Monday, June 23, 2008

1st Political Post - Taxed to death!

I've tried to avoid posting on political issues, since they seem to be a huge hotbed of disagreement and fighting. However, one big issue for me that I simply must post on is tax rates.

Americans for Tax Reform is an independent, non-partisan group that monitors the tax situation in the US, and tries to push for lower taxes. The group has posted a chart of tax rates as proposed by the two Presidential candidates on their web site:

http://www.atr.org/content/html/2008/june/0616-obama_mccaintaxes.html

Most of Obama's numbers are pretty scary, but the number that is most alarming to me is the Self-Employment Rate... 54.9%. Can you believe this? MORE than half of my income would go to taxes if Sen. Obama had his way. It's already way too high as it is, but jumping to over 50% is just outrageous. This is the United States, not the USSR! It isn't even Europe!

Obama also has the worst possible record when it comes to taxes. He has voted FOR virtually every tax increase proposed since he was elected Senator:

http://www.atr.org/national/ratings/109th-1/109-1-senate-final.htm
http://www.atr.org/national/ratings/109th-2/2006Senatevotes-prelim.pdf

I'm not a huge fan of either current presidential candidate, but I've got speak out against Obama with his track record, and if he is proposing a 55% tax rate on self employed individuals. I simply couldn't afford to run my own business with the government taking more than half of it. And I don't think anyone else could either.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Skittles

Top 5 Colors

5. Yellow
4. Orange
3. Green
2. Purple
1. Red

Although 1 & 2 switch places relatively frequently, and 3 moves into the #2 spot sometimes too.  But it hasn't made it into the #1 spot quite yet.

The Rules of Skittles

1. Skittles should be eaten in matched pairs for maximum flavor impact. 
2. If there are an odd number of Skittles, 3 must be eaten at a time to get to an even number.
3. If there is only one of a color, you must open another bag to even out the oddness.
4. Yellow and orange must be eaten first to get them out of the way.
5. The remaining colors can be eaten in 3, 2, 1 order, 1, 2, 3 order, 1,2,3,2,1, or 3,2,1,2,3 order.
6. When placed on a solid surface, like a table, the S must be facing upward.
7. Colors should not be mixed.
8. Skittles are best eaten from 'fun size' bags.
9. A single fun size bag cannot be shared between multiple people.
10. If you have only red, yellow, and green left, they must be arranged like a traffic light.
11. Skittles should not be eaten in the dark to avoid unwelcome flavor surprises.
12. Any open bag of Skittles must be consumed immediately.
13. Tropical, Wild Berry, Ice Cream, and other variants, while excellent, are only imitation Skittles.
14. This unit not labeled for retail sale.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Blessing in Disguise

Our power went out about 45 minutes ago.  Normally that would be a major inconvenience, but tonight, not so much. 

I've got my generator running in the back yard powering my server, refrigerator, network, and TV.  But I don't want to risk running much more than that, so I'm not going to plug in any other computers and take the night off from programming and video editing. 

I just put in Citizen Kane (which I have never seen), so I'll spend the evening watching that, and browsing the Internet. 

Being without power is giving me a fully justified evening off.   Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

Two days in a row!

CNET's Buzz Out Loud podcast read one of my emails on the air today. That makes two days in a row they have used contributions of mine. Listen in starting at 35:36.

http://www.cnet.com/8301-11455_1-9973945-10.html

They call me DJ, cause that's how I sign my emails ("-DJ"). But it's me. I promise.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Feeling A Little Overwhelmed Today

I'm kind of feeling a little bit overwhelmed with everything I have to get done in the next little while. Here's just a sampling:

  • Edit the video I shot at a college graduation a few weeks ago, make several copies of the DVD, and send them off.
  • Edit the video I shot for my friend Amber's wedding and make a DVD, and send it off.
  • Edit the video I shot of my sister Christine performing at Velour, and post it for my family.
  • Copy and send out the recording of Christine playing at Ozz, and send it to my family.
  • Edit pictures I shot for Michael & Kiley's wedding, and order prints.
  • Edit and mix down recordings I made of Richard and Gabe forever ago.
  • Edit family pictures taken at Christmas, make DVDs of the video I shot at Christmas the last three years, and get those sent out.
  • Make several significant changes to a tuxedo rental system I just created, and install and train the store owner and employees on how to use it.
  • Extract the audio for a golf seminar from a hard drive recorder, burn DVDs, and send them off.
  • Order more equipment and install another two antennas in my stake center for an upcoming stake conference.
  • Make changes in FileBack PC (my backup software) to make it work better on Windows Vista, and fix a bug preventing encrypted backups from being restored. (Most of those parts are done.) After making changes, build a new release package, a new update package, upload both, notify the sites hosting the program that a new version is available, then send out announcements to my customers of the changes and that a new version is available.
  • Move my company web site to a new server.
  • Start cleaning the house in preparation for my parents visiting next week, and sister Cheryl and her family the following week.
  • Arrange and build a float for the Freedom Festival 4th of July parade.
  • Write a synthesizer engine for my GuitarToy software, finish debugging, create a web site and press releases, and post it.
  • Do final cleanup on my ActiveClip utility, build a web site for it, and release it.
  • Update my stake web site's calendar. I think I'm only 3 months behind right now.
  • Build an inventory manager for the point-of-sale software I'm working on. And build the employee scheduling module. Plus a ton of other changes.
  • One of these days, shoot and edit a training video for the point-of-sale system.

That's just what comes to mind immediately. Mostly this is my own checklist of things to work on. But it's depressing because I think I'm getting farther and farther behind rather than getting caught up. Anybody know where I can have a clone made?

Buzzing Out Loud

After a couple attempts, one of my voice messages was played in the Buzz Out Loud CNET podcast this morning. At 27:43 into the broadcast available here:

http://www.cnet.com/8301-11455_1-9972839-10.html

Although after listening to what I had to say, I think it didn't come across the way I intended. I really meant to say that I doubt that what I was told by the T-Mobile rep was correct. Guess I should clarify my thoughts a little more before opening my mouth. Oh well.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Software Recommendations

People ask me for software recommendations a lot, so here ya go...

For Anti-Virus and Anti-Spyware: Webroot Antivirus with Antispyware and Firewall - All three in one product, it finds more of the garbage on your system than any other product I've tried, and the computer performance slowdown caused by it is less than other products since one program is performing all three functions.  $39.95 for one computer, $49.95 for three.

For blogging: Windows Live Writer - Compose and edit blog posts on the computer instead of the web.   Free.

For fun: Worldwide Telescope - Navigate the heavens in a Google Earth-esque manner.  Free.

For web browsing: Opera browser - This is so much better than Firefox it isn't even funny.  Many times faster, more secure, more stable, no memory leaks, and still free.  For PC, Mac, Linux, others.

Iron Man

I went and saw Iron Man tonight.  I liked it.

It seemed to take forever to get to the point where he is actually fighting crime, but it picked up about half way through. 

I think I really like Gwyneth Paltrow as an actress.  I haven't seen a lot of her movies, but she always does an excellent job.  I might have to make a point of seeing some more.

The action was a little over the top, but that's what you expect from the comic book-inspired movies.  It doesn't really take away from what the movie is, though.

Overall: Fun movie, worth seeing.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The Arrogance of Science

I don't know why this has really caught my attention the last little while, but it is beginning to get under my nerves.  What I'm talking about is the arrogance of some in the scientific community, especially those in publicly visible positions with loud voices.

I read an article the other day about evolution, intelligent design, and creationism.  The author of the article attempted to take a neutral stand through most of the article, but the then at the end basically proclaimed anyone who believed anything other than evolution, as currently accepted by science, to be an imbecile.  The following discussion (if it can be called that) in the site's forums was quite heated, with supporters of all theories vocalizing their beliefs vigorously, with maternal insults being more the norm than the exception. 

Another topic that keeps coming up is global warming.  It's pretty trendy right now.  Those voicing their opinions about the subject tend to be very loud and in-your-face, proclaiming that anyone who doesn't share their beliefs is just plain wrong.

I'm not here to get into a debate of evolution vs creationism or to debate the existence of global warming, or its potential effects, but rather to call to attention the arrogance of those making these claims.

In both cases, the people making claims (claims going either direction, though those supporting the more scientifically accepted beliefs tend to be much more common) are unbelievably arrogant. 

The problem here is that we can't really be completely sure of anything in the scientific realm.  None of us was around to witness the creation of the Earth; science is going off of evidence and theories, so to state evolution as absolute fact is kind of a feeble argument.  We don't know with 100% certainty whether global warming is real, let alone whether it is manmade or not, because we can't really even begin to understand how the planet's climate works.  The trouble is that in both cases we just don't have enough knowledge to make a definitive call one way or the other, so assumptions have to be made, and when assumptions are made things can go very wrong.  Yet many, many "scientists" claim to be able to state absolute fact. 

If we have learned anything from history, it is that science is constantly changing.  The scientific principles held as fact at any point in time are later disproved by some new principle that comes along in the future.  People in the 15th century knew that the Earth was flat, yet this was proven wrong later on.  Scientists in the past believed that objects in motion tended to slow down "because they got tired," yet that was proven to be false as well.  The Sun once revolved around the Earth too.  So how can we, even with our "advanced technologies" now, proclaim anything to be scientific fact?  Weren't the technologies of the time considered "advanced" as well?  And won't science 50 years in the future look upon things differently than they do now?  Even scientific principles from 20 years ago are being disproved or rescinded all of the time (anyone remember Global Cooling?).  Isn't it a little arrogant for those making these claims to say that they know these things with certainty?  We just don't have all of the information that it takes to make decisions, and we can't ever assume that we do.

Everyone is free to make any claim they wish, but it ought to be done with a caveat: "as far as we know," or "as the evidence suggests," and those making them ought to be willing to at least hear out their ideological opponents, consider their arguments, and even consider that there might be answers other than those on the table.   People have the right to view others as morons if they wish, but for new policies and laws to be put into place based solely on one side of an argument, where the opposing argument is dismissed without being entertained, is just asinine. 

New Toys

I know, I'm always getting new toys.  But I wanted to blog about the two new toys I got yesterday.

Dash Express

First was a GPS Portable Navigation Device (PND).  Since I'm doing more traveling than I have done in the past, it kind of makes sense to have one.  I have used my laptop and/or cell phone in the past, and they work, but both are kind of awkward for navigation, requiring too long to start up and input your intended destination.  I had looked at a bunch of standalone units a while ago (before my last trip to Texas) but gave up because none quite matched up to what I was looking for.  But I got an email this last week that the Dash Express was on sale at Amazon.com, so I got one.   Not that it has everything I want, but it's closer than most.

This GPS is different than most in that it has its own cellular radio for an always-on Internet connection.  It uses the connection for searches (I can search for specifics like "hamburgers" instead of general categories like "food" for example), but also to do real-time traffic updates.  And as I drive, it also updates their servers with information about how fast traffic is flowing to provide that information to other Dash users in the area.  It also uses traffic data when routing to any destination, so if I want to go to Salt Lake, for example, it will find me the quickest route (allowing me to pick from three proposals), avoiding poor traffic conditions in the process. 

One of its other cool features is that it has gas prices and updated movie listings at all times.  I can see who has the cheapest gas, and see what movies are playing at the different local theaters.  I've also got a plug-in that displays weather conditions and forecasts as well.

The Internet connectivity part of it does require a subscription fee, but in the long term it isn't much more than you'd pay to update the maps on other GPS devices. 

Lego Indiana Jones

The other thing I got yesterday was Lego Indiana Jones for my Xbox 360.  I really really loved the Lego Star Wars games.  And this is pretty much more of the same, set in the world of Indiana Jones.  It seems to be designed for people who are already familiar with the mechanics of the Lego series of games; levels are longer than they were in Star Wars, and the puzzles you have to solve along the way are more challenging.  But even though it's harder, it's an awesome game.  So far I have played for about three hours, during which I finished the first three levels of Raiders of the Lost Ark, and the first level of The Last Crusade.

And speaking of Indiana Jones, I saw Crystal Skull on opening night.  It's okay.  Not as good as Raiders or Last Crusade, but better than Temple of Doom.  It takes the mystical nature of the previous films to a new level, and ups the "oh sure, that would never happen" factor quite a bit.  Aside from that, though, it's kind of fun.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Busy Weekend

I just finished a busy weekend...

On Friday night my sister Christine played at Ozz in Provo.  And I did sound for her.  But I didn't have all of the equipment I wanted (well, I did, but it's big and I didn't want to haul it all for a small gig like that), so I spent Friday buying, setting up, and testing stuff before her performance that night.  

She did a pretty good job, though her nerves still seem to be getting to her a little bit.  She played two of her own original songs, and three covers.  She was definitely the best performer for the duration of time what we stuck around.   The guy who played right after her didn't even know what he was going to play, and asked for requests... And he didn't know a single song that anyone asked for.  Dumb, dumb, dumb... Performers should never do that. 

Saturday morning I had a job videotaping the graduation for Provo College.  It took place in the Provo Tabernacle.  Brad was more than willing to help with a second camera, and I wanted to give Brent some practice running a camera, so he came too.  We had four cameras running; I was operating the main camera, directing, and running audio, all at the same time.  Brad took camera #2 and made occasional adjustments on camera #3, which was locked down to give a good shot of the graduates as they walked up on stage.  Setup took Brad and I two hours, but that's after the two days I spent getting equipment ready earlier in the week.  In any case, everything under our control went really well.   Taking down took about an hour and a half with all three of us working on it, after which we went to Applebee's for lunch.  I wasn't really hungry though, so I boxed up my chicken sandwich and ate it Saturday evening.

Not much happened Sunday, except that I slept most of the late afternoon and evening.  I guess my body was telling me I had been pushing myself a little too hard the last several days.  But I feel much better now.  :)

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