Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Good news?

While at lunch I caught a short story which said that US Air was dropping its bid to effect a hostile takeover of Delta.  From Delta's perspective (according to my brother-in-law) this deal wouldn't have been good, and would have probably meant a major restructuring, perhaps even including the elimination of the Cincinnati hub.  Therefore this qualifies as good news, and hopefully Delta will emerge from bankruptcy independent and eventually start moving forward.

~Matt

--
"A room without books is as a body without a soul." -Cicero

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Eventful, eh?

This is my car, or rather the current condition of the rear end of my vehicle. The vehicle is over ten years old (it is a 1994 Ford Aerostar that my parents purchased at the very end of the model year) yet not in terrible shape.

Earlier this winter (during the first snow, which I'd forgotten about because it has been so mild since) I did have to replace the starter, but that is about all I've had to do since I purchased the van from my parents.

Last March I was involved in a minor accident, but no structural damage occurred and everything went on as normal. Yesterday was a different story. If you happen to live in northern Kentucky or the Cincinnati area then you'll probably recognize what I'm about to describe--or perhaps you know of something similar where you live. The exit ramp from Hell! No, I'm not exaggerating, this belongs along the route to Sheol.

Both I-75 and I-71 (I almost typed the 75 and the 71 before I remembered that I'm not in California, ;-)) run north/south (odd numbers) through Cincinnati. They actually split right north of the river to take divergent courses through the city, after joining together some twenty or thirty miles south of the river. I-275 is an interstate route that roughly runs around the city.

The exit I use to get to bigg's is the Erlanger exit off I-75/71. Unfortunately as you exit to your right two lanes join this off-ramp area to the further right. One is a straight on-ramp, the other is a merging lane from I-275. Now to actually exit the freeway you need to merge right at least one lane, but preferably two. Most of the traffic coming in from the far right (and always going a good clip) wants to merge to the far left, rather than exiting the freeway. This is bad enough when traffic is light and the lanes essentially need to switch from right to left and left to right. Now mix it up some.

Add in heavy rush hour traffic coming into the exit ramp area from the right and add in a setting sun that has been hitting you in the eyes (despite your lowered sun shield) for the past ten minutes. All of this together is a recipe for disaster.

I was trying to move over to the right so that I could exit and get to bigg's when I realized I wouldn't make it over. Since the car ahead of me was also having difficulties moving the driver had had to come to a stop. I also had to stop behind him, a bit quickly, but still safely. Unfortunately the car behind me did not have such good fortune. He did hit his brakes, but too late to avoid slamming into my bumper.

The impact was at a low speed, and I wasn't physically injured, but he did damage my bumper as you can see above. His car was damaged slightly, but nothing like what happened to my bumper. I'm not sure yet what his insurance will cover--I'm waiting to find out. I need to get the police report sometime near the end of the week (if I have time to go to the police station). Thankfully it isn't structural damage and I could survive without fixing it (I don't have collision insurance for my vehicle because of its age), it just wouldn't look pretty. Unfortunately my trailer hitch (which I haven't used yet--but I have hopes of using if the van holds out for years yet) was jarred out of place. I'm not sure if it is currently safe and/or usable. :(

On a more positive note I have my security badge for work. The Kentucky plant just issued me a contractor's badge--but the Ohio facility is larger and has actual security personnel (or at least one). They insisted on giving me an actual badge. Unfortunately I forgot to comb my hair before the picture, and my glasses were dark. I have Transitions lenses that turn dark in the sun, but before my long walk to the guard shack today I haven't spent enough time outside in the sun for them to go dark in many, many weeks.

~Matt

Islam in the West

I've recently been reading the blog of an ex-Muslim who goes by the nom de guerre Isaac Schrödinger.  He is always quite interesting to read, especially when he talks about Islam from the perspective of one who was inside until recently.  He definitely knows what he is talking about, unlike those in Washington who are pandering to CAIR and Saudi Arabia.

Recently I asked him a question where I related moderate non-America-hating Muslims with liberal Christianity.  You can read his explanation here at his blog (main link is above at his name).  But here is the best line:

So, in effect, we have many Muslims who don't follow Islam to the fullest (and thank God! for that).

~Matt

--
"A room without books is as a body without a soul." -Cicero

It's a long walk

>From the entrance back to the maintenance building. The facility where I normally work, in Florence, is housed in one large building to which additions have been made as the plant expands. Here the philosophy was apparently to make many small buildings. Perhaps in the spring and autumn this makes for nice walks outside as you go about your business. In the winter though it isn't so fun.


On a more positive note, though I did have to wake up early this morning I didn't hit much traffic coming north. As a consequence I arrived a bit more than thirty minutes ahead of schedule. I think that this might become my new starting time up here (07:00 instead of 07:30). I will have to get up and leave earlier, but I'm afraid that if I try to leave later I'll hit traffic and be even later instead of closer to being on time. This will mean that I leave thirty minutes earlier than I'm used to, and I suppose that is a good trade off for loosing a bit of sleep. I might be able to avoid evening rush hour (or at least the worst of it) and still have time to do some thing before heading into bigg's.


Anyway, I think that thing will work out while I'm up here. Hopefully I'll be able to keep busy and be helpful doing something useful.


~Matt



--
"A room without books is as a body without a soul." -Cicero

Monday, January 29, 2007

1453

Earlier I entered item 1453, which of course led me to remember the Byzantine Empire. It was in that year that the last remnant of the Roman Empire finally fell to Muslim invaders as they conquered Constantinople. Even though they renamed the city Istanbul it was known as Constantinople for centuries afterwards throughout many parts of the West.



Of interest is the fact that the name Byzantine was never used to describe the empire by its citizens. They were Romans (even if in later years they spoke Greek instead of Latin) and theirs was the Roman Empire dating back to Julius Caesar, and further back to the formation of the Roman Republic Check out this podcast series if you want to learn more about the Byzantines. I highly recomend this fascinating selection of programs (which are still being produced--so keep checking back for more). The series is up to Basil II, but in 13 episodes still has not covered more than nine of the promised twelve rulers! :-) I'm enjoying that rate of progress as it means more shows to listen to!



~Matt





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Sunday, January 28, 2007

Preparations

Well today I made sure that my shifting employment won't cause too many disruptions. Unfortunately I cannot do anything about the fact that as long as I'm heading up into Cincinnati in the mornings I won't be able to drop by the library on the way home or do some shopping. However, I did make sure that I should have plenty of food that I can heat up. I won't have to cook anything this week for dinner unless I have the time to do it. Otherwise I'll just heat up some of the food that I either made today or pulled out of the freezer from previous meals.

~Matt

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Will you marry me?

Today we had something unusual happen at the museum.  A guy arranged to come in around 16:30 and have access to the reproduction of a first class cabin.  We had a volunteer standing there who moved the stanchions away and made sure other people didn't come in.  The guy came in with his girlfriend and they walked into the area.  Then he proposed to her.

I wasn't there to actually see it, but we'd all heard that it was going to happen.  Thankfully she said yes.  Of course Laura (the weekend supervisor) told about the time she was at a game and a guy proposed to his girlfriend via the JumboTron.  Everybody knew who he was because she stood up, slapped him, and stormed out.  That must have been hard to live down--but not as bad as the guy who is apparently planning to propose via a Super Bowl commercial.  It would be incredibly embarrassing if she says no.

~Matt

PS I guess I'll post the answer to Balderdash tomorrow.  I was hoping for more guesses, :(.
--
"A room without books is as a body without a soul." -Cicero

Friday, January 26, 2007

Shifting

Starting sometime next week I'm going to be working at another factory.  'Tis the same company, and will be pretty much the same work, I'll just be helping them get the other Cincinnati facility functional (ore more functional).  The only problem is that this location is in Cincinnati, so I'll have to drive north on I-75 in the morning.  Right now I drive opposite the flow of traffic, so I don't have many hold ups.  It takes me around 15 minutes (or less) to get to work.  Going the other direction is only a little bit farther, but will probably take me thirty to forty minutes.  :(

~Matt

--
"A room without books is as a body without a soul." -Cicero

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Forget California

Sure, I've known that California didn't have the highest real estate prices in the world, but that was just objective knowledge. Something like this really brings it home!





An apartment the size of a snooker table has gone on sale in London's up-market district of Belgravia.


The converted basement storeroom has not been used in 15 years, and
real estate agents estimate it will take $75,000 to renovate.



Despite its tiny size, it is still expected to fetch 170,000 pounds - more than $425,000.

Just to bring those not in the Commonwealth up to speed, according to Wikipedia a "snooker table" is "11ft 8.5in by 5ft 10in." Wow, I cannot imagine how this price possibly makes any sense. You couldn't have any kitchen or bathroom in the place or you'd have no space to live. It would be like living in a closet!



~Matt



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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Balderdash

Tonight I played Balderdash with two of my nephews. Yes, I did end up winning through some lucky guesses--but a couple too many times I ended up guessing one of my nephew's definitions.

Here are the definitions for one of the rounds. Without resorting to a dictionary, can you guess the correct definition? I'll wait for a few guesses before I post an answer. If you read this blog, please post your guess below. Thanks!

Feep (feep)
-A small rodent in Southern Africa.
-Flemish slang for homosexual.
-Sound of a bell on a computer display terminal which "feeps" or beeps.
-The heir to a feudal lord.

~Matt

Hobbit House

This house is awesome! (I found the link as a "link of the day" on the site of the webcomic Spiky-Haired Dragon, Worthless Knight (a good site in its own right).







Disclaimer: The site is a bit left of center and I don't advocate everything the house builders do. I just think this is an awesome building. It is a bit small, but I'd love to have something like this (of course I would want to ruin their idea with electronics and such, but I at least really love the plans).



Check the site out. There are a few more pictures (but not nearly enough) and a couple of floor plan images that give you a better idea how the place is laid out. Yes, it is small, but it just looks so awesome. The two coolest houses I can imagine would be a tree house (a la Swiss Family Robinson's dwelling, especially as formerly seen at Disneyland) or a Hobbit house, but this place would do. :-)



~Matt





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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

More Muslim Nonesense

This is reminiscent of the contrived nature of the Flying Imams nonsense. A Muslim woman just graduated as a police officer in the UK, but she "refus[ed] to shake hands with Britain's most senior police chief for religious reasons."
The woman had earlier insisted that it was contrary to her religious teaching for her to touch a man.
I got this story from Clayton Cramer's blog. As he and others have pointed out, how on earth can she arrest anybody?
I believe [Clayton writes], from reading Azar Nafisi's Reading Lolita in Tehran, a memoir of teaching literature while wearing a veil, that Muslim women are only allowed to touch father, brother, and husband. It sounds like this police officer is going to have a rather limited set of potential offenders that she can handcuff!
Thankfully she, and all other new officers automatically serve a two year probation where their fitness to serve is evaluated. If she insists on holding to this ridiculous (I only use that word because she wants to be a cop--she could hold that stance in private life, but for a cop it is stupid) stance then she deserves to be fired. I only hope that officials have the courage to fire her and withstand the charges of "racism."

This isn't the only similar story coming out of the UK. Look at this story about a Muslim woman refusing to sell cigarettes. This story came from Isaac Schrödinger's blog. He is an ex-Muslim and has a great perspective on the Islamic world, having been deep inside it until fairly recently.

~Matt

Memory Lane

For some reason I just did a Google search on my name. The first results are my Amazon.com and .co.uk accounts. No surprises there. But a bit further down the page I came across some interesting stuff. Here is a post written by John after our trip to campaign in Las Vegas back in 2002.

I hadn't thought about this trip in a while. It was a good trip down memory lane. I'll quote a couple excerpts here, but you really should read the whole thing to get the full experience. John spins a good tale!

Well, it started a few weeks ago when I found out that the Republican Party was hosting a new campaigning "Program" in Nevada- I'm in Southern California, BTW. Basically, two new districts have been apportioned in the Las Vegas area, and they're asking people as far out as LA to come help in the last few moments of the campaign. It promised an all-expenses-paid trip, and hey- VEGAS!
It was a great trip. I also went on another trip two years later, but that time the only one I knew was Mark.

Houses built by M. C. Escher: 20

Near Death experiences: 21

Yard Sales: 5

Annoyed People: 3

Note the first part. It seemed that nearly every house that I was assigned to was built by ESCHER. Just to get tot he door involved trekking across three staircases, two ramps, and a walkway. Some of them included random foliage (not native to Arizona), bear traps, gates, fences, cages, cliffs, ledges, etc. Near the end of the first block of them, I slipped and nearly fell to my DOOM on concrete roughly 15 feet below, but I caught myself with my hand. One of the houses actually had the cliff face sticking through in a pseudo-garage courtyard that was right before the stairway to the front door (but after two other staircases, a ramp, and a steep hill for a driveway). Matt, on the other side of the street, got nothing but perfectly normal houses.

Me: *slip* "Woah! AGH!" *thunk* *skid* *grab* *fliers going everywhere*

Matt: "John! You, we can replace- but those fliers...!!"

Me: "...ow..."

Matt: "I don't fall down at MY houses!"

Me: "Quiet, or I'll hurl rocks upon your skull."

The MC Escher houses were great (says the one who didn't hang stuff on their front doors :-)). There might be just a bit of hyperbole in the above text, but not much.

Now, a note: Matt is a full-out trekkie. I like the show a little. I've been to this ride/gallery be fore, and Matt had not. He was in HEAVEN. The ride was basically Star Tours, just a lot better, and then we were immediately shuffled into the gift shop.

I bought for myself the Ferengi Rules of Acquisition book: "Greed is eternal" is one of my favourite rules from there (One will appear on my door per day- Peace is good for business. War is good for business. Never trust a man wearing a better suit than yours. Never have sex with the bos' sister. etc...)
Both times I went to Vegas to campaign I went to the Hilton and Star Trek: The Experience and didn't get to see anything else of the strip. It was good, but I'd like to see more someday.

Now go read the rest on your own! I was outright laughing at the memories at a couple points.


~Matt

Laugh out loud

Okay, lol may be an overused abbreviation, but it truly applies in this instance. I read this article at Wired News about new developments in military technology.

If you feel something crawling on your neck, it might be a wasp or a bee. Or it might be something much more dangerous.

Israel is developing a robot the size of a hornet to attack terrorists. And although the prototype will not fly for three years, killer Micro Air Vehicles, or MAVs, are much closer than that.

It was quite interesting. Imagine if you could put cameras or explosives in such tiny objects and fly them remotely. The article goes on to talk about the myriad of possible applications for such devices. It was the last two paragraphs that really got me laughing. It reminds me of nothing so much as gun control nuts who refuse to admit that criminals will always get guns, even if they're illegal.

"After some development time, many countries would produce them," warns Juergen Altmann, a physicist at Dortmund University, working in assessment of new military technologies. Indiscriminate use would cause many civilian casualties -- and they could end up in the hands of terrorists.

"Big dangers can ensue from terrorists," Altmann says. "For instance, using MAVs with small explosive charges to assassinate high-level politicians or to transport biological/chemical agents into protected infrastructure."

To prevent this danger, Altmann advocates an international ban on armed MAVs, similar to the ban on landmines. Until then, development will proceed apace.

[emphasis is mine]
So please tell me about banning landmines. Did that mean that they all suddenly and magically disappeared? Well no. Did that mean that nobody uses them anymore? Well no. Did that mean that terrorists can never get their hands on them? Well no.

How can making something illegal stop terrorists? Nearly everything they already do is illegal!!! I'm laughing, but also shaking my head at this stupidity. As has been said elsewhere, I couldn't make this up.


~Matt


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Backwoods

Last night I was talking to someone I haven't seen for quite a while at bigg's. Eric is in security and now is the manager for that department as well as Carts and Housekeeping. During the course of the meeting he noticed my watch (I wear my old watch there so my nicer one won't get beat up as much) and all the duct tape holding the band together. He asked why it had so much Kentucky Chrome on it.

~Matt

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Focused Ramblings from Snowy Northern Kentucky

Not that I'm really complaining, since I have enjoyed the mild winter, but last night (early this morning really) we had our first real snowfall of the entire winter! The roads were bad this morning so I didn't go to church--my two nerfs that had stayed over helped me fix breakfast and we ate a bit late. I always enjoy having them over. Then I came over to my sister's place and have stayed over here the whole day download podcast files.

My brother-in-law just left on a trip to Rome and my sister went with them. She promised to bring me back a postcard--I hope she remembers. I asked Chris to bring me a postcard when he went to Spain earlier this year and it made a nice (cheap) souvenir. If you're interested in Rome though I'll offer you this tidbit. This is a National Geographic Walks of a Lifetime podcast. I've listened to several of these and they were excellent. I'm sure they're even better when you're actually there. Without any further ado here is a walking tour of Rome (right click and 'Save as' or 'Save Target as' to save to your computer).

I'll leave you with some pictures of the snow before I head upstairs to watch some television. The Sci-Fi Channel starts the Dresden Files tonight. I've just started reading the books and the show looks interesting.


~Matt

PS Apologies to Mark for the title, ;-).

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Looking up

Today I did get out of the Museum early, but I had a good time.  It was quite busy, but I was at all the right places and got to be quite helpful and stay busy--an enjoyable day overall.  Right now I'm at my sister's house downloading podcasts.  In a few minutes we're going over to a neighbor's place for dessert.  :-)

Also I wasn't on the schedule for bigg's tomorrow, so I'm not going in.  I was sure they wanted me to work tomorrow, so I'm not sure what changed.  I'm not complaining mind you, I wasn't looking forward to it!  I just hope it wasn't next Sunday they were thinking of without telling me that.

~Matt

--
"A room without books is as a body without a soul." -Cicero

Friday, January 19, 2007

Weekend

I am not looking forward to this weekend.  I agreed to work at bigg's on Sunday from 16:00-22:00 (I told them I didn't want to do a full eight hours).  Sure my paycheck will be a big bigger, but that means I don't get my normal day that is completely off.  I really need to get all of my laundry done.  My last few loads have only been stopgap measures.  I'd really like to do it all and then stay on top of it.

Hopefully I'll be able to leave Titanic a bit earlier tomorrow than I have been, just because otherwise I won't have much free time at all this weekend.  Next weekend they wanted me to work bigg's on Saturday and I said no--I'm already booked at the Museum and I won't give that up for bigg's--especially when they knew I don't work Saturdays and gave the day off to two other people--leaving only two effectives when you really need three to cover an entire day.  I try to be flexible, but I'm not going to go to an extreme especially when it would keep me away from the museum for two weeks.

~Matt

--
"A room without books is as a body without a soul." -Cicero

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Snow where?

My sister told me yesterday that one of our nieces called her. She kept insisting that it was (the word appeared to be) snowing. However, my niece lives in Southern California, so my sister knew it must be another word that sounded like snow, even though she couldn't figure it out.

Finally she asked "is it snowing?" figuring that our niece would say, "No Aunt Laurie, that's silly, it is ______." However, to her surprise she said, "yes!" The cold snap continued and combined with moisture to spell snow for large areas of Southern California. It didn't stretch down to my parent's place, but it hit other locales.

Why did something like this never happen while I was in college in the area? I wouldn't have liked driving in it, but I didn't have a car most of my time in college, but it would have been cool. I'd love to see how all of the Californians reacted to something so strange. I can't tell you how many people I knew that had never traveled out of California, sometimes not even much beyond the LA metropolitan area.

~Matt




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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

502 Service Error

I cannot sign into Gmail. I can sign into my Google account through the new Blogger, but for some reason I continue to get a "502 Service Error" when I try to sign into my Gmail account itself.

Server Error

The server encountered a temporary error and could not complete your request.

Please try again in 30 seconds.

This is disturbing. I've never seen an error like this before, especially since it hasn't disappeared quickly but has lingered for at least an hour. Needless to say I'm not at all happy about this. I need to try to contact other people to see if they can use their accounts, but of course I can't do it via e-mail, ;-).

~Matt

PS UPDATE 20:19 This is curious. Gmail just started working, but the e-mail containing the content of this post never arrived. 20:34 It just came in, so apparently it was only delayed.

Snow

It didn't really come, just a bit.  When I left yesterday there was a bit that had drifted onto the bottoms of the windows on my van.  It wasn't much, but it was nicer than having things be wet.  The only downside is that the weather has taken a turn for the cold.  Yet it isn't dipping that low and should be in the forties again soon.

~Matt

--
"A room without books is as a body without a soul." -Cicero

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

A bit chilly?

I got a weather report from California this weekend.  My sister that lives right near TMC told me that when the temperature got down to 15º their pipes froze!  They didn't have running water until ten something in the morning (after she'd gotten back from a doctor's appointment).  They aren't exactly used to weather quite this cold. It can get below freezing (slightly) at night there (a bit north of LA), but not usually this cold.  I heard from my mom yesterday that thankfully only one pipe burst, and it was out back, not in the house.

Meanwhile in northern Kentucky we've been having a mild rainy winter.  I'm not complaining too much, except being outside with carts tonight at bigg's I'd rather have snow that I can brush off rather than cold rain that will chill me.  *shrugs*  Overall we've had many days in the hight forties fr fifties and few that get below the twenties.

~Matt

--
"A room without books is as a body without a soul." -Cicero

Monday, January 15, 2007

Cleaning

I need to clean.  Saturday I was busy with the Museum, movie, and dinner, and yesterday I was either at church or my sister's place.  I really need to find some free time to clean things up and finally get rid of my Christmas decorations.  As much as I enjoyed having me decorations up, I'm ready for them to be gone and packed away until another year.

In this vein I need to find some free time to stop by St. Vincent de Paul and see if they have any useful furniture.  I'm not sure what I could fit into my living room, but I might be able to find something that could work better than something I have now.  Eventually I need to find a desk that is actually big enough for what I need (but that can wait).  Right now I need a bit more book space and some drawers/shelves to put things now stacked or on the floor.  I'm not sure what I'm looking for, but I think I'll know when I find it.

In the middle of this I need to get some sleep.  I haven't been getting enough lately.  I still operate and work at work, but getting up is harder.  I'm finding it way too easy to sleep in and do everything (shower, pack lunch, get dressed) at the very last minute or second.  I would much rather have some time to eat breakfast, wash any dishes, and relax for a few minutes.  It would even be nice to be able to get up early enough that on a few days I could swing by McDonald's for one of their delicious breakfast meals.

In other news (and I know I've mentioned this many other times) I'm really getting tired of bigg's.  I need to closely examine my budget and see if I really need the job.  If I can get by without it and try to find another I'm seriously considering it--or even if I can get by without another.  I would dearly love to have my evenings free.  It would make dinner and cleaning much easier.  Plus I wouldn't feel pressured to squeeze so much into every weekend.  They wanted me to work some weekend days coming up and I pretty much said no (but felt guilty).

On one hand I dislike bigg's enough that I don't want to spoil a completely free day (like Sunday) working there, especially when that is half my weekend.  On the other hand I feel some loyalty to be as flexible as I usually try to be at work.  On the third hand, part of the reason my weekends are so full is that I try to spend time with my sister (I hate being alone at my apartment for hours when they're just across the street).  I think I would do that less exclusively on weekend nights if I had other nights free to spread my time out.

~Matt

--
"A room without books is as a body without a soul." -Cicero

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Overdrawn Humour

Earlier this evening I watched an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 (my first actually) with my sister and nerfs. It was a hilarious ride through a bad movie. The movie in question was Overdrawn at the Memory Bank. The film features a character who ends up stuck in what is essentially virtual reality.

When the character ends up gaining control of his environment he begins to make changes. One of these changes is to apparently generate heavy snowfall inside the atrium of a building. One of the MST viewers remarks that this (snowfall) must be how much pure cocaine it takes to enjoy the movie.

At this point we were cracking up so much that my sister had to pause the tape for a couple minutes. Then we even replayed the segment a couple times for my nephew that didn't watch the entire show.

I can hardly wait to see more episodes. I bought my sister a DVD pack (unfortunately with only one DVD, :() today at the book sale. That book sale was a great haul, including an 1890 volume by Henry Stanley (the man famous for discovering Dr. Livingston in Africa). I'll try to nail down exactly what I got later. It was especially fun finding several things for my nerfs, I love giving them books.

~Matt



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Domingo

Right now in in the middle of the worship team's practice session before the first service.  At nine the first service will start and I'll be busy getting everything up on the screen in time.  I almost overslept this morning but I managed to get in here just in time!

After the service I plan to head over to the first Kenton County Library Sale of the year.  I'm quite excited that I'll be able to hit it on its first day of operation!  Recently I've been working every first day (usually a Friday) and couldn't make it.  This is especially annoying as the book dealers all show up on the first deal and get some of the best books.  I really hate this as I think this spoils it for others.  These aren't intended to be warehouses for used book stores, they are supposed to be for individuals.

~Matt


--
"A room without books is as a body without a soul." -Cicero

Saturday, January 13, 2007

A Night to Remember

I just got back with a great night with some people I work with (I brought my nerf Chase). Most of us (except for three that had already seen it) went to see A Night at the Museum. It was a great movie, especially because we work at the Museum and kept seeing similarities. I won't give specifics in case anybody in the know is reading, but...;-)

After we went out for pizza and hung out there talking for quite a while. We left around 23:50 when the place's listed closing time was 23:00. I felt like we were doing to them what people do to us when they enter Titanic at the last minute and stay for so long. But we were having such a great time talking that we didn't want to leave.

~Matt

Friday, January 12, 2007

Oops

I apparently acted a bit too fast. I cleared out the spam in my Gmail account earlier today and only noticed one sender as it was being deleted. If I can believe my eyes Jesus sent me an e-mail, and I deleted it!



No, I wouldn't make something like this up--it wouldn't be funny if I had. It could be that this was just from a name generator, perhaps especially a Hispanic name? Jesus - Hey-sous?



Anyway, I doubt that if I had an actual e-mail from God that it could possibly end up being caught by my Spam filter. I think the omniscient Lord of the Universe is smarter than a spammer.



~Matt





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Citizen Legislature

I came across this information on Wikipedia, but I verified it on the official website of the Oregon Legislature, which I'll quote here:
The State of Oregon has a Citizen Legislature consisting of the Senate, whose 30 members are elected to serve four-year terms, and the House of Representatives, which has 60 members elected for two-year terms. The assembly convenes every two years in regular session on the second Monday in January during odd-numbered years, a date set by statute. Oregon Constitution does not specify a limitation on session length, however most sessions last approximately six months. During the interim, legislators serve on interim committees and task forces that study issues likely to be faced during the next legislative session.
This hearkens back to the spirit Revolutionary idea that one year (or sometimes six month) terms were too long. While I think that the expense and duration of modern campaigns negates any argument to return to such a system, the Oregon system doesn't sound half bad to me.

Making legislatures have normal jobs sounds good to me. Of course they couldn't be completely normal as they do have to worry about the session and special sessions. But still, it could be better than "professional lawmakers." I don't know how many people realize that Congress originally wasn't in session as long as it is now (and yet now people complain about all of the Congressional vacations).

Who was it that said the government that governs best is that which governs least? Founding Fathers and others in the early 1800s were concerned that there were too many laws. What would they say about our gargantuan legal code (lets not get into tax law!) today?


~Matt


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Thursday, January 11, 2007

I want one of these!

Browse through this article from Wired Magazine. The guy behind the Furby is at it again, inventing a robotic pet that looks much better than anything currently available. Here is the first part of the fascinating article I've linked to above:
WHEN I FIRST MEET PLEO, the tiny dinosaur is curled up on a kitchen table, its long tail and big head pulled inward. It's snoring quietly, emitting a strangely soothing sound, almost like the amplified purring of a guinea pig. I'm tempted to reach out and touch it – but it looks so peaceful, I can't bring myself to disturb it. Then I realize what I'm doing: I'm worrying about waking up a robot. Caleb Chung seems to understand my reluctance. "It's OK," the toy's inventor says, motioning to the little green lizard. "You can touch him." But before I do, Pleo wakes up on its own, fluttering open its doelike eyes and lifting its head. There's a barely perceptible whizzing as its 14 internal motors spring into action and it struggles upright, stretching itself to get the kinks out. "You know, all your dogs do that," Chung says as Pleo begins to poke around the table. "They wake up in the morning and go 'ummmm' – just like that." The dino lets out a long, creaky honk.
~Matt


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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Hate crime?

This nauseates me.

A paperback copy of the Koran was tossed into a toilet on the lower Manhattan campus of Pace University - the latest in a spate of bias incidents upsetting students and administrators at the college, officials said yesterday.

The NYPD Hate Crime Task Force is investigating the vandalism of the Koran, and the university's private security also is probing the incident, sources said.

"A Koran thrown into the toilet? I am hurt, not just as a Muslim but as a human being," said Zeina Berjaoui, 20, president of Pace's Muslim Student Association.

No, I don't care about the Koran. We are NOT a Muslim country, hence by American laws this should simply be a book. I might not want someone to dump a Bible in a toilet, but I would NEVER want them prosecuted for such an action. Unless it was my Bible, but that would apply to anything stolen from me--the problem wouldn't be that a Bible was desecrated, but that my property was stolen and damaged.

I think I've already mentioned that I think hate crime laws are stupid (and should be viewed as unconstitutional), but this is simply too far.

How have we come to the point where we can burn a flag in protest, but it is a hate crime to "desecrate" a Muslim (Jews and Christians don't count so desecrate all the Torahs and Bibles you want) book?!?!?!?

~Matt



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Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Hate Speech

Read this entry at the "Gates of Vienna" blog. The author describes the dangers of hate speech legislation far better than could I.

We have freedom of speech in this country, guaranteed by the First Amendment of the Constitution.



We’re
free to say anything we like, with notable exceptions carved out after
220 years of jurisprudence — direct incitement to violence and shouting
“Fire!” in a crowded theater.



And we are about to add another exception: “hate speech”. A generation
of college students has come to maturity under a regime in which free
speech most emphatically does not include the right to say
anything that might be construed as hateful towards minorities, women,
gays, disabled people, animals, trees, etc.

I've thought about it being stupid before, but not specifically how unconstitutional the concept is. The post is well worth a read. Especially when you bring in the Muslim factor.



~Matt



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Monday, January 08, 2007

I AM

I think I already have another poem by this title, in which case one of them will need to be renamed. However, at this time I cannot find the other one even though I thought I had all backed up on my PDA. I wrote this poem yesterday at church. The service included no sermon, but was a "concert of praise" including many songs and scripture readings. It really got me thinking, and this poetry was the result.



I AM



In the heart of rampant battle,

We bloody the image of God.

Yet He was ever I AM.



In the peace of calmest day,

We celebrate sin's depravity.

Still He will be I AM.



In the service of grateful praise,

We practice polished hypocrisy.

And He remains I AM.



In the midst of abundant blessings,

We ignore burning bushes.

Always and ever He is I AM.



He is Alpha, source of life.

He is Omega, perfect justice.

He is I AM, God omnipotent.



~Matt





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Sunday, January 07, 2007

Pouring

Today when I left church it was pouring. I haven't seen a good storm like that in a while on a day when I wasn't working. It was good to drive through such an enjoyable storm. My wipers were going at their next to highest speed. I could have put them on the highest speed, but that is only useful when driving behind a semi that kicks up more water than can pour from the clouds.



I love a good rainstorm. :-)



~Matt





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Friday, January 05, 2007

I was hoping this would happen

San Francisco (IDGNS) - LG Electronics plans to shortly put on sale a
high-definition video disc player compatible with both the HD DVD and
Blu-ray Disc standards, it said Thursday.



The player will be unveiled at next week's Consumer Electronics Show in
Las Vegas and will go on sale in the U.S. in early 2007, LG said.

I haven't paid much attention to the battle between the high-def formats, all I know is that they're both pretty pricey right now. If these combo drives become more popular though, then it won't matter. It won't have to be like the video-format war where there was a winner (VHS) and loser (Betamax)--and I've heard that in some ways Betamax was the better format.



As everything seems to be racing full-speed ahead I think that the time is definitely ripe for high-def discs, though undoubtedly within a short time we'll want even more. I'm waiting for flash drives or something similar that can't scratch to be developed. CDs and DVDs are okay, but they can easily be damaged. VHS cases are a bit more durable, but are susceptible to degradation from use and aren't as high quality. Something that bridges the convenience and storage of discs and protective case of VHS is needed.



~Matt





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Pathetic

UPDATE: It appears that this story may be part of a "this day in tech" series. On that basis I suppose more leeway should be given than would be acceptable in a normal "news story" assumed to be of contemporary interest. It really should be labeled as such on the article page however, I only discovered this fact by reading the comments which talk about the feature appearing on the main page. I never visit the main page as I access Wired News via RSS.

I just came across an article on Wired News. It was short, but interesting. Then I read the last line and was shocked.
(Source: Wikipedia)
I enjoy using Wikipedia as a casual resource, but I would never use it as more than a jumping off point for a research paper. Any claims or facts I found would be ignored until I could verify them in reliable sources. But this reporter bases his entire story off a Wikipedia article?!?

This is very poor journalism indeed. 'Tis almost as bad as the AP has been in Iraq.

~Matt

PS Check out the article comments. One asks "[w]hat news is contained in [the] story."




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Thursday, January 04, 2007

One more night

I have only one more night at bigg's this week, and hopefully it won't rain. I have to do carts tonight, which I don't mind having started listening to podcasts, but it will be difficult if it is raining.



~Matt





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Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Wal-Mart isn't evil

I've thought this for a long time, but it isn't always easy to articulate the particular thoughts in a coherent manner. Today I found somebody that did that for me, ;-). Wal-Mart wants to move into my old hometown of Garden Grove.

The area that they want to occupy has been struggling financially for many years. Stores have come and gone in the complex seemingly without end and the cycle shows no signs of stopping. A few streets over you will find a large Costco warehouse that is bustling (especially on the weekends).

If a paid membership shopping location can keep that busy I'm sure Wal-Mart will do well and likely bring in more business to those other stores in the area. Right now people don't have a reason to draw them into the complex.

Here is how an author on an Orange County blog (Orange Juice) explains the situation in response to those complaining that a Wal-Mart supercenter will hurt local businesses and the poor.
Wal-Mart Supercenter stirs up controversy in Garden Grove

In truth, Wal-Mart serves the poor better than any other retailer. The Wal-Mart in Santa Ana is one of the top grossing Wal-Mart stores in the nation. It is always full. The folks that shop there are predominantly poor Latinos. Why do they shop there? Because they can buy nice items for their home at a low price. It really is that simple.

As for the employment and salary issues, let's face it - Wal-Mart creates hundreds of jobs at each of its stores - many of those stores serve economically depressed areas where there are no jobs to be had. They also employ elderly workers that simply cannot find work at all.

As for the health care issue, Wal-Mart recently led the charge against high-priced prescription medicines when they dropped the price of hundreds of generic medicines to only $4 per bottle. Then they began to open low-priced medical clinics - which are often the only resort for the working poor.

...

What about small businesses that are allegedly run out of town by Wal-Mart stores? Guess what? There are no constitutional guarantees that give folks the right to run uncompetitive enterprises. You can operate such businesses - but the consumers will decide your fate. That is harsh but it is reality. Ever watch those nature shows on Discover [sic] or National Geographic? What happens to the old and sick wildebeests that can't keep up with the herd? They become lion food. That is just the way of the world - the circle of life if you will. In business you either keep up with the herd or you die. That is the risk you run when you open a business.

I know this firsthand. I used to own and operate a small chain of stores dedicates [sic] to collectibles. My wife and I had a lot of fun and made a fair amount of money but eventually the Internet took a lot of our sales, as did various collectibles swapmeets/shows. They ran us out of business. We ended up closing some stores and selling the rest. I went back to school and worked for a few years in marketing and advertising and then moved on to industrial work and ended up working as a safety director for various contractors. I bring this up because it is an example of what you do when your back is up against a wall - you start again. I now owe $55,000 in student loans, but I also have two degrees and a great career working for a very successful restoration and environmental abatement contractor. Was it easy? No. I had to work very hard to get to where I am today. And that is the moral of the story. There is no easy money - just hard work.
Those are pretty good arguments in my book. It isn't perfect, but where are we promised that life will be easy? The Constitution does NOT promise equality of results (in contrast to what modern liberals and activist judges seem to believe). Rather it (and the Declaration of Independence) favour free opportunity. That isn't to say that everybody gets the same amount of money when they're born or in school, but everybody can succeed if they put their mind to it. You aren't held back simply because you're poor, or a minority, or religious.

I wish that I was still living in Garden Grove in some ways. It sounds as though things might be looking better for those areas that have been struggling for years. Hopefully the Wal-Mart will be approved--especially since it won't require eminent domain to support it, and it hasn't asked for any government hand-outs to support the store!


~Matt



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Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Do you want socialized medicine?

Look at this recent article from the UK. Keep in mind that American insurance companies might (I don't know if they do) delay procedures, but you have many companies to choose from. By contrast in the UK pretty much everybody is serviced by the NHS.
Hospitals delay non-urgent operations in bid to reduce deficits

Patients are being forced to wait for treatment so NHS trusts can balance their books.

Several primary care trusts (PCTs) confirmed they had a policy of imposing some form of minimum wait so that patients were not seen too quickly.

Kingston PCT has a standard 10-week wait for outpatient appointments while Suffolk PCT said routine procedures should not be carried out before 98 days had passed.

Doesn't that sound like fun? I can't wait for national health care in the US. We won't have to be burdened with the onerous choice of finding suitable health care, the government will simply provide everybody with the same sub-standard care (but just so they can balance the books).
The NHS finished last year more than £500 million in debt but its budget has increased over recent years.
In 2010, the NHS in England will spend well over £100 billion per year (more than £4,500 per household).

I believe its budget is currently around £90 some billion annually (almost double that number to get the equivalent dollar amount!).

Don't you feel so ready to vote for Hillary Care again?

Remember, companies exist to make money, and happy customers make you money. Insurance companies may not always be happy about claims, but they wouldn't dare to antagonize all of their customers. By contrast the government often doesn't care--they're official and you can't avoid them, so who cares if they do a good job?

~Matt

No longer urban legend

Wow, I thought this was only the stuff of urban legend, but apparently not!

As Lee Rich opened the toilet seat, a 10-inch
long rat, dripping with sewage, came shooting out of the bowl and
darted into an open cabinet where the family stores their bath towels,
Salem's Statesman Journal reported.


Disturbing, quite disturbing. Especially when you read that Oregonians in Salem make "10 to 15 complaints each year" about sewer dwelling rats. I don't want to speculate how this encounter could have been worse. *shudder*



~Matt







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Expiration

It was rather obvious last night that I was following a car with expired tags. I wasn't driving so close that I could read the plate's tags, I could only see the plate itself. That was enough however. Kentucky switched to a new plate design in 2006 and the last of the old plates should have been gone by Sunday for those with December birthdays.

This plate was clearly the old smiley-faced sun plate. The new plate is white with blue lettering and the tag "Unbridled Spirit" along with a small state outline. Apparently Kentucky cops can now pull you over for just having an unbuckled seat belt--it doesn't have to be preceded by another reason for stopping you. Nobody knows how many cops will be exercising this option. Along those same veins I wonder how many will glance at plates and take an easy opportunity to pull someone over for expired tags.

~Matt

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Monday, January 01, 2007

Update?

Yeah, I plan to update tonight, but I have to leave for bigg's in a bit.  :(  I really don't want to work tonight after having the day off, but I don't have a choice.  I can only hope it won't be too busy.

~Matt

--
"A room without books is as a body without a soul." -Cicero