Thursday, February 26, 2009

Fantasy Rock Album

Thanks to my buddy, briwei for passing on an intriguing meme. For everyone who ever wanted to be in a band and make an album...

- Go to Wikipedia’s “random” page:

The first random Wikipedia article you get is the name of your band.

2 - Go to Quotations Page’s "random quotations":

The last four or five words of the very last quote on the page is the title of your album.

3 - Go to Flickr and click “explore last seven days”

The third picture, no matter what it is, will be your album cover.

4 - Use Photoshop or similar to put it together.

5 - Post your photo to your FB page with this text in the "caption" or "comment" and tag friends you’d like to join in.

Here's my album:
Band: Winners and Sinners
Album: Badly Written Third Act

The photo is from here:

The full quote was from Truman Capote: "Life is a moderately good play with a badly written third act."

Monday, February 23, 2009

Amazing and annoying feline trick

Our younger cat is quite talented and cute. He is also stubborn, single-minded, and often annoying in his pursuits.

We keep kitty treats in a high kitchen cabinet. He is well aware of the location of his favorite nibbles.

This evening, I came home to discover a new bag of kitty treats on the dining room floor, TORN open. The bag had previously been on the upper left hand shelf of the kitchen cabinet (see photo). Not only was the bag in the floor, but the cabinet was closed (cabinet shown open in photo for perspective).

How the heck did he get up there? How did the cabinet door remain (or get re-) closed?

The cats were not interested in obtaining dinner. Good thing, since we weren't interested in giving them any dinner. We locked them in the basement for the night in irritation. However, we kept wondering in amazement how he did it.

The older cat is too lazy to have been invovled in any aspect of the operation, other than enjoying the spoils.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

My how they grow

I was going through some school pictures of my son this morning, and I was stunned by the changes over the years. He almost doesn't look like the same boy from six years ago. For your consideration:

Fourth Grade (pre-braces)
Eighth Grade (braces)

Tenth Grade (post-braces)

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Fight Big Brother!

While the Internet Safety Act is not the first bill to propose forced record retention of Internet traffic logs, it is by and large the most far reaching and demanding of such bills. While this lengthy bill has laudable provisions for the supposed prevention of child endangerment, it's requirement that virtually ever Internet access point in the country keep two years worth of utilization records is not just highly invasive it is ridiculously burdensome to small businesses and individuals.

Just because the European Parliament is comfortable with this level of potential privacy invasion does not mean that freedom-loving Americans should become so complacent on the issue. Proponents of such bills say that requiring Internet Service Providers to maintain activity logs for two years allows law enforcement to review past behavior once someone comes to their attention as a potential threat to young children. What ever happened to 'just cause'?

Now, let's talk about the REAL duck on the table. Have you read about any electronic records breaches lately? Hmmm??? So, the Government wants providers to keep two years of records on everyone's activities in case THEY need them to investigate your past history. Isn't it more likely that other savvy hackers will steal those records for malevolent purposes? Identity theft? Blackmail?

Oh, BTW, stop thinking that secure-HTTP will prevent data thieves from stealing your banking, health, and other private information. It was announced this week that the bad guys are improving their ability to sneak their way into your private HTTPS sessions

The Senate bill is S.436. The House bill is H.R.1076. Note them. Contact your representatives. Oppose them. I have written my own Representative, both my Senators, and the President. I've only done this three other times in the last 28 years.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The European Union is still working on some barriers

If you live in the EU, and you have a driving license from country X (say Poland) and you get a ticket in country Y (say Ireland) you would think that police in country Y would understand how to extract basic information from other EU country driving licenses, no?

Guess again: Will the real "Prawo Jazdy" please stand up

Pretty humorous, if embarrassing for the Irish police.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Kids will surprise you every time

For the last few years, Grendel has been kind of 'anti-school'. He used to be a great student, and then the hormones and teenage grouchiness kicked in. Then he was diagnosed with ADD. After we started the medication, his school work and attitude dramatically improved. (I've blogged about this a few times in the last six months or so.)

This year, Grendel decided to participate on his school's FIRST competitive robotics team. The team was pretty huge this year (he says around 40 people). Being on the team has meant going back to school from 6-9 pm most nights for the last two months, plus giving up Saturdays (9-6), and the occasional Sunday (in between his other commitments).

With all this going on, we were kind of stunned when Grendel managed to pull straight A's for the first semester. This included the flabbergasting achievement of a 99 on his English final (including an essay that the teacher is now using as an example of how to write a good essay). I teased Grendel about being possessed by an alien the day of the exam, and asked if he could arrange to channel that alien again for his English final in June. (English is his least favorite subject and he despises writing ... while his mother loves to write.)

Then, the cherry on the sundae: Grendel has been chosen to be on his FIRST team's drive team for their upcoming competitions. This is a huge deal. It's his first year, and with a lot of kids to pick from he got one of the most coveted positions on the team. Wow!

Over the last few years, every time Grendel has talked about college he's been interested in business and finance. This harkens back to a comment he made as a preschooler: "Mommy, I love money."

This week, he needs to put in his schedule request for his junior year. He was going to take Marketing next year as one of his electives. Because of his enthusiasm for the work he's been doing with FIRST, he has decided to make Marketing a second or third alternate choice. His primary elective is now Intro to Computer Programming. He's also opting to not have a study hall so he can clear out some other requirements before senior year (wow ... um ... planning ahead?). He's signing up for Mechanical Drawing (because of FIRST) and Racket Sports (to complete his final phys ed requirement).

He's also signing up for Honors Chemistry. We had mixed feelings about this. We would have rathered that he just sign up for college prep Chem, especially since he's opting out of study hall. However, his Biology teacher thinks he's more than up for the challenge. Several of his friends from FIRST will also be in the Honors class. In addition, it turns out that the college prep class is being taught by his science teacher from freshman year, whom he loathes. So, Honors Chemistry it is!

I am proud and perplexed by the choices being made here of late. So, here goes a cautious ... YIPPEEE!!!

P.S. - I'm also thrilled with his exuberant involvement in FIRST due to the scholarship opportunities available to program participants. If he keeps this up, he may actually be able to afford to go to college.

Monday, February 16, 2009

It's a small ocean, isn't it?

The Atlantic Ocean must be pretty small for two nuclear subs to collide in its waters. 31 million miles is not a lot of space when you're a submarine, especially since there's no way for underwater craft to see each other in those crowded dark waters. I keep hoping that someone will invent a technology, maybe based on sound waves, that will allow vessels to identify other objects in the water. I'm sure even technologically backwards Britain and France would adopt such technologies, even for their benign and inexpensive nuclear submarine fleets. Eventually, even the U.S. may be able to adopt this technology so its submarines won't surface underneath any more Japanese fishing boats


Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day, iPod

Happy Valentines Day. Considering our current fiscal situation, we kept this Halmark-promulgated holiday pretty low key. We had theater tickets for the evening, but on the way to the theater I decided that I really wasn't in the mood for an evening out. We ended up coming back home and watching the latest episodes of Battlestar Galactica and Joss Whedon's latest series "Dollhouse". BSG is really keeping me engaged in its final episodes. It is my preferred show to watch when we have an episode in the queue on TiVo. Dollhouse seems intriguing. The first episode was acceptable. Let's see where they take this concept.

Since it's Valentines Day, let's talk a little about my true love: music. I have accumulated just over 103Gb of tunes (just under 16k songs) in my iTunes library. Since my iPod only holds 16Gb, I have to be somewhat selective on what I carry at the ready on the device. Still, even with a few podcasts taking up space, I've managed to cull out 2444 songs for my portable listening pleasure.

I often listen to my iPod on shuffle mode. I find it interesting how some songs have never been played, while others are offered up quite frequently. ABC's "Poison Arrow", Toadie's "Away", and Adam Ant's "Press Darlings" are the most frequently played songs at this point.

I hope everyone had a pleasant day with their sweeties today.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Stunning picture in the midst of tragedy

I really didn't want to ready this story, but the AP photo captivated me.

35 dead in Australia's worst fires in decades - Yahoo! News

Years ago I read Bill Bryson's In A Sunburned Country. Bryson's portrait of Australia is of a fascinatingly deadly content full of poisonous creatures, poisonous plants, and occasionally fatal natural phenomena. And I thought California was a scary place...

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Live Free or Die Taxachusetts!

As promised, here is a follow-up to my earlier posting about the Town Fair Tire case with Massachusetts. Thank you Governor Lynch for doing what we pay you for. Now that there is no Interstate Commerce Commission, I guess we'll have to wait for this trial to be escalated to a U.S. Federal Court.

New England Cable News, Fri, 06 Feb 2009 15:44 PM PST
NH gets involved in border tax battle
(Alison King, NECN) - The sales tax battle between Massachusetts and New Hampshire heated up today. Granite State Governor John Lynch is proposing legislation to protect New Hampshire businesses from collecting Massachusetts' five percent sales tax. The launch pad for all of this is a case involving Town Fair Tire Centers. And that case has reached the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial ...

The thing that amuses me the most out of this situation (and there are lots of amusing/irritating aspects to focus on) is that Massachusetts is basing its right to collect taxes on the tires purchased in NH on the fact that they will be used in Massachusetts (by the Massachusetts residents who purchased them).

Though I live in New Hampshire, I USE my tires primarily in Massachusetts since I work about thirty miles across the state line. Do I owe Massachusetts sales tax on MY tires?

Then again, I get to pay Massachusetts income tax because I earn my income in Massachusetts. A fact which I have adjusted to since I should pay something to 'enjoy' the services of the great state of Massachusetts while I work there (such as road maintenance, snow plowing, fire and safety services, etc.)

I usually buy my gas in Massachusetts since it's more convenient to do so, even though it is a little pricier than the station half a mile from my house (in the wrong direction for my commute). Considering the trend in Taxachusetts, I think I will stop buying gas (and a lot of other items) down there.

Gosh, I am REALLY starting to sound like a native skin-flint Yankee.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

All hail the King!

Our younger cat, Boose, is very routine driven. Every morning as the three of us go through our morning shower routines, he loves to join us in the bathroom. There is something about the warm humid environment that he relishes. Whoever goes into the bathroom first puts the toilet seat down for him. He either enters the room and jumps up on his throne, or is placed there by one of his loyal subjects.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Taxachusetts needs to be stopped

Everyone is hurting including state and local governments. I get it. However, Massachusetts is going too far in their quest to dig up additional revenue.

Town Fair Tire is a CONNECTICUTT based company which operates in several New England states. Massachusetts is trying to make Town Fair Tire Centers collect MASSACHUSETTS state sales tax from Massachusetts residents who buy tires outside of Massachusetts.

Short version of the story

Longer version of the story

Town Fair Tire has a pretty good case. Massachusetts' order violates Federal Interstate Commerce code. I am surprised that New Hampshire is not jumping in on this suit (then again NH would have to be willing to spend a nickel to get involved).

Should Massachusetts win its ploy with Town Fair Tire, every state could force businesses to ascertain the legal residence of its customers in order to charge those customers appropriate home sales tax, in ADDITION to any local sales tax being charged.

Scenario: You live in Maryland. You drive into Philadelphia for the weekend. You notice a great deal on a stereo in a department store while there. The clerk at the counter is required to see your driver's license (or other valid photo ID) so they can collect both the Pennsylvania sales tax and the Maryland sales tax. So ... how likely are you to 'shop' while traveling?

In addition, do we really want to have to show identification every time we make a purchase? Do you smell Big Brother? I certainly do.

I will be following this case closely. I'll let you know how it turns out.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Finally, a new refridgerator

A few weeks ago I blogged about our dying fridge. Well, it came back to life for a bit. So, of course, we tried to pretend it would be alright. We knew better, but we just weren't willing to face the hassle.

We've kept the amount of food in the freezer down pretty low (no more than would fit in our large cooler). Then, Goblin got laid off. The Fates being the cruel witches that they are decided we needed to get a good taste of their whimsy. We woke up on Sunday morning to another large puddle in front of the freezer after all the ice in the ice maker had melted.

Goblin went to Sears today to check out their offerings. This evening we went to a local store, Fletchers Appliances. We found a large Fridgedaire floor model, without an ice maker, at a tolerable price ($600). And, since Goblin isn't working it's no problem for him to be home tomorrow afternoon when they deliver it. Plus, he'll have time to empty out the old one before they get her.

I'm all about looking on the bright side right now.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

How old is too young to die?

We received the shocking news this morning that a friend from church had passed away a few days ago. He was only 62. His death was supposedly quick and painless, so it was probably a stroke or heart attack in his sleep.

My husband just spoke with Mike a week ago. He was his normal ruddy and jovial self at the time.

Even in my 20's and 30's I would have thought that 62 was an early death. Now that I'm in my late 40's I REALLY think it is.

The picture of Mike on the memorial site is relatively current. I didn't even know he was in his 60's. He was so vibrant and healthful, I always assumed he was in his early 50's.

I refuse to change my way of thinking. I will continue to be stunned by the deaths of friends and loved ones, regardless of their age, especially if they seem vibrant and healthy.

My own mother passed away at the age of 67 a little over twelve years ago. That wasn't too shocking. She had been a lifelong smoker and died from a quickly metastasized lung cancer. It was difficult, but I had a few weeks to get used to the idea that she was going to die.

I'm not sure which is better for the survivors, a period of getting used to the idea with time to say goodbye, or a sudden loss. Similarly, for the dying is it better to get a chance to say goodbye or to live your life fully and healthily up to the last moment, with no warning.

I guess it's not important to consider, since we really have little control over when death occurs. I suppose it is best to live life to the fullest and let people know that you care about them. Sometimes Death sends you non-refundable tickets in advance, sometimes he just shows up with the limo. (Pardon the irreverence, it's just how I'm wired.)

To all my friends out there, know that you are in my thoughts more often than I could possibly let you know (without coming across as a weirdo stalker). *HUGS*