Sunday, November 25, 2012

Diets, websites, and football...

The diet hasn't fared well the past few days... fortunately, I haven't completely undone everything since starting about four months ago.  At least I have a few weeks before Christmas comes in to further derail things.  And I did eat a salad as my last "meal" Saturday (after too much breakfast full of things on the "avoid" list, chips and chili-cheese dip which I'm pretty sure are also on the "avoid" list, chili, and too many desserts).  All-in-all, it wasn't nearly as bad as in years past (then again, I wasn't dieting then, so technically was it worse?).  But the time with friends and family (including a visit with one of my wife's best friends from high school that we hadn't seen in 21 years) was well worth the diet breaking menus, I think.

On a different note, I finally got my wife's website/store up & running, to much fanfare and trumpeting. OK, to much fanfare. OK, we waved our hands around a little. In our minds. This has been a long process... it really shouldn't have been quite a difficult to get this up & running, but the "online store and shopping cart" software just isn't exactly straightforward when you start throwing sales taxes, reporting, and so forth in the mix. However, it's finally done, and hopefully it will be successful. If you are in the need for a bag or purse, for yourself or as a give, head over to Creations by Ninfa and see if there's something there that might fill your need. Don't see what you want? Keep checking back as new inventory is added. (Need something special? I'm not going to make any promises, but you can contact us through the store and we'll see what we can do; given that Christmas is coming, I'm not sure how much time we'll have for custom orders, and obviously the sooner the better.)

And lots of football over the past few days. Hooray for the Redskins win, and Alabama's Iron Bowl victory was nice (and almost painful to watch). In Alabama High School Athletic Association news, Spanish Fort has reached the semi-final round of the playoffs, playing at home ("on the hill") every game thus far.  (If you're interested in AHSAA football ratings, check out Talsimanred - his web site is awesome! He's no longer even in Alabama, per his FAQ, but maintains this super-informational site, which is GREAT for Alabama high school football, regardless of your school's region.) Spanish Fort hosts St. Paul's this Friday (this will be the last game "On the Hill" as the following week will be the championship game in Auburn) - if you're in the area, come on out and join us for what should be a FUN game! St. Paul's defeated Spanish Fort earlier in the season (Oct 5), the Toros only loss of the season (but due to St. Paul's losing to Vigor, another 5A school, as well as to Fairhope, a 6A school, Spanish Fort ended up the 5A Region 1 champs, thus getting the home-field advantage for the playoffs). Spanish Fort has also knocked off some 6A teams this year, including Daphne (in the inaugural Spanish Fort/Daphne meeting) and Fairhope. Anyway, it should be a fun game, a challenge for both teams, with the winner going to Auburn to play for the 5A State Championship. Fun!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Facebook? Can I have another (social network), please?

Something about "Sponsored Stories" on Facebook just irks me. It's advertising that shows up in my news feed. That is, when I'm trying to scroll through to keep up with friends & family, I have to see these "stories" (which take up more room than the usual stories) which look like ordinary posts, where someone explicitly shares something, but instead, it's some company's ad. Granted, an ad for a company that one of the people who show up in my news feed "likes," but it's not something that person actually intentionally shared with me - the company has paid Facebook to "place" this story in my newsfeed, as if my friend shared it. Yeah, that really irks me.

"But you can turn it off, right from the ad!" Facebook would say. True... but I have to do that individually for every ad that shows up, and only after it shows up. I can't preemptively say "don't show feeds from x." If they had an option for that ("turn off all sponsored stories"), then I'd have already checked it (and if I just haven't found it yet, and you know where it is, please let me know!). It's not as if they don't already have tons of ads in the non-scrolling region on the right hand side of the page (and I have even clicked on some of those from time to time!). But using my friends, and the "familiar" look, to promote companies, and trick me into viewing an ad? This is is getting quite irksome.

So, I'm seriously considering just ditching Facebook altogether. Granted, I'll lose some of the friends I have there (which I don't have elsewhere), and I'll miss things like the E. B. Erwin High School Marching Band group (where I found someone to send me some old band VCR video tapes, which I've converted to DVD and posted on YouTube - thanks, new friends!).

Looking at Google Plus - does anyone use that much? Any other alternatives to Facebook that may be "nearly" as good, but perhaps without the "forced advertising in the midst of your newsfeed that masquerades as stories from your friends"? Maybe I should start my own social network... would anyone be interested in a fresh alternative to Facebook?

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Technorati blog claim post!

If you're not Technorati (and I don't think this has anything to do with the Illuminati), you can skip this post if you wish. I'm just putting a claim token (FB593EGK6DE3) out there for Technorati to see and know that this is, in fact, my blog! That I am the owner of the blog, as much as I can be the owner (I guess it's really owned by Google?).

Anyway, dinner's ready shortly... just posting this for my blog claim!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Nothing much to say...

Saw Skyfall last night. I enjoyed the movie (unlike the initial Craig-as-Bond film, Casino Royale, and to a lesser unliking extent the follow-on Quantum of Solace). I guess I'm warming to Craig as Bond, although he still lacks the "suave" that characterizes Bond in my mind. Maybe he's getting better at the role. Or maybe the writing is getting better in the films involving Craig, perhaps catering to his abilities. (Interstingly, Craig is just 44 years old - makes me feel better about my near-41-year-old self! haha.)  I'd say more about the movie, but maybe you haven't seen it yet, so I'll let it go. Suffice it to say, I enjoyed it (and seeing the ol' DB5 back in action again was nice!), although my wife was less enthusiastic about it.

In other news, my 15-year-old is learning to drive, which is scary for most of us. We came to a conclusion the other day, though: driving is a lot like coloring. Stay within the lines and you'll be fine. What could be simpler? If you have little kids, teach them to color well, as it may one day save you some insurance. :)

In yet other news, I'm converting some old marching band VHS tapes to digital (DVD and YouTube). These were provided by a then-not-yet-friend through a Facebook group for our marching band. (Yes, we've since become "friends" on Facebook.) Unfortunately, she and her sister did not quite exactly overlap the time that my wife and I spent in the E. B. Erwin High School Marching Band, but some of the videos were available of my time in the band (she was a runner during my last season or two of marching band). With that, I offer these two videos, a "regular" show and our "special" (Halloween) halftime show (you may still enjoy the special show even if you don't normally like marching band shows):

And, with those out of the way, I'll bid you adieu.  There is another show I'd really like to get out here, with one of the coolest moves I've ever seen in a marching band, but unfortunately that's not in the collection I'm currently converting. Another band member says he has that show, and hopefully he'll send his collection of videos for conversion in the near future. Anyway, adieu! I mean, a topato!

Oh, wait, a PS: maybe I should go back and re-read all my old blog posts... found an interesting old strange dream post while searching for the topato link. PPS: if you haven't read it, check out A Brief History of Turquoise. And maybe the other stuff at Not-tional Geographic, my "other" blog (that I haven't written on since 2008 or so). And, finally, really, adieu!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Please don't misunderstand this post...

This is a little more serious than my usual posts, and may be a slightly long narrative; for that, I apologize.  The slightly long bit, I mean.  I am really interested in your response to the view that I am about to express, as this is a bit disconcerting to me at the moment.

Today, while mulling over a few things in my head, I think I've inadvertently come to a conclusion: America's political and judicial system is a crap shoot, a total farce.  No, this is not in response to the results of the presidential election; I came to this conclusion much earlier in the day yesterday, well before any polls had closed or any votes tallied.  Regardless of the outcome, this sentiment is the same.

Please, if you have something to day, let me know!  I don't know that a democracy, or a democratic republic (as is our government), is necessarily a "good" form of government.  (That being said, a monarch or a dictatorship isn't at all an improvement... I'm not sure there is any viable form of government, at least not with people involved.)

Here's why I've come to this conclusion.

Several years ago, I was privileged to be on a jury (if you consider that a privilege).  It was really an absurd, ridiculous case, a car accident where both parties claimed to have had the green light.  The plaintiff was suing the defendant for damages to his van, loss of supplies (paint cans in the van), and medical and time-off-job expenses.  His case?  He didn't recall the accident (memory loss from the accident), but he had his fellow employee in the passenger seat - who by his own admission in testimony was intoxicated and looking down when the accident happened.  The defendant was on his way to work and had, as a witness, an unrelated fellow employee who was behind him at the time of the accident and attested to the fact that they had the green light and the plaintiff had violated the red light.  (The plaintiff's girlfriend worked at the law firm that was representing him... I'm assuming he was getting his case tried for little or no charge because of that; otherwise, I can't believe he would have even taken it to court.)

During the trial, we had a lunch break.  One of the jurors, an older lady who seemed as sweet as she could be, almost caused a mistrial by being late coming back from the lunch break.  She got lost somewhere between the 1st and 3rd floor of the courthouse and couldn't find her way back into the courtroom.  (And, no, I'm not making this up.)  During the deliberation, which didn't take long, we were all in agreement to find for the defendant... all, except that one lady.  After a while, she eventually asked, "Where did it happen?"  When someone mentioned the intersection, she replied, "Oh, yeah, I've been there; sure, I agree."

That was justice?  Granted, it was the right decision (as far as the evidence would reveal), but really, "I've been there, I agree"?  Really sweet old lady, but she should not have been on a jury.  What if there had been someone's life at stake?  What if it would have been some major financial decision, with much less clarity?

Today, at the polling place, I overheard someone asking questions about the ballot, not realizing there was a second side, not understanding where things were located on the ballot, etc.  And, looking at the ballot myself, there was this fantastic wording:

Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, effective January 1, 2014, to amend Section 247 relating to the authority of the Legislature concerning banks and banking, to repeal various other provisions of Article XIII concerning banks and banking; and to repeal Amendment 154 to the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, now appearing as Section 255.01 of the Official Recompilation of the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, as amended, subject to the contingency that a new Article XII of the state constitution is adopted that repeals existing Section 232 of the state constitution, and subject to the contingency that Sections 10A-2-15.01 and 10A-2-15.02, Code of Alabama 1975, are repealed. (Proposed by Act No. 2012-276)

Um, yeah, what?  "to repeal various other provisions"... and some numbers related to amendments or sections, none of which were included on the ballot.  "Pick yes or no."  Crap shoot.

There were also several items that were statewide constitutional amendments but which were actually very local in effect (for instance, Pritchard Water being consumed into the Mobile Water and Sewer System - that was a statewide item, such that Huntsvillians in north Alabama have a say into whether or not the water system in Mobile takes over the Pritchard water works).  And another item that, as worded, made it seem one way, but (based on what I've learned about the item in question) actually it went the other way (regarding government employee salaries).

So, you have (among other things):

  1. People who are, quite frankly, not capable of making the decisions to be made.
  2. People who have no idea what's going on with the ballot.
  3. People who do have some idea of what's going on with the ballot, but have not done research on the topics.
  4. People who have done research, but are still not qualified for the decision being made.
I am not a CPA or accountant, nor do I have a background in finance or investments.  How qualified am I to make decisions about banking legislation?  And, on top of that, there's not even enough information on the ballot to make such a decision, if I even knew what they were talking about.

Yes, I know: do my research before voting. I get it, I do.  But the point is: how many people do that?  How many people are even capable of doing that for all the items on the ballot?  And what does it matter, for instance, if it's a person on the other side of the state voting for my water works?  (No, I don't live in Pritchard or Mobile, that was a semi-hypothetical scenario.)

Crap shoot.  And it's the same with the judicial system; who knows who you're going to get on your jury?  Maybe some sweet little old lady who'll say, "Where did it happen? Oh, I've been there, I agree!"

Voting - a right, a privilege, but should there be some additional requirements to vote?  Some qualifications, both in terms of ability and in terms of having done the research?  Similarly, should jurors be evaluated (besides just the series of questions they ask during the jury selection)?

I'm just no longer sure that a truly democratic process (even a democratic republic, like we have) is a "good" form of government.  As previously mentioned, a monarchy or a dictatorship (even a benevolent one) isn't necessarily any better, as you have the same inherent problems in the lineage, whether the follow-on rulers are qualified to rule.

Maybe I'm wrong. Hopefully I'm wrong.  Please, please... show me how I'm wrong.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

A Day In the Life (of a Wild Rice Hunter)

I was eating lunch today at Baumhaur's Wings (not really on my list of diet-friendly places, but I had some grilled chiken skewers), and part of my not-quite-diet-friendly (but about as close as I could get on their menu) was wild rice.  That got me thinking, as I started talking to the kids about wild rice, and the difficulties in harvesting the little critters.

Wild rice... much tougher to collect than your ordinary farm-raised rice.  Too small for a net (they'll slip through the holes in the net, although some like to go after them with the fish nets you use to pull the fish that forget their sense of "up" from your tank), and obviously too small for a typical bow, they are frequently hunted with a toothpick bow.  That's quite time consuming, however... in fact, my little plate of rice probably took a LONG time to hunt with a toothpick bow.  In fact, it's becoming harder and harder for the average wild-rice hunter to have a sustainable business (compared to those who raise domesticated, farm-raised rice).  It's one thing for the wild-rice hunter to hunt enough wild rice to feed his family, but quite another for a wild-rice hunter to hunt enough wild rice to turn a profit.

And what of government subsidies?  Where is the help and assistance for the American wild rice hunting industry?  This is a topic that you don't hear about in the media or from any political candidates.  Why not?  Too sensitive?  Chinese rice farmers are flooding the US with "fake" wild rice; rice that is supposedly wild rice, but was, in actuality, farm-raised, often fed with artificial rice food, fattened up and unexercised and unhealthy (vs. the leaner wild rice), and sometimes painted or packaged with a tiny little bit of wild rice to give it that "wild rice look" when, in fact, it's farm-raised rice.  American wild-rice hunters can't compete with the low cost, imported, fake wild rice that is flooding the US restaurant industry these days.  (FYI, consumers have a legal right to know; if you're thinking of ordering "wild rice" from your favorite restaurant, be sure to ask the origin of the "wild" rice - if it's of Chinese origin, and not American, you may consider letting the restaurant know that your dollars have "United States of America" on them and should go to support Americans, not Chinese, and that you desire that they reconsider their wild rice supply - sure it may cost a little more on the menu, but you'll be guaranteed to be eating true wild rice and supporting the American wild-rice hunting industry.)

So, what does the life of a wild-rice hunter look like?  Rough.  Anymore, wild-rice hunters have very little time with their families, instead spending most of their lives doing the hunting in order to eke out whatever meager living they can.  Up at 4 am, out on the trail, tracking down as many of the elusive wild rice as they can find and bag (and note: wild rice hunting is quite the fine art; have you ever tried shooting a wild rye with a toothpick bow?), hunting from before sunrise to well after sunset, breaking very little for a snack once or twice throughout the day, and getting back in bed around 5 am, meaning they're already an hour late on the next day's hunting.  Poor guys!

You can make a difference.  Do your research, and do your part: come Tuesday, GO VOTE!  Yes, you're only one in a million (well, one in over 314 million, actually - although not all of those 314 million are of voting age or, even so, are registered voters), but what if the "score" was "half" to "half minus one"?  Your vote would certainly be of importance then, wouldn't it?  Do your part - VOTE!

Yes, this is obviously facetious... but, it's important that you fulfill your responsibility and take advantage of your right and privilege as a US Citizen to vote for the candidate(s) that support your views and desires for our nation.