Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Back from the Big Trees

Well, we survived camping, meaning we all came back alive.

Actually the camping part was very nice; it was the complaining teenagers and the energy-that-they-should-bottle 6-year-old that made it a bit taxing at times.

The picture you see is of a big tree. I have many pictures of big trees. The name of the campground is Calaveras Big Trees State Park. When I get settled around here, i.e. finish getting the dirt out of everything, I will post more and tell more.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Gone Camping

Well I'm off on a trip that I always refer to as "real life, only harder".

We are leaving for Calaveras Big Trees State Park in Northern California for a couple days of roughing it. I promise I will have some pictures to post when I get back, and hopefully an interesting anecdote or two.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Trick for more Tips

The new issue of the magazine Wired has an interesting idea that I will be looking to try: Research shows that the picture of a face or simply eyes on a donation jar for the office coffee or a tip jar will raise the contents of the jar over 30 percent.

Apparently, even though it is just a picture, subconsciously the idea that one is being watched is apt to increase one's generousity.

I wonder if putting a picture of eyes on a time sheet to payroll will have the same effect?

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Bad Idea Jeans

Is there anybody out there besides me and my wife who remembers that faux Saturday Night live commercial?

Bad Idea Jeans is a parody of the pretentious blue jean commercials of the time and it features a group of middle age guys in jeans hanging out. Each of them makes a statement of questionable wisdom that is followed by the words bad idea appearing on the screen. Here's an example:

"Well, he's an ex free-base addict, and he's trying to turn around, and he needs a place to stay for a couple of months."


"Now that I have kids, I feel a lot better having a gun in the house."

You get the idea. Anyway, all of that reminiscing was only to talk about what they are doing beginning this month in Illinois to stem the number of high school dropouts and unexcused absences.

A student in Illinois who misses 18 days of school, drops out, or is expelled will not be allowed to have a driver's license.

Bad Idea Jeans

As a teacher, I question the wisdom of such an incentive to keep people in school. In my opinion, if they don't want to be there, they should stay home. We don't need people whose likely behavior problems muck up the works in our classrooms.

There is nothing more frustrating to me than having to see the kids who know how to work and behave sitting there while I have to deal with those who don't. As a parent it riles me to no end that my kid--the good one--is being shortchanged because so much time is being devoted to someone who doesn't want to be there. (In fact, that is why my son is going to test out of H.S. and go straight to community college.)

I am all for working with kids and trying to reach them with the benefits of an education, but there has to be a point when you leave them to the logical consequences of their actions and direct your efforts towards the ones who show some promise.

It would be better if we had alternative programs for people who have proven that they are not suited to learning in the traditional institutional manner. We need trade schools where these kids will excel and experience success.

Taking away their licenses to keep their problems within the general population?

Bad Idea Jeans.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Mother May I?

Since it took nearly a year for a man to get a hip replacement, the very liberal Surpreme Court of Canada allowed a man to pay for his own health care.

Whoa. Let's stop right there. They ALLOWED him to pay for his own health care?!

How can anybody read those words and not shudder? Think about substituting some other words in place of health care:

*They allowed him to pick which shirt he would wear on Sundays.

*They allowed him to put sliced bananas on his Post Toasties.

*They allowed him to mow his lawn.

Allow me to recommend this blog where you can (as long as the government allows it) read the truth about universal health care.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Scripted Non-scriptedness

In the world of politics, even user-generated content ends up being the same old same old.

Tonight's YouTube/CNN Democratic debate has the alluring novelty of offering up the candidates performing without a net, open to the whims and wisdom of actual people asking actual questions rather than softballs placed on a t-ball stand by a complicit media.

This is not going to be any different than the many townhall events where people stand up and ask questions. That the questions will be submitted on YouTube is just a gimmick. They will still be the questions that CNN wants asked, candidates warned ahead of time.

If I was able to ask questions, these might be among them:

Mr. Barack Hussein Obama, is it true that you were educated in a Muslim school in Indonesia for four years? Why havn't you spoken about that very much? How do you think that aspect of your upbringing will affect your attitude toward rising threats from Islam?

Mrs. Hilary Clinton, how big a priority are you going to make universal health care?
What would you say to the people who want no part in the government telling them how they must handle their health anymore than they want the government telling them where to buy their groceries?

Mr. John Edwards, How can you say that a war against people who seek our annihilation is simply a bumper sticker war? Do you have a Edwards '08 bumper sticker? Is your campaign a bumper sticker or a plan?

Readers, I am sure you can do better than I. What questions would you ask the Democratic candidates if a miracle occurred and actually let some questions get through?

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Googly-eyed Parents

Way back when the Internet was just a gleam in Al Gore's eye, I wanted to name my first-born son, Hercules, because we would probably call him Herky for short and Herky rhymes with our last name. Needless to say, my wife didn't like the idea.

Now, because of Al Gore's glorious invention, people are purposely giving their kids unusual names so that they will be found in Google searches.

I was ahead of my time.

This article in the Wall Street Journal talks about the phenomenon where googly-eyed parents are selecting baby names based on their favorite search engines.

The article has the interesting story of what Abigail Garvey decided to name her baby when she was married and became Abigail Wilson. Ms. Wilson's research papers were suddenly very hard to find and she didn't want the same fate to befall her newborn.

They named him Kohler, which I thought was a type of toilet.

And my wife didn't like Hercules.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Hilarious Message Mix-up

I was doing some cleaning today when I came across a piece of paper that reminded me of a great story that occurred this past Christmas.

In keeping with my habit of not asking for anything substantial for Christmas--after all, I am paying for it anyway--I gave my wife a wish list that included Big Tex Hot 'N Spicy Jelly Beans.

These are the ultimate jelly bean. They are about the size of a unshelled peanut, and boy are they H-O-T. They are like Hot Tamales on steroids.


Anyway, I got a five-pound bag of them for Christmas and I opened the box as we sat around the tree that glorious morning. My wife had the option of including a note much like you would do if you sent flowers to someone, so she did:

"Mother, I hope these bring back many fond memories! Love, Joy"

Obviously this is not the note I was supposed to get with my red hot jelly beans. I thought it was funny that I got a note not addressed to me, but my wife REALLY thought it was funny for some reason.

When she finally recovered, she told me what Joy's mother probably got on her Christmas greeting:

"Merry Christmas, to one hot tamale."

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Photo Shop Practice

I took a couple of photos just to practice my newfound and very slowly developing photoshop skills. I have been at a Technology for Teachers class all week learning how to build web pages and use photoshop. In the above picture, that boat used to be red and there used to be a pole in the foreground. With the flower,, I just messed with some filters and colors.

I took my 14-year-old with me today and it turned out he knew more than the instructors. Of course.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Parents Who Pony Up

What kid doesn't want his own pony?

In Modesto, CA, yesterday, two teenagers are in protective custody and their parents (cough, cough) are in jail for allowing him to live in a house filled with animal feces and flies. Oh, that's because of the horse in the house and the seven dogs.

"The animals had defecated everywhere; the waste was described as "ankle deep" by animal control supervisor John Bear," according to the Modesto Bee.

Yes, this is the second time in a week I have blogged about excrement (I know, it's a crappy blog), but I couldn't pass this up.

A pony in the house along with seven dogs! Oh, check out the link for pictures.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Government's Fault?

There is an interesting--and long--article in the L.A. Times about people who contracted Aids as infants at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

It turns out that in the early 80's blood wasn't yet screened for the virus and there were hundreds of newborns infected through blood transfusions.

A sad, gut-wrenching situation indeed.

The surpising and amazing thing is that some of those people are looking to get some money out of this--not suing the hospital (you would expect that), but via compensation from the U.S. Government.

A bill giving hemophiliacs $100,000 compensation already has taken effect, but the bill to do the same for infants did not.

Is it just me, or does anybody else think this is just bizarre?

What possible responsibility does the government bear in cases like these? Is it because the disease is Aids, that they are able to push this through? People don't get money from the government when they contract an infection while hospitalized.

And you know that the "government" actually means me and you.

Monday, July 16, 2007

TV on TV and in the Movies

Once my mind gets latched onto something, I seldom let go of it.

Just like some people get hung up on the proper way to hang a toilet paper roll or squeeze a tube of toothpaste, I have my pet peeves.

One of them involves the way television is used on television or in movies.

Why is it that every time there is a scene with people watching TV, they ALWAYS turn it off after the point where they see something or hear something that is part of the plot?

This just isn't the way it happens in real life. If you see something that you have been waiting for on the news, you don't turn it off before discussing it. Go ahead, pay attention and you will see that in any scene where what's on TV plays a part, they turn it off right away.

I know, there are times when the TV is on in the background of a scene, but if someone gets upset about something on the tube, they always turn it off and vent; they never keep it on.

For as long as I can remember, I have had that question. My wife knows that I am going to ask it every time we see a movie and it happens. I'm annoying that way.

Any theories?

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Out of the Loop

It looks like the new Harry Potter installment is going gangbusters at the box office.

I have never seen a Harry Potter movie. I have never read a Harry Potter book.

Am I missing out?

I know plenty of adults who love these books and heartily urge me to read them, but I just can't do it. I don't know if somewhere in my subconscious I think they are "kid" books, or if it's that I generally don't like fantasy. I can always think of something else to read besides Harry Potter.

Any of you out there have an opinion?

Saturday, July 14, 2007

That Dirty Dog: a Story

My dog is a four-legged Houdini.

I've never put him in a straight jacket, but he seems to escape my back yard no matter how many times I screw those fence boards back in.

So yesterday I had just put him in the yard and bolted the gate, and no sooner had I walked 10 feet, then he scampered past me down the street. Knowing by now that it was fruitless to call him, I just hopped in the car to run him down--I mean, follow him.

You see, he is an easy dog to catch if you just open up the car door. Pull up alongside of him and he jumps right in because he somehow hasn't figured out that it is a trap and his fun is over.

But yesterday, it was he who had the last laugh.

I located him after driving a ways down the block and pulled up with the door open to receive him. He jumped right in as planned, but I soon had the feeling that something wasn't quite right. As a matter of fact, it wasn't right at all!

It turns out I had just let a dog who was covered in crap jump into my lap and scoot around in my car!

And that's not all: Now that I had the dog, I had to hold onto him so he didn't escape again, but while I was hugging this feces with four legs, I couldn't reach the door to close it!

Finally, I turned off the ignition and put the car in park in the middle of the street so I could take my foot off the pedal and lean over to close the door.

Then I could enjoy my ride home with my dirty dog! (No, I have no idea how he got doo doo all over his neck and right side.)

The End

Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Proof

Remember this day if you ever hear me say that I am cheap and you are tempted to think I am just exaggerating.

Today I needed new plugs and switches for the hall that has been newly painted. I had already gotten the covers, but forgot that if you were changing from ivory to white, you have got to change both.

So I went back to Home Depot to get the white switches to match the white covers. I thought each plug or switch would be a couple bucks, four, tops, for some of the fancy ones.

While I could get a regular on/off switch for about $1.50, I found out that I needed two four-way switches and those were $11.28 a piece. No matter how long I stood in front of the shelf looking for an alternative, they were still $11.28.

No way I was going to pay that so that the little toggle thingy would be white; I mean, there had to be barely more than an inch of surface area that was white!

My son had come with me to see if they made special paint for plastic. Even though I had worked for Home Depot 13 years, I didn't recall that we had one solely for that purpose, but we did, in a spray can.

I decided that I was going to pay $4.77 for a can of white paint and paint all of the switches I already had.

Guess what? It looks fantastic and I saved about 25 bucks!

Like a Gold Ring in a Pig's Snout

If you can't do anything right, hire a marketing firm--that's what Pittsburgh Public Schools is doing.

Oops, sorry, make that Pittsburgh Schools because the marketing consultant thought they could improve their image by ditching the word public.

This is just wrong.

First of all, if I were a tax-paying resident of Pennsylvania, I would be outraged that my money was going toward mere window dressing instead of actual academic needs.

Second of all, if students weren't educated in an appropriate manner, maybe they should drop the word school.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

One Job the British Won't Do

I think I am pretty good at putting two and two together.

Just watch me:

Eight of the terror suspects in Britain's latest scare are doctors.


Britain has had its National Health Services, i.e., government-run health care, for sixty years.


Government health care played a role in opening up Britain to terrorists.

Now I knew this was the case last week, but couldn't find any source other than myself to corraborate it. Who would believe me?

Now I have found commentator Mark Steyn and the New York Sun.

It turns out that (egads!) since the inception of nationalized health care, being a doctor is not such an attractive option for the British, so they have to import them.

That's right, in America we can't get Americans to pick our fruits; in Britain, they can't get the British to diagnose flus.

Steyn writes that 40% of Britain's doctors were trained elsewhere. With such an aversion to working in medicine among the locals, the authorities pretty much have to go begging.

Good God, look what the cat drug in! So you know where this is going, right? Two of the London bombers were brought in to solve the doctor shortage and were given fast-track immigration, not even needing a work permit!

That, my friends, is how national health care in Britain has contributed to the country's terror problem. But don't take my word for it, go read the Steyn article yourself!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

I'm a Madman!

I dare you to find someone more obsessive about email than I am.

I treat my inbox like a man with a mallet trying to knock down the furry moles in the arcade game, whack-a-mole.

As soon a new email sticks its head up, it is my goal to deal with it: either delete it, file it in a folder, or respond to it.

I am so nuts that I almost feel physically ill if I open Outlook and see a long line of new messages. The worst is when I can't decide what to do with one of them and I opt to keep it right there to taunt me.

It's with those things in mind that I sympathize with people and companies looking to get a handle on email gone wild. Fast Company had an article in the current issue about how various companies are "whacking the moles" that chew into their productivity.

They say that the average corporate email account receives 18 MB of stuff daily, and that number is expected to grow to 28 MB a day by 2011.

Capital One deals with that crushing tsunami by putting employees through an email management workshop, and it estimates that it saves 11 workdays a year. Some of the keys to their training is teaching employees to write more specific subject lines, using bullet points, underlining, and bolding.

Union Bank tames its email moles by using RSS feeds so that all of its 10,000 employees don't get every email. A new system (called KnowNow) will send RSS feeds based on job description and location.

Finally, Rueters uses a hybrid system of email and instant messages to keep the inboxes from overflowing.

Anybody out there have any personal strategies that work for you? Personally, I will just keep my handy mole-smashing mallet of a delete key at the ready for Option Number One.

Feeling Sentimental

Is it possible to ever have friends as dear as those with whom you grew up or went to school?

Every time I go down to Southern California, I return in a melancholy mood that I attribute to a feeling of loss. I miss the places where I grew up and bemoan the changes that have taken place in the 13 years I have been gone, but mostly I think I miss the people.

Maybe it is different for others, but for me, I am certain that I will not have friends like those I left behind. Even though I have met a number of wonderful people here in Northern California, I don't think you can ever feel that bond like you do if you didn't go to junior high with someone.

If I would have known that it would be this difficult, I never would have left.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Be Back Soon

My parents are celebrating their 50th anniversary this weekend, so I will be out of touch for a few days. Please come back later, I have some interesting things to write about. Unfortunately, Blogger doesn't have a future posting option.

Mrs. UGN's Brilliant Observation

What percentage of Islam wants to see us annihalated? One percent? Ten Percent? More? Less?

I heard some expert on the radio the other day saying that her conservative estimate is that twenty-five percent of the Muslim world is of the radical kind.

As we debate how to handle terrorism in these days of political correctness, I want to propose that it doesn't matter how small the number of bad guys is, we just need to stop them before they get us.

My brilliant wife, Mrs. Ugly Naked Guy, observed that if it was a very tiny minority of Muslims, then we have to work all the harder, with even more scrutiny to thwart them. Using the needle-in-the-haystack example, Mrs. UGN said that when what you are looking for is really rare, you have to expend exceptionable effort to make sure you are successful.

She said that you would have to sit on that haystack until you find what you are looking for.

We sensitive Americans are taking the opposite approach: we ignore the haystack and even pretend that it would be foolish to look in the haystack.

Even if we happen to get stuck with the needle, we still manage to quickly go back to ignoring that there is something worth looking for in the haystack!

Friday, July 06, 2007

Water Follies

A favorite drink of the more-environmental-than-thou club (and others who just think it's cool) is Fiji bottled water.

Surprisingly enough, this water actually comes from Fiji--but not easily.

Not only is Fiji an 18-hour plane ride and a four-hour truck trip away, but before it hits our grocery store shelves, it has to make that trip twice because the bottles are not made in Fiji.

This is just a small example of the tantalizing and amusing tidbits in this Fast Company article about the bottled-water industry and the people who support it.

It you are an environmentalist or you know someone who you would like to needle with tales of the huge carbon footprint their precious wa-wa is leaving on its way to their mouths, you have got to read this article.

If you are interested in how Americans came to pay so much money for something that is available for nada, you might be interested in this too. Here is my favorite part:

"You can buy a half-liter Evian for $1.35--17 ounces of water imported from France for pocket change. That water seems cheap, but only because we aren't paying attention.

"In San Francisco, the municipal water comes from inside Yosemite National Park. It's so good the EPA doesn't require San Francisco to filter it. If you bought and drank a bottle of Evian, you could refill that bottle once a day for 10 years, 5 months, and 21 days with San Francisco tap water before that water would cost $1.35. Put another way, if the water we use at home cost what even cheap bottled water costs, our monthly water bills would run $9,000."

If you are interested in "the way things work" this might prove to be an interesting read.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Putting Money on It

Do you value your opinions enough to bet your own money on it?

If you do, then you might want to check out something that I discovered today called prediction markets.

A prediction market is a lot like the stock market except instead of putting your money on which stocks will perform the best, you can put your money where your mouth is and help predict who will win the 2008 Presidential Election.

It is an exiting idea that, frankly, has majorly distracted me from making a Photo Story CD for my parents' fiftieth anniversary--sorry Mom, Dad, I will get it done, I promise.

Not only can you invest in the future as it pertains to elections, but you can wager on whether Osama Bin Laden will be captured, speculate on how many Atlantic hurricanes their will be this season, put money on who will win the World Series, or cast your vote on whether we will see a recession before 2007 is out.

Not only do prediction markets afford you the opportunity to make money off the accuracy of your convictions, but they are also very good sources for predicting actual future events. It doesn't take much of a web search to find out that prediction markets are no worse (and often better) than polls in picking winners in elections.

Right now I am playing with fake money on TradeSports which allows you to put your wisdom and the wisdom of the masses to the test in predicting the outcome of sporting events. I "bought" 10 contracts at a price of 69 before the Florida/San Diego MLB game started today.

What that means is that at that point in time, 69 percent of the speculators thought the Padres would win. As the game went on, the number fluctuated just like in the stock market. I could have sold my contract for 71 at one point and earned a profit. As the Padres fell behind, the going rate was 17 and I could have bought at that price if I was convinced that it would later rise with a Padre comeback.

If the Padres had won the game (they didn't), the price would have been 100. At the price I purchased (69), I would have made 31 points, with each point being worth 10 cents. I would have won $3.10 times the number of contracts (like shares) I had purchased. Since the Padres lost, I lost $6.90 times the number of contracts I purchased.

Whatever prediction one puts one's money on--what level the Dow Jones hits this year, who will be the first Republican to drop out of the race, etc.--the contract has a time when it is over. If the prediction comes true, the final price is 100. If it doesn't come true, the price is 0.

I don't know that I will ever do this for real money (it's highly doubtful), but the sheer predictive power of these markets makes me want to watch. Right now Hilary Clinton is trading at 24 and Rudy Guiliani is second, trading at 18. This means that the market feels the chances are 24 percent that Hilary will be president in 2008.

If you have never heard of TradeSports or InTrade (which accepts contracts for non-sporting predictions), I suggest you check it out.

I bet you find it interesting.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Happy 4th!

As we celebrate the impossible miracle that is the United States of America, here is something to ponder, courtesy of my sister-in-law who forwarded it to me:


COWS- Is it just me, or does anyone else find it amazing that our government can track a cow born in Canada almost three years ago, right to the stall where she sleeps in the state of Washington? Not only that, but they have the ability to track that cows calves too.

So if we can do that, how is it that nobody can locate the 11 million illegal aliens wandering around our country? Maybe we should give them all a cow.

THE CONSTITUTION-They keep talking about drafting a constitution for Iraq. Why don't we just give them ours? It was written by a lot of really smart guys, it's worked for over 200 years and we're not using it anymore. (Ouch!)

TEN COMMANDMENTS-The real reason that we can't have the Ten Commandments in a courthouse.....You cannot post "Thou Shalt Not Steal," "Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery" and "Thou Shall Not Lie" in a building full of lawyers, judges and politicians--- it creates a hostile work environment.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Sealing their own Fate

Apparently New British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has a death wish for his country.

In a stunning example of how not to deal with terrorism, Brown has banned government officials from using the word Muslim in connection with talk of their current terrorism crisis.

That's like not using the word water when dealing with a flood, or the word idiot when talking about Michael Moore.

According to the Daily Express, he wants to improve relations with the Muslim community. Outstanding! I hear that's what they want too: when all non-Muslims are blown to bits, relations will be great!

The article goes on to say that Brown wants to avoid offending Muslims and that he also wants to discontinue use of the term "war on terror".

What the incredibly dense Mr. Brown fails to understand is England's very existence is offensive to some Muslims.

I would gloat that we are much smarter in America, but of course it is not true.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Raising Hell in the Polls

As published in The American, this May 2007 Gallup Poll shows an increase in the percentage of people who believe in Hell. In 1997 only 56 percent were believers, but the number is now 69 percent.

Is this one of those things that we can attribute to Global Warming?

Sunday, July 01, 2007

On Aging

While my wife and I walked the dog last night, we passed a house with a for sale sign. The agent's name on the sign was Steve Swanger.

I wonder if he used to be a Swinger.

What a Dumb Law!

After church today we stopped by a roadside vegetable stand to get some corn and cherries. My daughter wanted to know if we could buy her something to drink, but we were told that county regulations forbid the business from selling cold drinks.

You will never guess in a million years why they can't sell a can of cola. Go ahead, try. Give up?

drum roll
drum roll
drum roll
drum roll
drum roll

Ready to hear the answer?

dramatic pause (though I was going to say drum roll, huh?)

They are forbidden to sell a can of coke or a bottle of water because their business doesn't have a bathroom.

Who thinks this stuff up?