laptop batteries today use a Lithium-Ion technology to store their charge. LiIon batteries require different care than older NiCd and NiMH batteries. NiCd and NiMH batteries would lose their ability to hold a charge more quickly if they were not drained fully before being recharged. LiIon don't have that limitation. Their life span is mostly related to the total number of times they are charged and discharged.
Most LiIon batteries have a life span of somewhere around 500 charge cycles before they won't accept a charge any longer. Fully discharging then fully recharging a battery would be one cycle. Likewise, discharging half way and recharging would be a half of a cycle. After around 500 total cycles the battery is done.
As batteries go through charge and discharge cycles, their capacity to hold a charge diminishes gradually until it just won't take any charge at all. You will see shorter and shorter times that you can run your computer on battery.
So basically the more you use your laptop running on battery, the more quickly that battery will wear out. If you discharge then recharge your battery every day, you'll probably get a little over a year out of your battery before it won't take a charge any longer. The moral of the story here is to plug in whenever you can to avoid going through the charge/discharge cycles.
With older laptops and batteries, it was best to remove the battery from the computer once they were fully charged to avoid overcharging. With newer laptops and battery chemistries this is no longer the case. The charging circuit always maintains the ideal charge on the batteries, so it is best to plug in the computer and leave the battery in the computer all the time.
After a battery is worn out, take it to any number of facilities that collect batteries for recycling. Two of the more common collectors are Radio Shack and Best Buy. The service is free.
Multimedia Tip: Photo Composition
I'm going to go with a cop-out this week and just direct your attention to my second photography class from about a year ago. The class was on techniques you can use to create visually appealing images. So when you have about 45 minutes, crawl up on your couch with a laptop and watch the class:
Bonus Tip: Synchronizing Files Between Computers
I came across a really cool free utility this week designed to synchronize and share files between computers. It's called FolderShare.
It works on both Mac and PC. On each computer you can select one or more folders that you wish to synchronize with other computers. Those computers don't even need to belong to you; you can setup shares to synchronize files with other people. And it all happens automatically. As soon as you create a file in, or copy a file into a shared folder, FolderShare begins synchronizing it with all of the other computers that are sharing that same folder, completely behind the scenes. There are no limits on the size or types of files. The data is also compressed and encrypted so it transfers quickly, and can't be viewed by third parties.
The other nifty thing that it does is that it can (optionally) make all of the files and folders on your computer available via the FolderShare web site. You log into the site and can see and download any of the files and folders on your computer at home. (The files are downloaded directly from your computer; they aren't stored on the FS site.) So you might not need to carry a USB flash drive any longer, as long as you have access to the Internet you have access to any of your files at home. The service even works if your computer is behind a firewall or router.
I have some file shares setup between me and some business contacts, and some friends. We can all access and share files without having to exchange the files via email or a web site. It all happens in the background. It's a great way to share pictures or video with friends and family.
I was thinking of writing a program like this and charging money for it. Then I discovered this service, and it's totally free, so it looks like I'll have to find another software idea. :)