Requisite Halloween Post

In between working at work and working at home, J-- and I took a couple hours to lead a few more kids down the path to juvenile diabetes Sugar High City by passing out candy to the trick-or-treating kids.

Chelsea has, like many towns, a designated trick-or-treating time for the kids to minimize the amount of traffic in town at night. As with last year's event, this year was from 4-6pm.

This has a couple downstream effects. The first is all your neighbors are home for the festivities. Everyone comes home early from work, camps out in front of their houses and chucks obscene amounts of sugared treats at teenagers and toddlers alike. We met around-the-corner neighbors tonight... we've been here for 16 months.

The second effect is that all the country kids pile into trucks, conversion vans, mini-vans, and all manner of soccer-mom modes of transport and descend on the city like locusts on Egypt. The actual amount of kids that live in the city and who wind up at your door is pretty small. But when your clientele is a steady stream of little guys and girls like this...

... you cough up the snacks to all comers.

We went through 11 giant-sized bags of candy in 90 minutes. We were inside calling for pizza by 5:30. And the best part? All those kids went home with someone else.

Things That Are Bad To Do To Your Computer

In no particular order

  • Allow cats to rub against the main air vents, causing a sickly build-up of hair, dander, and catiness.
  • After allowing cats to deposit general catiness, fail to clean inside of computer for 8 weeks...
  • ...then crank up the resolution on your favorite graphics-intensive application (video editing is best; games work in a pinch); Play "Count the Crashes" while attempting to figure out why computer crashes.
  • Through dog toy under desk, when the only path from dog's current position to said dog toy is through a 6-inch opening made by your office chair and computer tower.
    • Bonus points if dog is wider than 6-inches; guess what happens to a computer tower?
  • Disconnect your computer from a VPN with multiple application-created connections to that VPN.
  • Eat Cottage Inn, thin crust pizza over beloved keyboard.
  • Remove portable hard drive from protective case with a) bare hands, b) ungrounded, c) on a cold, fall day, d) over carpet.

Your Tax Dollars At Work

Polling is a pretty well-developed industry. The Usual Suspects may provide an incomplete data set, but they’re by and large an earnest bunch, who give recovery matters a lot of thought, and their responses as individuals count as much as anyone else’s. So what was made of their sacrifice of three hours of a beautiful Saturday morning? Not much, as far as I could tell. I’m not sure how the questions were crafted - I’m sure UNOP told the AmericaSpeaks people what they wanted to ask, but my impression of how AmericaSpeaks conducted the polling suggested that they were more involved than mere readers and tabulators, and anyway, I’d expect an organization that purports to specialize in citizen-led contribution to decision-making to have some expertise how best to craft that opportunity to contribute.

Read the rest to see the spectacular use of $3 million dollars.

More to come on America Speaks, I'm sure; nothing like being cloak-and-dagger with your funding ($2.3 of their $3 million came from as-yet unnamed private sources.)

Becky Houtman » The Ballroom Speaks

New Site Content - Google Reader Shared Items

For those on RSS readers, you may have missed the new element on the front page. I've added the shared items feed from Google Reader to the sidebar on the site. It will show the last 5 items that I've shared from my news feeds.

You can view the page here, as well; there's also an RSS feed at that page (or just grab it here) if you want to subscribe to that.

The page will be whatever I share; could be tech, could be weirdness, might be a cartoon or three.

By the way, if you haven't already, go get Firefox 2. I have one hyphenated and one whole word for you: built-in spellcheck. Awesome.

Rush Limbaugh is an Ass

Not that that's news, but usually I chalk Rush up with most of the idiots on Democratic Underground; you can't seriously believe 1/1,000,000th of the seething hatred that pours off their lips or keyboards.

But Rush has crossed a line that few will cross in pursuit of their politics. He has labeled a disabled person a liar, accusing that disabled person of pretending that their condition was worse than it is. It didn't help that that person was Michael J. Fox.

For those that don't know, Fox has Parkinson's disease and it has progressed a long way in the past couple of years. Fox takes medication, as do millions of people who suffer from Parkinson's, to control the more visible symptoms of the disease, including the tremors we all see.

Fox has made some political ads in support of stem cell research (and no, we won't be exploring that topic here). Limbaugh is opposed to this research. In his criticism of Fox's ads, Limbaugh said:
"He is exaggerating the effects of the disease," [...] "He's moving all around and shaking and it's purely an act. . . . This is really shameless of Michael J. Fox. Either he didn't take his medication or he's acting."

Shameless; what an interesting word Limbaugh used. What's the logic here? Parkinson's isn't bad enough on its own that Limbaugh thinks someone with the disease has to exaggerate the symptoms? And the implication that Fox would stop taking medication for a commercial is ludicrous. Medications for diseases such as Parkinson's aren't optional; if you stop taking them, there are real and potentially long-lasting consequences.

Of course, the most damning criticism of Limbaugh comes from a, you know, actual medical professional.
"Anyone who knows the disease well would regard his movement as classic severe Parkinson's disease," said Elaine Richman, a neuroscientist in Baltimore who co-wrote "Parkinson's Disease and the Family." "Any other interpretation is misinformed."

Limbaugh has, of course, retracted his statements and apologized, but the trick worked; hell, I'm writing about it. Still, there's only one person who's shameless in this exchange. Unsurprisingly, it's Rush Limbaugh.

Space Shot as seen from the ISS

Holy. Frakking. Cool.
(click for larger)


[via warrenelliscom ]

WoW Burning Crusade Delayed until January 2007

The latest bump in my online drug will be delayed until January 2007 as Blizzard announced that the World of Warcraft expansion won't be coming out this year after all.

Maybe I'll have two level 60 toons to work with when the expansion comes out (as opposed to my single level 60 character, now).

Actually, my playing has tailed off lately; level 60 hasn't been as fun as I'd hoped and, frankly, I can't stand grinding yet another toon through the depressing landscapes of the higher-level zones. Why is everything above level 50 burned, broken, cursed, diseased, or undead? I don't want rainbows and kittens but a little green and blue now and then wouldn't kill the experience.

By the way, anyone on Medivh who has a guild that's recruiting, I'm looking for a guild that can take a casual player (one to three nights a week) and can run high-ish end instances. Having more than 3 guildies above level 20 on per evening would be a huge bonus.


Chelsea Loses One Of Its Own In Iraq

Lance Cpl. Clifford R. Collinsworth, of Chelsea, was killed Saturday in the Anbar province, Iraq. Lance Cpl. Collinsworth was 20 years old.

All our best wishes to his family and friends here in Chelsea. This is a close-knit community and his loss will be felt by many people here.


Monty Python star has cancer

Terry Jones has bowel cancer. His doctors believe they've caught it early, though, so things may not be as bad as they could.

This is the second Python so far with cancer; Graham Chapman died in 1989 from throat cancer.

Jones has always, to me, been the Python who quietly drove the troupe with his ideas, despite never catapulting to stardom as John Cleese and Michael Palin have. His commentaries on the Python experience (and outside of the Pythons) are always insightful.

Best wishes and a speedy recovery to Terry.



Schooled by a rookie pitcher and a lot of unnecessary errors.

Bring on Kenny Rogers. Bring on Game 2.

STL 5 - DET 1

Verlander is out (finally), but the Tigers, I fear, have lost this game.

Go Tigers!

22 years and the Series is back is Motown. Bless you boys.

The Shame of The Nation

Magna Carta required the king to renounce certain rights, respect certain legal procedures and accept that the will of the king could be bound by law. Link

Oh how far we have fallen. Tuesday will be remembered as one of the saddest days in the legislative life of this country. Tuesday, by law, the President (a single, elected official) has the ability to indefinitely detain, incarcerate and torture anyone. Anyone. All this frothing about how it's only aliens is a cover to the real, central issue. Today, representatives of your rights allowed your right to be taken away. Watch Olbermann for the scenario where you're the one who gets picked up as an "unlawful combatant".
It is immoral, it is reprehensible, and it is a travesty to the memory of hundreds of thousands of fallen men and women who laid down their lives so this generation, the generation currently buckling to the war-mongering power grabs of a corrupt government, can claim to live in safety.

This country should be more than ashamed. This country should be more than guilt-stricken. This country should be in mourning. Mourning the passing of ideals. Mourning the passing of the American dream. Mourning the death of Freedom.
We have, I fear, confused power with greatness.
Stewart L. Udall

Indeed, we have lost the ability to evaluate our own minds, or hold thoughts that go beyond our small sphere of effect. Most Americans will not feel the impact of this law, either for good or bad. But the American people have allowed a precedent to be set. We have allowed our government to strip our freedoms without so much as a march or a thought of opposition. We yawned in the face of a President granting himself almost dictatorial powers. Those who stood up for the ideals were labeled as lovers of terrorism or, worse and most ironically, traitors.
I say this with all sincerity. I would rather a dozen terrorists go free than one person be held in my name and be tortured by mistake.

We have one tool left to fight this despicable turn of events: we can still vote. Despite faulty machines, an overwhelming voice cannot be tampered with. We can't vote out the President, but we can vote out anyone who supported him in this bid to wipe out the basic freedoms all Americans enjoyed, up until yesterday.

Michiganders, Pete Hoekstra supports this policy. Vernon Ehlers, David Camp, Fred Upton, John Schwarz, Michael Rogers, Joseph Knollenberg, Candice Miller, and Thaddeus McCotter all support this policy. Debby Stabenow, a Democrat, supports this policy. Every one of them deserves to be voted out of office.

Countrymen, find your representative on either the House or Senate voting records. If they voted Aye, vote them out. This is not how America thinks. This is not how America acts. Have we learned nothing from the past? Are we so blind that party loyalty is all we see? If you are religious, is this how your god wants you to treat your fellow man, as a punching bag? No level of safety is worth compromising our conscience. No enemy is so dangerous that we have to wound ourselves in their pursuit. If we, as a country, believe that the ends justify the means then the "war on terror" is already lost.

Situations Under Which You Automatically Lose

  • 180 pound man, 3 ton truck.
  • You begin a sentence with "In Azeroth/$MAJOR_CITY/Europe..."
  • You end a sentence with "..., trust me."
  • Invoking religion as an argument for or against anything.
  • ...or abortion...
  • ...or hunting...
  • ...or pie. (Don't ask)
  • Using "Don't ask" as an out for a meaningless joke.
  • Any web-like term comes up in casual conversation and you get a silly grin on your face.
    • "I heard IE7 supports something called Are-Ess-Ess??" *stupid grin*
  • Pointing out the disproportionate treatment of a sibling in order to gain a favorable outcome with a parent.
    • e.g. "You never did that for $SIBLING!" "Well, I'm doing it for you!"

Feel free to pile on.

Screw Your Family Values!

Why? Because I'm now classed as a "nonfamily household". According to the last US Census, "...for the first time, a new survey has shown that traditional marriage has ceased to be the preferred living arrangement in the majority of US households."

By the numbers this means that 50.2% of households weren't comprised of traditionally married couples but instead were made up of selfish single men and women and heathens such as myself and J--, unmarried cohabitants, and homosexual couples. But the really fun stat is this:
By comparison, the number of traditional households with married couples at their core stood at slightly more than 55.2 million, or 49.8 percent of the total.

That's right, we out number you by 0.4%! And the really significant figure: this represents a drop in traditionally married households from 52% in six years.

Reading towards the bottom of the article, though, reveals some of the philosophical takes on this data. Take the conclusions drawn by Stephanie Coontz, head of the Council on Contemporary Families:
"The growing length of time partners spend with only each other for company, in some instances, has made individuals less willing to put up with an unhappy marriage, while women's economic independence makes it less essential for them to do so,"

Did she just imply that longer life expectancy and the financial independence of women are bad because it impacts contemporary families?

Endger's Game, Anyone?

For anyone who's read Ender's Game, this commercial for Nerf's new sniper rifle will send an extra chill down your spine.

And I so want one.

[via Penny Arcade

Oughtta Be In Pictures

Who wouldn't buy a bag of dog food with that face on the bag?

Purina, Alpo, Science Diet, shoot me an email!


Everyone talked about it already but honestly, is this really anything to get worked up about? Are we not Michiganians/Michiganders? I didn't even have to brush the Jeep off.

Oh, right, October. Way too early.

I'll Take Two - Multi-Point Touch-Screen Input

Jeff Han is a research scientist for New York University's Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences . Here, he demonstrates-for the first time publicly-his intuitive, "interface-free," touch-driven computer screen , which can be manipulated intuitively with the fingertips, and responds to varying levels of pressure. (Recorded February 2006 in Monterey, CA. Duration: 09:32)

Link (requires Flash)

Guess Who's Back, Back Again

Shady's back, tell a friend!

Kidding. And don't ever call me slim anything.. someone's bound to die laughing.

I am back in town, pets are alive (Grandma was happy to spend time with her grand-dogs and grand-cats). This trip was for pleasure. I have a feeling many more trips to come will not; hopefully more on that in the future (job stuff).

I hear the Tigers made the World Series. Friends, family, I have to ask you... are you right with God? Because if they win, it's likely that fire, brimstone, and a seven-headed dragon will lay waste to the planet. Or San Fran will fall off the edge of the coast. Or snow will fall in Houston.. I can't remember how it ends, just make sure that, should the Tigers win 3 games you pray extra hard the night before Game 4.

That said... Go Tigers!

Ah yes, there's the snow

As many people have shown, it snowed here for the first time. While I'm not thrilled, snow really doesn't bother me that much. I like the cold and I like the quiet that winter brings as everyone hides inside. I don't ski or anything, so I've always found winter to be a slower season.

That said, I'm really not looking forward to driving up North tonight. Every moron from here to Charlevoix will be freaking out at the first freezing temps and snowflakes. Yeah winter.

Best Use of $40K This Week

Ottawa County, Michigan will have to spend $40 to reprint 170,000 ballots for the upcoming election. Why?

The "L" was left out of "public."

As a former resident and voter in Ottawa County, HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!! 


M-14 to Continue to Suck Through Thanksgiving

Many road projects are finishing up around the state, except one. M-14 will continue to be under construction until early December.
The $38 million project is about three weeks behind schedule and won't end until early December...

As the Detroit News headline says; "Yay!"Link

AllofMP3 Must Shut Down before Russia allowed in WTO

This is the pressing issue that is keeping Russia out the WTO? A music retailer?

Russia, a country where oil, natural gas, metals, and timber account for nearly 80% of its exports, a country with 74 million laborers, a country that has existed in some form since the 12th century, is being held up from joining the rest of world's super economic powers (of which it already is one) over music.

The sad fact is, Russia needs to join the WTO in order to gain some help with their myriad of other problems; a failing banking system, a dying manufacturing industry, and a business environment so corrupt, American reality looks almost as good as the American ideal.

So, what better time to hang the damn Ruskie's over a barrel, right? I can't imagine the amount of money being spent by the music industry to have US diplomats threaten a foreign government's formal acceptance into a group they belong to in all but name.

I have never used AllOfMP3, not out of some sense of idealism, but more because I don't quite trust the idea of coughing up my credit card number to a business that, it appears, will eventually be raided for information. I do wish I could support them somehow over this strong-arm crap being pulled at the WTO, though. There are far more important issues to worry about than music licensing.
BetaNews | US Official: AllofMP3 Must Shut Down

Something to think about

A tyrant must put on the appearance of uncommon devotion to religion. Subjects are less apprehensive of illegal treatment from a ruler whom they consider god-fearing and pious. On the other hand, they do less easily move against him, believing that he has the gods on his side.

[via Crooks & Liars]

New Rule

You must be this smart...


.. in order to use the self check-out lanes.

That is all.

How would a Technical Writer phrase "Idiotic Omission"?

In a former life, I was a technical writer. Scratch that, I was a damn good technical writer, the lack of appreciation from one Southeast Michigan-based employer not withstanding. I dreaded every minute spent writing a manual, help system, or technical spec. But I was damn good at doing it.

That said, it's not hard to be a technical writer. It is hard to be a good technical writer, however. So, to all you struggling tech writers, take this small piece of advice from a tech writer turned pseudo-developer/business process analyst: every blurb of documentation you put out should lead to a measurable outcome. Yes, you have to do the expository "this is why we built it this way" crap, but if I can't act on the information you put out, that information is worthless - documentative lint, if you will.

This post brought to you by two weeks of frustration caused by bad documentation. Frustration, I might add, that was cleared up by a 5 minutes phone call with a very accessible Subject Matter Expert.

Google Gadgets For Your Webpage

Interesting thing happened today, Google opened its gadgets for placement on any web page (it used to only work on their own properties). Why is this interesting? Because most of Google is open via their API.

As part of the wiki/blog at ThinkNOLA, this opens up a possibility for something that has generated a little discussion in the past, that of a community calendar. Now, with open gadgets and the Google API, ThinkNOLA could create and maintain a public Google calendar of events and publish the mini calendar on the site. Updates to the calendar automatically go on the mini-calendar, which could be placed anywhere. Thoughts?

Google Press release
Main Google Gadget page

Moments from someone else's childhood

I never watched Bob Ross, mostly because I never considered myself artistic as a kid. 

So, watching this fascinating clip of Bob Ross that someone posted to YouTube made me feel like I was watching clips from someone else's childhood. I was vaguely aware of Bob Ross and slightly more aware of this painting thing, but I never actually sat and watched this show.

Now, I sort of regret that. For all it's kitsch, there are so many redeeming qualities to Ross' work: it was approachable, it was simple, and it was completely for the audience. Ross never tried to make what he was doing anything more than it was. Even in this short clip, you can sense the pride in his voice as he teaches.

Compare this clip with any show on HGTV or your favorite DIY show. You don't find the simple pride in something done well there, all you get is "see how simple it is" as they hide the complex issues behind jump cuts.

Huh, I think I was just pining.

(Sorry for not posting the video directly; WordPress doesn't do embed)

YouTube: Bob Ross painting a mountain on fake wood

How did they kill the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park again?

I only ask because it might be important to know in the future. Seems that some paleontologists (that would be smart people who play in the dirt) found a friggen huge Tyrannosaurus rex thigh bone in Montana a couple months ago. Unfortunately, when they tried to stuff the bone in their chopper, it wouldn't fit. So, after spending what was likely weeks dusting off this bone to preserve it, they very scientifically broke it in two.

Luckily, this paid off as they found soft tissue in the middle of this bone. What kind?

This tissue, including blood vessels, bone cells, and perhaps even blood cells, was so well preserved that it was still stretchy and flexible.

If someone teaches Wayne Knight to use bash, we're in big trouble.

Link [via Digg]

What is that noisy IoT device on my network?

That's the first question that popped up when I installed AdGuard Home on my Raspberry Pi last night. Within minutes, hundreds of querie...