May 21, 2007

Buzz, buzz - busy bee

This weekend was interesting - saw Shrek the Third on Friday, threw a bbq on Saturday and ended up with a new 3G phone on Sunday. We added another line to our service contract, and the Cingular store wouldn't do it without a contract. Rather than wait or shop another store, I picked up a freebie phone while I was there. I'm on Cingular/AT&T and it has the Cingular TV service, along with unlimited Internet browsing for $19.99/mo. I was paying $14.95/mo for my old 5MB data plan, and I use the Internet on my phone a lot to read news and email.
This new phone has a 2MP camera on it, takes my old microSD memory card from my SLVR, plays the music (without the stupid 100 song limit or the iTunes database requirement) I have, has a nice Java Email client that alerts me for Hotmail or Yahoo email, takes video, and has stereo bluetooth (for the music baby!). I haven't bought a stero bluetooth headset, but eventually I may.
The barbecue was a lot of fun. I cooked ribs, kielbasa and Nathan's skinless franks. A friend brought potato salad and another brough vindalu(sp? - help me out here Matt). Of course, I ran out of propane as soon as I dropped the ribs onto the warmed grill and had to make a mad run to the store, but everything else worked out fine. There was adequate beer and drinks to go around, and plenty of chatter. The deck held and didn't fall, and nobody jumped to their doom; all signs of a good bbq.
As for Shrek the Third, it was funny enough, although the novelty of the characters has kind of worn off for me. While I'm glad we went to see it, it wasn't necessarily a must-see on the big screen.

May 12, 2007

Democrats - Listen Up!

It's quite possible that Frank Luntz had a very valid point on Bill Maher last night. The democratic party politicians have been spewing a lot of rage and hatred against what's going on in the White House and the last Congress. Perhaps they should stop for a minute and change their tone to what they plan to do to make America right. It is no longer necessary to tell us what liars and idiots are in the White House. The American public already knows, just look at the approval ratings and the overwhelming victory for democrats in 2006.
Here we are in 2007, and they're trying their hardest to come up with accountability for the military activity, and plot the eventual withdrawal from Iraq. But this concentrates on only half of the problem. Once we have our military back home, what are we going to do about the problems that the Republicans were trying to solve? I'm not saying the Republicans are necessarily right in how they're trying to solve problems. I'm not saying what the Democrats are doing at the moment is wrong. Seriously, though - I would like to know the next step in helping us stop terrorism. What foreign policy can we make that will work for us? We can't be complete isolationists, no matter how much I'd love to be (as a Libertarian). While I'd love to stay out of the business of the rest of the world, there's still an awful lot of America-hatred out there, and I'm interested in hearing from reasonable candidates as to what we can do right now to fix our image.
Leadership is telling people what you're going to do, not what the other guy is doing wrong. People are able to make up their own minds about the current administration. In fact, all people ever do is try to criticize the current regime. It's what peasants do best. If the Democrats really want to lead this country, they need to change their message to one of 'This is what we'll do', instead of 'This is what they're doing wrong'. With the current approval ratings, the time for this leadership message is NOW.

May 11, 2007

Swimming Progress

700 meters - 30 minutes. That's where I'm at as of today - 700 meters in a half hour - 14 full laps at 50 meters a lap. I've been swimming 4 or 5 days a week for about a month now, in an attempt to improve my health. I've been a pretty bad couch potato over the past few years, so I buckled down and joined the local gym/pool. So now I go to the pool and exercise. Today was one of those days when I didn't want to go, but I managed to pull myself into going anyway, and I'm thankful I did. It feels good after a good workout. I swim breaststroke, crawl, backstroke and sidestroke, at least 2 full laps of each, and I take a short breathing break every lap or half-lap depending on how I feel. I'm actually surprised that I am up to swimming a third of a mile (33 full laps is a full mile).
What is even more amazing is that I used to be deathly afraid of the water. When I was about 8 years old I slipped in a pool, and some friends who thought I was kidding around pushed me under again. After coming close enough to drowning for my tastes, I avoided pools like the plague. Thanks to my step-mother at the time, I was enrolled in a YMCA swimming class when I was 13 or 14. After being embarrassed into learning to swim (I was in a class with a bunch of toddlers, for crying out loud), I learned not to fear the water. I'm still a little afraid of the water, but I've at least learned to control my fear of drowning enough to dive for coins in the 12 foot pool at the local diving board, and enjoy swimming in the ocean.

May 09, 2007

Yes - I like the f/1.8 lens


Ok, my last post from the circus this year. I really like what this new lens did for my ability to shoot this event. On this particular shot, which is cropped about 50% from the original, I was able to shoot at f/1.8 at ISO 800 to minimize grain, and still get a fairly stable shot. Those of you who know me already might suspect me of Parkinson's, making this shot that much cooler. While the white tiger is still a little washed out from the spotlights, I was already underexposing this as much as my poor little Rebel would let me (2 full stops). Sometimes I want to rush out and buy a higher-end camera, but then I realize that I'm just some poor dumb Software Architect, not a professional photographer, and my wife would kill me before I could open the box if I spent $4K on a camera. I still lust after the f/1.4 and f/1.2 lenses - but they cost ohhhhh so much. My poor zoom lenses don't go under f/3.5, so there's no way I was going to get a better shot from this distance.
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I love this trick

 A parlor trick that I have seen done a few times is depicted in this photo - well, the end result, anyways. The host picks 4 big guys from the audience, and puts them each on a bar stool, positioned facing 90 degrees from the next one. Once they get them positioned, they have each guy lie back on the laps of the next, in a circle (square?). Then, one by one, the bar stools are removed. The effect is rather astounding to see in person, although I'm sure it makes perfect sense if you consider centers of gravity, blah, blah, blah. At the circus, there's a pre-show on the arena floor, and a few of the clowns pulled this stunt for the audience, or rather, pulled some audience members for this stunt. Once they got in this position, the clowns walked off....(grin). Click on the photo for a larger version.
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I Love the Circus

Testing a post from Picassa to a blog. This is a picture of the elephants from the Ringling Bros. circus we went to a few weeks ago. I love going to the Circus for the clowns and the animals. We had a great time, and the bonus is that it's a good learning experience for my camera skills. I have a Canon Rebel (old style) and recently bought an f/1.8 50mm lens for it that I took with me on this trip. With the spotlights on the action, you have to underexpose from the metered settings due to the darkened theater. I was pretty happy with this shot of the elephants, but shots of white horses and the white tigers were still blown out even with the 2 stop underexposure. Click on the image for a larger version. The post worked direct from Picassa, which may mean that I post more images to the blog in the future.
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ABC News Silences Posters

As of yesterday, I can no longer view comments on stories at ABC News. I had joined members of the Digg community yesterday in commenting on an ABC News story about Ron Paul. In order to do this, I created a user ID on the ABCNEWS.COM website.
Today I went to read the news on ABC's web site, and wanted to comment on another article that I thought was interesting. When I added my comments and tried to post, I was asked to log in to the ABC News site, so I did. The news article re-appeared, but now without any comments section at all. Not only can I not post comments on ABC News, but I can not read comments on ABC News stories while I am logged in. As soon as I log out of the web site, I am able to read posted comments.

ABC has effectively silenced me as a contributer to their discussions for my actions on the Ron Paul story that I posted about yesterday. They are not willing to participate in actual discussion when that discussion is not the message they are trying to push. This is beyond childish. I will never use ABC News as a source of news again, and I hope that you join me. If not, at least you are forewarned that their public 'commentary' is highly edited to ensure their point of view is held above public opinion.

May 08, 2007

Why 2008 Elections May Really Change Things

I posted the following comment on an ABC news article about Ron Paul. Over at Digg, there was some discussion that ABC News was deleting posts that criticized ABC. Please read, discuss, share....

You see, the Intenernet is the medium of the people. For the longest time now, America has had to stand idly by and watch the opinions of newspaper, radio and television editors tell them what they think. From expose to publishing the American 'opinion-of-the-day', the voice of the authors were heard above the chatty din of pub talk and dinner table discussion. Politicians paid attention to the media because it was in their face. Now, the American people have found a new way to express their freedom of speech. It is the Internet that has given their voices the volume that they need to ensure they are heard. When MSNBC decided to ignore the actual poll results and post their own conclusions, we stood up and yelled 'Foul!' loud enough for you to hear us. By backing our opinion, and publishing this article, you have wielded a double-edge sword. You must decide that you will either add volume to our opinion or shut us off completely.

The real story about the 2008 elections is not which candidate will win, but that the candidate that wins may do so in spite of the best interests of the rich and powerful, and that America will stand up and demand some real change in this country despite the lies and deceit attempted by editors and publishers who have long thought they could control the masses. There is revolt brewing. The revolt will not be fought with guns and knives. No, the revolt will be fought with the weapon that the U.S. military complex itself invented to be able to withstand attack from conventional weaponry. The revolt will be fought with the Internet. And the armaments being loaded will be an armament that fought the revolution of 1776 against a tyrannical government. It will be fought with the voice of public opinion, unedited, and with the driving force of an uncontrollable mob that is the American populace.

May 02, 2007

Cue the Debate

Well, here is an article debating the $2000 cleanup bill from dropping mercury at home. In the end, it's still a dangerous chemical, but nothing to get too worked up about if you clean it up properly. However, I'm still hoping for a better answer. I can't wait till LED lighting advances enough to replace CFLs.