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Wednesday, December 24, 2008
This is a set of 50 algae brushes for Paintshop Pro version 7 and up.
They were created from images in the public domain and can be used in any way you wish.
The original images are some remarkable photographs taken by Anna Atkins (1799-1871) and appeared in the book Photographs of British Algae.
If you would like to see the originals, they can be found in the New York Public Library's Flickr Commons collection.
Download link can be found on my art site.
Saturday, December 06, 2008
I am so sick and tired of irresponsible antivirus companies unfairly flagging compiled AutoHotkey (AHK) scripts as viruses, trojans, and worms.
There is nothing wrong with the language itself, nor is there anything wrong with most scripts written in it. A lot of really awesome, useful, Windows utilities have been developed in AutoHotkey.
The language is powerful, easy to learn, enables you to write Windows utilities very quickly, and you can compile them to .exe and distribute them to others that don't have AutoHotkey installed, or you can give them the source script (.ahk) and they can run that if they do have it installed.
The problem is that there are idiots that will write malware in AHK, just as there are idiots that will write malware in any other programming language. You can't blame the language for this. And you can't blame all the developers that use the language, either.
But that is exactly what the antivirus companies are doing. They have decided that if a single person writes and compiles malware in AHK, then all compiled AHK scripts are malware. This results in tons of false positives, ruined reputations of innocent programmers, and a mistrust in AHK applications by the general public.
Developers have repeatedly contacted antivirus companies and complained, which after enough outcry from programmers and the public will result in them fixing the problem with the false positives. That is until a new version of AutoHotkey is released. Then the antivirus vendors get amnesia and forget that AutoHotkey is a language again, and flag all utilities made with it as malware, once again.
Lather, rinse, repeat.
This has been going on for a few years now and it's a viscous cycle that needs to stop.
I have written utilities that I would love to distribute to the public, with the source code, but I am afraid of putting them on my website, out of fear that my reputation will be destroyed by the stupidity of the antivirus companies.
But that is exactly what they are doing. And AHK is the language they are picking on.
I am asking all developers and AHK users to join an organized effort to take the bull by the horns and petition the antivirus companies to stop the unfair treatment of our software.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
I touched on this issue before in a previous article about out of control food prices and how it is affecting the poor of this country, but one group that I did not take into consideration when I wrote it, was college students.
This is why I felt the need to write a Part 2. (Blog Action Day was the reason why I delayed publishing it till today.)
Due to the rise in student poverty, you may now add them to both the group of kids sufferring from malnutrition, unable to concentrate in school due to their growling stomachs, and also to the group that is struggling with unemployment and the lack of available jobs.
College students are a group of people that are traditionally strapped for cash and live on tight budgets, with ramen being a staple of many of their diets. (It's not just a joke...it's real!)
It is difficult to make ends meet when you have to go to school all day, spend a substantial amount of time studying, and make sure you get enough rest in order to perform well in school the next day.
It doesn't leave that much free time for employment, and if students are employed, it's usually only part time for minimum wage. And with many businesses currently feeling the crunch and cutting their workforce, those jobs are becoming more scarce and the competition for them rising.
In many communities, students are competing with low income families that have kids to feed, for those fewer available low paying jobs. And during the summer, they may even be competing with their temporarily unemployed teachers, who also need more money to make ends meet and survive through the summer, till they return to work again in September.
Forget the stereotypes of the typical college student wasting all their money on booze and partying it up all the time. It just isn't true, any more (if it ever even was). The vast majority are working themselves to death and rarely have the time, money, or energy for booze and parties.
And forget the stereotypes of students being able to just hit mom & dad up for more cash. Most parents have set a strict budget for their kids in college, if they are even willing or able to give them any help at all with personal expenses. And the parents that are willing to help, are feeling the squeeze themselves, with the rising food and gasoline prices eating into their extra cash they might normally have and be willing to contribute to support their children away at college.
The truth is, most students are more or less on their own for providing for their personal needs above and beyond their tuition, books, and housing; with many living well below the poverty line, and drowning in debt. The rising cost of fuel is eating away at whatever extra cash they may have on hand to feed themselves. The cost of gasoline is also affecting their ability to hold a job and earn anything at all, to cover their cost of living.
And because their parents can still claim most of them as dependants, statistics are based upon the income of the parents and not the actual cash the students have available at their disposal, so most of these poverty stricken young adults are not even included in the statistics that refer to students living below the poverty line. They are this nation's hidden poor.
The rise in food prices isn't helping things, and are driving students to drain the already scarce supplies of the local food pantries that are already struggling to keep up with the burden of demands from poor and out of work families, while donations dwindle, as the middle class cuts back on "unnecessary" spending.
This is adversely affecting the already poor, the ones that were relying on food pantries long before the students started showing up. There is only so much food available, and it's not enough to go around. The rising number of students in need, is making the problem much worse.
The current economic crisis is going to seriously aggravate the problem further this winter, and it is likely that contributions will dip even lower, and need will increase even more, as the unemployment rate rises even higher.
Your local food pantry will need your help, more than ever, during this time of economic crisis. If you can spare anything at all, please consider making regular donations of food to the one closest to you. A little bit can go a long way and help a lot of people get by this winter, and beyond.
These are the kinds of items they would always be in need of:
- spaghetti and other pasta products
- spaghetti sauce (preferably with vegetables or meat)
- canned meats (like tuna or chicken)
- shelf stable milk that doesn't need refridgeration (something like Parmalat)
- canned and dried beans
- peanut butter & jelly
- hot &cold cereals
- pancake mix & syrup (get the "complete" kind that doesn't require eggs)
- canned fruits and vegetables
- soups and stews (stuff with lots of meat & vegetables)
Just think healthy & nutritious, and don't give anything that you wouldn't eat. This is not an invitation to clean out your pantry of all your unwanted crap. They don't want your dust covered cans of gourmet liver paté and jars of pickled baby corn, that neither you nor your dog would eat.
If you are giving anything that requires something else to make it a complete meal, be sure to buy the other item to go with it, such as is the case with stuff like pasta & sauce, pancake mix & syrup, peanut butter & jelly, and cereal & milk.
When in doubt, contact your local food pantry and ask what they need most, or if they are willing to accept an item you may want to provide, before you make your purchase.
Probably about the easiest way you could do this, is to just pick up at least one extra non-perishable meal each week, when you do your shopping for your family. Then drop off the food you bought at your local pantry, on your way home.
If you are having trouble locating a local food pantry near your home, pick up your phone and call churches in your neighborhood. Many of them serve their community by running a food pantry.
Most do not require the people they serve to be a member of their church or even hold any religious beliefs, at all. And they don't use it as an opportunity to preach their flavor of religion to the people they serve, either. So if you are an athiest/agnostic, this shouldn't be an issue for you. Don't let it stand in the way. (Who cares why churches help, as long as they help and do it fairly.)
American Spaghetti Crisis: Part 1
Other articles, news, and information resources
Thank you, Chris Lang, for reminding me that I forgot the college students.
Monday, October 06, 2008
We are all familiar with the type of censorship that occurs on the radio with songs containing swear words being bleeped or blanked out. Plenty of artists have been subjected to this, and it seemed that no artist or swear word was immune to this type of censorship in America...except one.
Ever since the release of "The Dark Side of the Moon" back in 1973, Pink Floyd has been oddly immune to the same type of censorship that has victimized every other artist.
In their song "Money", there is a line that goes like this:
Money, its a hit.
Dont give me that do goody good bullshit.
Never, since the 70's, when I first heard the song on the radio on 95.5 WPLJ New York (back when they had an album rock format), have I ever heard that song censored. I have heard it a million times over the years and heard "bullshit" in it, clear as day, each and every time.
The Almighty Pink Floyd, was allowed to openly say what other artists could not.
I do not know why...maybe it was out of respect. Maybe it was just overlooked (doubtful), but they were allowed to swear as much as they wanted.
Even the song "Pigs", which contained the following lyric, was never censored:
Bus stop rat bag, ha ha, charade you are.
You fucked up old hag, ha ha, charade you are.
Yesterday afternoon that all changed.
For the first time in my life, I heard "bullshit" blanked out in "Money" on 101.9 WRXP New York. That station did what no radio station ever dared to do before. They censored Pink Floyd!
Shameful! Shameful! Shameful!
They not only totally ruined my listening pleasure, they ruined my day, as well. This has been bothering me for the last 10 hours. How dare they censor a song that has always been allowed to stand in it's entire artistic majesty, on the public airwaves, for well over 30 years!
I am still in shock...stunned.
They are an awesomely fantastic radio station (you can listen to their stream and check them out for yourself), BUT...this incident is going to linger with me, bugging the hell out of me, for a long time.
How dare they!
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Inspired by the trend on a lot of the design blogs to use flourishes and swirly looking things, I decided to take a crack at it and create a pack of images that would be suitable for anyone that designs Wordpress themes, website templates, or just if you want to use it on your own website or blog. Commercial use is OK, do as you wish, just don't offer them for download (together or individually) or claim you made them. You have to make something with them.
There is a total of 60 PNG images in this pack:
- 1 image with a transparent background
- 1 image with a white background
- 29 images with various gradient backgrounds
- 29 matching gradients images to be used as page or element backgrounds.
Sample shown at actual size:
Samples with some of the gradients (reduced size):
Download link can be found on my art site.
Friday, September 12, 2008
There are 26 different images, each with dropshadow, png format, each in 2 styles, both transparent and white backgrounds.
If you like these, let me know and I'll make more. If you use them on your site or blog, share a link so I can see.
Shown at 50% of actual size:
Download link can be found on my art site.
Saturday, September 06, 2008
For artists, it allows them to reach out across the borders of their countries and find a new audience. It allows independent artists the opportunity to market themselves and their music, without having to resort to signing up with some RIAA record label that is more interested in money than artistic quality.
One of these independent artists is Eldad Lidor.
There isn't much information available in English about this artist, but it seems he is a relatively famous one within his own country of Israel, having composed the musical score for some movies and television programs, among them a 1989 Israeli film called Crossfire (Esh Tzolevet).
He has also been the executive producer of at least one movie, a 1999 Israeli film called Shiv'a Yamim Be'Elul.
He's a real go getter, and puts a lot of effort into reaching out to potential fans on Last.fm. It was there that I was contacted by him and asked to listen to his music and tell him what I thought. (I love when artists spam me with their tracks, especially when they are really good.)
But being on a slow computer and connection, I can't stream audio and can only listen if there is a track I can download. After explaining this to him, he pointed me towards the only tracks he has available for download on Last.fm.
Going On is a short (2:18) but very good instrumental, a lonely highway kind of tune that I could imagine as the background music of a modern western movie, as the hero rides off into the night in an old beat up convertable. Or maybe playing as one stands alone, on a subway platform in New York City, in the middle of the night, watching the empty trains go by.
My Father Memoris - I am not too sure how to describe this one except to say it reminds me a bit of a cross between Mike Oldfield, Yanni, and an 80's electronica style commercial for the Bates Motel. It's a little bit spooky in some parts, and the percussion gets rather interesting towards the middle of the track.
Eldad also has another track available for download called Relationships, along with a number of others you can stream on his MySpace page. You will need a MySpace account to download, though.
If you like what you hear, please consider supporting artists by buying an album, seeing a concert, or telling a friend, especially when you find a really good independent artist like Eldad Lidor. Let's all help artists like him become successful, worldwide, without them having to resort to selling their souls to an RIAA affiliated record label.
Saturday, August 23, 2008
In just about every family I know, there has occurred a similar situation, where a loved one has died and all of the recipes that person was responsible for, that became an integral part of that family's culture and traditions, were lost forever.
When a death occurs in a family, it is hard enough to deal with the loss of that person without adding the loss of family culture and tradition on top of it.
Sure Christmas will never be the same without Grandma, but now you don't even have her cookies to help keep her memory alive and feel like at least that part of her is still here.
I would like all moms, grandmas, and anyone else that has ever cooked any food for their family, from holiday dinners to Friday night pizza, to take a moment to think about what would happen to your recipes if anything ever happened to you. If you are a newly wed, and don't really have many yet, think about what could happen in the future when you have plenty.
Are all of your recipes written down and all in one place? Does your family know where to find them? What would happen if your house burned down, taking your paper copies of your recipes with it? Do you have any of Grandma's recipes that need to be protected so they can be handed down to future generations?
Consider publishing all your recipes to a blog, maybe including photos of the prepared items, or even better, photos of your family members enjoying them. Make sure every member of your family has the URL bookmarked.
You might want to create this recipe blog on a free service like Blogger, so there will be less risk of them being lost by being deleted by a hosting company, just in case something happens to you and the hosting bill doesn't get paid.
The bonus you will get for doing this, besides peace of mind, is that while you are still alive, all your recipes will be in one place, easy to share with family and friends, protected in case a fire or flood destroys your home, and you will be introducing others to creations that could possibly become part of their own family culture and traditions.
But more importantly, should anything happen to you, your family will still have that part of you kept alive. And it will be a big comfort to them to still be able to have that. It will be like you coming back every once in awhile to give them a big hug when they really need it most. All of the good memories that go along with the foods will be well preserved in their hearts & minds, when the taste is still on their tongues.
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Now that Hello Kitty has her own antivirus (how can you take a product like that seriously?), Barbie is jealous and wants her own programming IDE...and she wants YOU to design it for her.
Your assignment (if you choose to accept it):
- Take a screenshot of your favorite IDE.
- Drag it into the photo editing software of your choice.
- Dress it up Barbie style...all pink, flowery, and quite girly.
- Make it look like something Barbie would be proud to code in.
- Show it off by posting a link to your creation(s) in a comment.
Delphi 6 for Barbie:
Thursday, July 17, 2008
Some of what makes anti-procrastination tools work, is their novelty. Once that novelty wears off, you are right back where you started, procrastinating again.
A hypothetical example:
Let's say I hate mopping my floor and I always procrastinate about doing it. Then I see an ad on TV for a wonder mop, with a handle that twinkles when you push it. You stop pushing, it stops twinkling. You push it faster, it twinkles more. And even more amazing, is that it also sings! I order this mop, because it seems like it could make mopping fun.
So the mop arrives, and I can't wait to get it out of it's packaging and try it. I fill my bucket with soapy water and begin mopping. The singing & twinkling is pretty cool, and before I know it, the whole floor is clean. Great! Wonderful! Terriffic! It's working. I didn't procrastinate and I got the job done.
I like this mop so much, I am having no problem mopping my floor and keeping it clean. I am not even procrastinating about it any more. This is the best mop ever! It's like magic!
But a few months later, after the novelty of the twinkling & singing mop begins to wear off, I find myself beginning to procrastinate about mopping the floor again. What happened? This was supposed to be the best mop ever. What went wrong?
Nothing went wrong. I just had an unrealistic expectation that some wonder tool was going to make me like doing a task I hate.
The truth is that nothing can make me like mopping floors, not even a magical, singing, twinkling wonder mop.
So if you try an anti-procrastination tool and it works for awhile, but then stops working...the problem isn't the tool. It's you and how you feel about the task...your real feelings.
Instead of looking for a new tool to trick yourself into thinking that you like what you hate, work on the real problem: the task itself, how you feel about it, and why.
If you can be honest with yourself, you can begin to look for a real solution instead of tricks. If you fix the root problem, you won't need a singing, twinkling mop to get things done.
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Listen up, John Chow, Jack Humphrey, Matthew Henrickson, Andy Beard, and the rest of you lazy and/or inept bloggers out there:
I am tired of wasting my time on broken comment forms, screwball captchas, lazy moderation, and bad site design.
Too many times in the past 2 weeks, I have tried to make comments on blogs that ended up sucked into cyberspace and never making it to its destination, which is the post in which I was commenting on.
On three blogs, after taking the time to formulate an informative, relevant, quality comment (one of them was at least an hour of work), it was just sucked away after clicking the submit button, with no indication that it made it to where it was supposed to go, or it being held for moderation, or anything else. Will I ever grace those blogs with another comment again? No!
On another blog, after almost the same amount of work and hitting the submit button, I was informed that commenting on that post was closed. Why was there a comment form then? And why was there no visible indication that commenting was closed that I could see, before I wasted my time putting together a comment? Will I ever grace that blog with another comment? No!
On another blog, after I took the time to make a comment thanking the blogger for his post and tell him how useful it was to me and why, and how I was going to send him some traffic because it was that damn good, his captcha informs me that I must have flunked math in school because 4+3 does not equal 7. Don't insult me like that. I try to compliment you and thank you, and this is the thanks I get? A screwball captcha that calls me an idiot? Will I ever comment on your blog again? No!
On another two blogs, my comment was being held for moderation. Now I can understand the need to do that in order to keep spammers at bay, but don't you think you should check your queue to see if any comments were made, at least once a week, if not more often? Maybe even check it when you are making a new post, at least. Will I be commenting on those blogs again? No!
I am tired of wasting chunks of my life trying to comment unsucessfully on your blogs.
So to all you bloggers out there, please check to make sure your comment forms and captchas work, when commenting is closed that it is visibly closed to your visitors before they waste their time (remove the form if possible), if comments are being held for moderation that commentors are told this, and process your comment moderation queues on a regular basis!
And if you have no clue what you are doing or how to fix things, ask someone to help you!
Saturday, July 05, 2008
Yesterday, on the anniversary of America's indepencence, I wanted to write a piece on freedom, but kind of got stuck.
At first I wanted to write about the countries that still are not free, like China, where bloggers are now resorting to writing backwards in order to beat censorship and report about what is really going on behind the Great Firewall.
Or perhaps focusing on who is and isn't totally free yet.
Then thinking about the US, the myth of freedom here, and the reality that we aren't totally free as some may believe, maybe focusing on why we are not free, as this report may explain.
Or go more in depth about the freedom of the press, and what responsibilities come along with it in relation to self-censorship and its ethical and moral implications, focusing on the list of censored news stories.
Or perhaps a piece on economic freedom and what organizations like The Green Children Foundation are doing to help people living in third world countries overcome poverty, while still keeping their dignity, in the form of microcredit loans.
Or perhaps how the price of oil can threaten democracy in places where the whole concept of freedom is still fairly new and still on shakey ground. The article is from 2006, when the price of oil was much lower than it is now, so most likely the situation is much worse today than it was at the time the article was written.
Or artistic and educational freedom, and focus on books that have been banned throughout history, for one reason or another.
Or psychological freedom, and how the fear of failure holds so many people back and prevents them from living up to their full potential. (Unfortunately, something I have first-hand experience with)
Or the desire for financial freedom, and the rising number of "get rich on the internet by blogging about how to make money blogging" websites that are popping up every day.
Or freedom of information, and the threat of censorship from ISP's and their desire to do away with net neutrality to boost profits, cut costs, and control what you see and do on the internet, and decide who can and will be able to profit online.
Since I couldn't make up my mind as to what direction I wanted to go with this freedom piece, I decided to give you a little slice of everything I was thinking about yesterday, just in time for lunch.
Enjoy your "freedom sandwich".
Take it slow, one bite at a time, don't eat too fast...it's ok to save some for later.
Saturday, June 28, 2008
I am both pro-choice and pro-life and the 2 views are not in conflict with each other because I am also very pro-education.
In a perfect world, every child would be born to 2 responsible parents that loved it, wanted it, had the means and skills required to take care of it, nurture it, properly educate it, and help it to become a productive member of society.
But we don't live in a perfect world, do we?
And people do make mistakes. That is why there are erasers on pencils and backspace keys on keyboards...and abortion.
Unless and until we can find a way to eliminate the mistakes before they are made, then the eraser is still needed, and the backspace key...and abortion, and all of those will continue to exist.
If you want to end abortions, then end the mistakes that lead to them...by educating people to make better choices.
Instead of telling kids that babies come from the stork or by swallowing watermelon seeds, start at an early age and tell them where they really come from.
And don't tie the hands of educators that want to provide children with knowledge by forbidding them from teaching how the human body works, how and why pregnancies occur, how one can prevent pregnancies. This is valuable information they will need, even if they do wait until marriage to have sex.
Arming your kids with the facts doesn't lead to wild orgies of teens having sex. On the contrary... Show a classroom full of 14 year olds a video of a live birth, with a nice close-up of the woman's twat opening wide to pass the head of a baby, and it's likely to scare the crap out of them and give them something to think about and make them not want to have sex for at least a year.
Telling them about birth control choices and making them available prevents them from getting pregnant, in the event that they do decide to be sexually active. And don't forget to educate them on the psycological effects of abortion and the lingering effects it has on the mind of the mother that decides to take that route, so they won't see abortion as a first line birth control choice.
Do whatever it takes to change the attitudes of young women who regard taking care of a baby as being all fun and games, like playing house, or playing with baby dolls, so they don't deliberately get pregnant with a child they are unable and unprepared to care for. And make them understand that caring for a child isn't like caring for a pet dog, cat, or hamster. They need to understand this before they get pregnant with the first one and not find out after the fact, which can lead to aborting a second pregnancy.
Give them enough information and better choices and they won't make so many damn mistakes that lead to abortion. There is so much to consider before getting pregnant. Teach them this and don't wait till after the fact to tell them. End abortion by ending unwanted pregnancies...end unwanted pregnancies with knowledge and understanding.
If my daughter made a mistake, which is highly unlikely because I have educated her myself, I would hope she would seriously consider giving her baby a chance at life, like I did, but I would also hope she would make that choice after careful consideration about what kind of life that baby would have and how it would impact hers, and exactly how she will provide for it and not eventually become a burden to her child at the same time. But in the end, the choice is hers and not mine, and I don't have the right to make that choice for her. If my daughter decides she is not ready to be a mother, than I am not ready to be a grandmother, as well.
Whether you like the definition or not, babies are perfect parasites, by the technical definition of what a parasite is, and not one that can be cured with a little bit of medicated soap.(funny how we don't see "save the pubic lice" protests, huh?)
Parenthood is a permanent condition. When you decide to have a baby, you are stuck with it and it's effects for life, not just till it becomes legally an adult. Even if your child dies before you do, you don't stop being a parent...you just become the parent of a dead child.
I wonder how many old women died from falling out of bed, severe bone fractures caused by the osteoporosis that began with a baby leeching the calcium from their bones when they were young.
Yes, you may have contributed to the cause of death of your mother by your actions before you were born. Kids also need to know and understand things like this before they get pregnant.
And just like you can't end typos by outlawing backspace keys, you can't end unwanted pregnancies or abortions by making it illegal...you only end legal abortions, driving women to seek their abortions illegally, putting them at great risk of death by having an abortion performed by an untrained person in a tattoo parlor or butcher shop, or doing it themselves with a coat hanger at home, rather than a nice safe medical clinic by a trained doctor.
Outlawing abortion can kill both your daughters and grandchildren at the same time, which is much worse than just losing your grandchildren, and I would never forgive the one that takes my precious daughter away from me with their thoughtless laws.
The internet has been cluttered lately with tributes and articles devoted to Bill Gates and his contributions to the world of computing, on the eve of his retirement from Microsoft.
Out of all of these, one in particular stands out...
Back in 2003, Bill Gates tried to download and install Windows Movie Maker, unsuccessfully, and then sent a whopper of an email rant to the proper department heads.
I chuckled and felt a great sense of satisfaction as I read this, because this is a whole different side of Bill that we have never seen. This is not the smiling Bill you see in all the publicity photos. This is not the Bill you have seen in interviews and videos.
This is "Bill the XP user"...one of us. And he was pissed as all hell, at all the crap he had to go through to download & install an application from Microsoft.com, which in the end, he still wasn't able to do.
This email rant is a priceless gem.
It is the email we all wish we could have written, a million and one times over.
Each and every time that we have blamed and cursed out Bill over the years because of some stupid-ass Windows crap that has annoyed or confused the hell out of us, Bill Gates has been annoyed and confused right along with us, and bitching at the people responsible for the bullshit.
Thanks, Bill. You changed our lives. And I hope, even though you are retiring, that you plan to keep on bitching.
Thursday, June 26, 2008
While the world's eyes are focused on the global rice shortage, skyrocketing rice prices, and how it is affecting 3rd world countries, there is another issue that seems to have slipped by relatively unnoticed: the skyrocketing price of pasta in the US.
Over the last year there has been an extreme increase in the price of spaghetti and most other macaroni products. In some cases it has been an almost 300% price hike.
Around this time last year, I was able to purchase 3 packages of spaghetti for $1, regular price. Now I am lucky if I can get 1 package at that price, on sale.
And the price for a box of macaroni & cheese has gone from $0.49 to $0.89..
A case of ramen used to be $1.99. It is now $2.50.
All of this within the last 12 months.
While rice may be the staple food for the poor in many 3rd world countries, pasta is also a food heavily consumed by the poor, in the US. And even though the price of rice has increased drasticly, it is still by far much cheaper to buy than spaghetti currently is.
I believe that it is quite possible that the rising cost of macaroni products can make the global rice shortage even worse than it already is, as more lower income families switch from pasta to rice, to save money, thereby increasing the demand for rice.
What is even worse, is that the rising prices of food in general will cause a rise in prices that restaurants charge for a meal, causing more middle income families to eat at home rather than going out to eat. This loss of business to restaurants translates to a loss of jobs and income for many lower income families that depend upon minimum wage restaurant jobs to support themselves.
The poor that rely on the Food Stamp program are running out of money before the end of the month because of the increase in food prices, but no cost of living increase in their monthly allotment of funds. They are being forced to turn to local church run food pantries for help feeding their children.
Pasta is a staple of many local food pantries that supply the poor with free food. As prices go up, the poor can afford less, and rely on these food pantries more & more to keep from starving. And as prices go up, donations made by the middle class to these food pantries decreases, and then they don't have enough to meet the demands of the poor they are feeding.
Poor children are eating cheap, high fat, high sugar, low nutrient junk food to keep from being hungry. They are not getting the nutrients they need to grow strong & healthy. They are getting sick and missing school more. The ones that are in school are too busy thinking about their growling stomachs to pay attention to their work. Their health & education are sufferring, and they will pay for it in the future by never acquiring the means to rise above their current poverty status. At the same time, as a result of bad nutrition, they are becoming a bigger burden to the free government provided Medicaid healthcare system, that is paid for by the tax dollars of the middle class.
And why exactly are the food prices so high? Could it be the price of gas affecting the shipping costs and driving everything higher? Could it be that the economy really sucks right now and businesses are raising prices in order to turn a profit and keep their doors open? Bad weather killing off crops? A combination of things?
Whatever the reason for the increase in prices, this much you can be sure of: the prices are not going to come back down, whenever the problem that is driving the increases goes away. I have never known a business to lower prices after an economic slump. They usually just keep them at what they are, raising them again when the next crisis hits, that eats their profits. Your dollar is shrinking fast, and it's likely to stay shrunk, even when the economy improves.
The amount of low income families in America is increasing, the bar that marks the poverty level is rising, the middle class getting smaller as they slip down below that bar, the number of elderly increasing, the amount of tax dollars needed to support social services & healthcare for the poor and elderly increasing, the amount of tax dollars available to fund it all decreasing, the amount the middle class needs to make ends meet increasing, the amount in their paychecks after taxes decreasing.
This is a serious long term crisis, and a $300 economic stimulus check ain't going to fix it.
American Spaghetti Crisis: Part 2
Other articles, news, and information resources
Thursday, June 12, 2008
On Tuesday night (June 10) we had an incredible storm here, in the Nutley, NJ area.
My husband was watching the Lakers game, I was on the computer (as usual), and my daughter was in the shower.
Right around half-time, the heatwave we were having ended when a violent storm rolled in, the worst in over 20 years, with heavy rain, hurricane force winds, dangerous lightning, and hail. Some say it was golf ball sized hail, I don't really know. All I know is that it sounded like we were under attack, with 1000's of children throwing rocks at all of our windows. I was so afraid the windows were going to break, especially the two skylights in the hallways.
I was screaming at my daughter to get the hell out of the shower and trying to shut down my pc (that takes forever).
Total time of the storm was around 30 minutes...30 very frightening minutes.
When it was all over, that was when the real fun began...
The power went out, and not just for a few minutes or an hour.
The night wasn't so bad for my husband, who is a day person that sleeps at night. He caught the rest of the Lakers game on a battery operated radio, sitting on the front porch, trying to stay cool, and then went to bed.
But my daughter and I are not day people. We live our lives at night.
With candles on the kitchen table and my husband sound asleep, I attempted to read a book. It wasn't so bad, till my daughter came out with more candles to heat things up, looking for company and wanting to talk. No more reading for me. It's not that I don't appreciate her company, it's just that I was really starting to get into the book.
It was too hot in the house, and too quiet outside for talking. With no fans and air conditioners running, and everyone with their windows open, even a whisper would have been loud enough to disturb our neighbors that were sleeping. So at about 3:30 am we walked to a diner not affected by the power outage, to take advantage of their air conditioning and never ending supply of coffee.
We left the diner when the sun came up, hoping that when we got back home we would have electricity. That was around the time that things really started to cool off with a very pleasant cool breeze.
Sadly, we didn't have power yet. We were left with no electricity for over 24 hours.
When my husband woke up, he made the discovery that he really needs to get a life. He needs a hobby other than TV watching, something that doesn't require electricity. I ended up teaching him how to play Solitaire, just so I could get some sleep.
At least I had many things I could do to keep me busy, such as reading, crocheting, etc. He has no other interests other than watching sports and game shows on TV. I might have to stock up on kids toys, coloring books, and crayons, for next time we have a situation like this.
I sent him out on a mission, to find ice and lamp oil, since the reports on how long it was going to take to restore our power weren't good. They didn't expect to be able to restore our power till some time on Friday, if we were lucky.
I ended up losing all the food in my refrigerator. Stuff in the freezer, although partially thawed, was still ok and not spoiled.
All the stores were sold out of ice, batteries, flashlights, ice chests, and all the other good survival stuff, at least the stores that had power and were open.
My daughter ended up calling a friend in another town to ask him to help us find some ice for the freezer, which thankfully he was able to get for us.
I did manage to make one really great purchase at the supermarket around the corner, that will be useful for many years to come. I picked up 2 flashlights that don't need batteries. They have a crank that you turn, and 3 minutes of cranking gives you around 30 minutes of light.
One of these flashlights can provide enough light with it's powerful LED's, to light an entire room. Maybe not as good as my old battery operated 5 inch flourescent tube light, but these flashlights will more than pay for themselves over time, with the money saved by not having to buy batteries.
The only reason why I was able to get any of these was because they were in a different part of the store that didn't make any sense, far away from the other flashlights. Everything else was sold out, as I mentioned before.
I was sitting on the porch at about 11:30 PM on Wednesday, reading a book with one of the new flashlights, when the power came back on. I could hear the entire block emit a simultanious cheer.
I am really glad we didn't have to wait till Friday to get our power back.
I started up my pc and got my ass online, to let people know I was ok. The last my friends heard from me was a quit message on IRC that said "Bad storm". While I was doing that, my daughter boiled water to cook our half-thawed raviolis. Right after they hit the water, the power went out again, and you could hear the whole neighborhood screaming profanities, or that could have just been my daughter swearing enough for the whole block.
For the next few hours, the power wasn't all that stable, so I decided not to run the computer again till it was.
Now that things seem stable, I can finally make a blog post about my experiences and get some work done, beginning with my inbox jammed with 2 days worth of email.
You know, thinking back to how upset I was a few years ago when they cut down all the really old big trees on my block, to make street repairs, I am now glad they did. The little cherry trees they replaced them with couldn't cause the kind of damage that other streets around here had problems with.
If they hadn't cut those trees down, it all could have been much worse here, with a lot of property damage and potentially deadly, with live wires & such. I never thought I'd live to see the day where I would actually be happy about what they did to our block.
Sunday, June 08, 2008
The prize is a copy of Microsoft Visual Studio Team Suite with MSDN Premium subscription (almost every application from Microsoft!), worth over $10,000!
So what do you have to do to enter?
- Code a new, never-released application, using one of the free versions of Microsoft Visual Studio Express.
- Provide the source code for your application (but you do not need to release this publicly if you don’t want to).
- The winning program must be freeware or donationware.
- Code any kind of program you want.
- Post a reply to this forum thread and email mouser stating your intention to enter, well in advance of the deadline.
When is that deadline?
July 1st, 2008
Oh, my! That’s not too far away, so go read about the full contest rules and information and get coding.
Friday, June 06, 2008
The first time I saw an image of this painting was when I was around 9 or 10 years of age. It was on a card included with the Masterpiece game.
My first impression of it was "If they let this guy be a famous painter, then anybody can become one."
I was not very impressed. Something about it was very child-like and seemed not much more skilled than the average child's crayon drawings hanging on the fridge of most American families.
Since I was a child myself, I expected more from a "great artist". I expected things to look real. I was more likely to be impressed by a painting that looked like a photograph, or where it seemed like you could reach in and pick a piece of fruit right out of the still life and take a bite.
I am still impressed by that kind of art, but I gained a greater appreciation for paintings like Van Gogh's bedroom once I realized what made Van Gogh's paintings great was something that couldn't be seen in the average postcard sized print...the brush strokes.
Van Gogh put more work into those brush strokes than anything else. That man could paint a canvas totally black, void of any other color, and it be a masterpiece...full of emotion...and motion.
OK...now that I have shared that with you, here is the real reason for my post:
I was searching for somewhere to buy a copy of the painting, as a large poster, for my daughter.
She wants one free of any extra added details, no captions, no borders, no frame...large and reasonably priced. So I was searching for one and was unsuccessful. If you know where to find one, please post a link in the comments.
While I was searching, I did come across a few cool sites & images to share.
The first is Van Gogh 3D, where his bedroom was recreated as a 3D model by Pete Clements, not once but twice, and both are quite impressive.
The first model was created way back in 1993 on an old Acorn A3000, and features the unseen view of the bedroom.
You can read a bit more information at the artist's older site, while the site still exists. It is scheduled to be closed for a revamp soon, and when the site reopens the Van Gogh stuff will not be included. So go take a look while you still can. The extra information is worth reading.
The second model was created in 2003 and is Van Gogh's entire yellow house, and you can go on a virtual tour and explore it. It will require the Viewpoint Media Player browser plugin, as the entire thing was created in Adobe Atmosphere.
If you are a Mac user, you will miss out on this, as there isn't a plugin for Mac available, and since Adobe discontinued development on the Atmosphere project, there likely will never be one. I miss out on this because my old piece of crap PC can't handle it. I'll have to wait till I am on a better machine to explore it.
Now the other website I found is that of a sculptor named Gil Russell, who carved the bedroom scene in wood, adding the figures of Vincent Van Gogh and his painter buddy, Paul Gaugin, just to make it that much more interesting. It all sits atop a wooden box painted to resemble "Starry Night".
So enjoy those links and then take a few minutes to see if you can find that poster my daughter wants. She would really appreciate it.
Monday, May 26, 2008
Nicolas Berggruen is a multi-billionaire that doesn't own his own home...or a car...or not much else, for that matter.
He lost interest in acquiring and owning material things. At some point, he realized that you can't buy happiness, nor can you find it in possessions...and then he sold off everything he had.
According to Mr Berggruen, “Living in a grand environment to show myself and others that I have wealth has zero appeal. Whatever I own is temporary, since we’re only here for a short period of time. It’s what we do and produce, it’s our actions, that will last forever. That’s real value.”
As a hopeless packrat, I am starting to really feel the burden of possessions and have recently embarked on a whole house de-junking adventure. While I am not too sure why I own most of what I have, I do understand why I can't just toss it away. My frugal nature prevents me. Some of it could be useful to someone else. But I can't locate the someone else that would provide a home for my unwanted things.
I had considered placing an ad somewhere, promising a 'gift' to anyone and everyone that shows up at my house on a particular weekend. If the turnout is good, I should have a lot more breathing space on the following Monday.
Just imagine the look on the face of the person that shows up and gets an Encyclopedia Britannica set, originally worth over $2000. I have been trying to get rid of that, unsucessfully, for the last 5 years!
There are other things that I can't part with, not because I need them, but because of the symbolic nature of the objects. They have a sentimental value to me. It's my feelings for the person they remind me of, that prevents me from discarding them.
Why do humans place such a high value on silly objects that were owned by deceased loved ones & friends, and people they will probably never see again? Is it a thought that by keeping these things that you are keeping a part of them alive? Keeping the good times of the past by keeping the objects of the past? Can the memory live without the objects? How much of a long term impact will it truly have on your life, your memories, and your feelings, if you part with grandma's old worn out sewing box? Or a bracelet that your deceased brother made for you back when you were 9 years old? Or baby clothes that were worn by your child, who is now all grown up?
I am going to use Nicolas Berggruen as my inspiration, and try to learn to let go of "stuff". At the very least, it will make it much easier to pack, the next time I have to move.
Monday, May 19, 2008
The zip file contains a variety of sizes from 23x23, to 600x23.
Included is a number of formats: .bmp, .gif, .jpg, and .png.
These buttons may be used for both non-commercial and commercial purposes.
You may use them on your website, in your applications, or whatever you wish.
You may alter these buttons to suit your needs in any way you desire.
Download link can be found on my art site.
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
The Creative Commons license, for his own original works, is the choice of the author. He is not forced to do this (unless it's a derivative work based on another Creative Commons work, or he is publishing someone else's CC licensed work). He does it willingly. He makes the conscious decision to make his work copyable under certain restrictions, whether they be giving him credit, not making derivative works, derivative works allowed, restrictions on commercial use, no restrictions on commercial use, etc.
But he is giving you the right to copy it, nonetheless.
I spotted this one at the bottom of the page on a blog today:
According to the Creative Commons license for that site, in which the author links to, I CAN copy his content. According to the little Copyscape banner above it, I may not.
So which is it? Can I or can't I?
I wish authors would think about it seriously and make up their minds before they put the banners on their sites. They can't have it both ways. They can't say out of one side of their mouths you can copy their work, and out of the other that you can't. They are conflicting statements and ideas.
If you don't want to give people the legal right to copy your work, don't release it under any type of Creative Commons license. Retain full copyright and priviledges for yourself. And get the Creative Commons badges off your site!
Sunday, May 11, 2008
He plays Halo with them, of course!
And then grows up to be a politician.
This is one of the most hilarious news articles that I have read in awhile.
"13 Year Old Steals Dad's Credit Card to Buy Hookers"
Friday, February 29, 2008
This is not a post about Ron Paul, although it could be seen as one. This more about bias in the media and how it can affect an entire country, more than anything else. Read through to the end and take a look at the rest of the censorship, that has nothing to do with Ron Paul, to understand the full effect of what is going on.
The American people have been deprived of the truth by the mainstream media.
Because they see Ron Paul is a threat to their corporate interests, the mainstream media has gone out of their way to bury anything positive about Ron Paul, misrepresent the facts, deprive him of equal treatment in media coverage, exclude him from debates, polls, and reporting.
They have gone out of their way to silence Ron Paul's supporters by deleting their comments from news sites, misrepresenting the number of supporters present in official news photos of various political events.
The list of their biased atrocities goes on & on.
The following videos will show you exactly what has been going on.
Are you angry yet? Why not? What makes this fair treatment of a Presidential candidate?
Even if you don't agree with Ron Paul's message and what he stands for, you should agree with his right to be heard. You should agree with equal treatment of candidates. You should agree with unbiased news reporting.
The American people have the right to know the truth. They have the right to have each candidate treated fairly and equally by the media. It should be left up to the citizens to decide the results of the next election...not the mainstream media companies.
If they have done this with Ron Paul, what else have they done this with?
How about this for starters: Project Censored's 2008 Top 25 Censored News Stories
That's one hell of a scary list!
It really makes you wonder who exactly is in charge of this country and what plans they have for YOU.
Thursday, February 28, 2008
Hunt in the usual places for change: check the pockets and lining in your coats and jackets, check your couch cushions, your desk drawers, under the bed, your car, etc. I know this is obvious, but most people never think of looking in all those places when they need quick small cash. They will usually look in most of them, but forget one or more.
Check the rebate sites and match products against receipts of recent purchases. If you don't check you will never know what money you have thrown away, that you were entitled to get back.
Put some ads on your site or blog. Adsense is easy to set up and you will eventually make something from it. And there are other programs that will pay off even sooner, since they have lower minimum payout thresholds. So shop around and see what is agreeable with your conscience and can fit in well with your site and not scare your visitors away.
Give away something for free on your site, and put a donate button right under it...and ASK for a donation! If you have any kind of art software like Photoshop, Paintshop Pro, Paint.net, etc...and you know how to use it...make some blank buttons or something, that people can use for their websites and post it in your blog. Release it under a Creative Commons license, require a link back to your site if they use it, and even if people don't donate, it will drive some traffic your way, which you just might make some money off the ads they may click.
Turn your trash into treasure by getting crafty, then sell your creations. I once took a bucket of water, some glass bottles & jars, and old nail polish and made some really cool looking stuff by filling the bucket with water, dripping the nail polish on top of the water, and dipping the glass into the bucket. The effect was like a swirly Easter egg, and since some of the nail polish had glitter in it, it looked even better. I painted the rims with some crappy quality silver nail polish that I didn't like and sold them for $0.50 each at a flea market. I made quite a bit by cleaning out my recycle bin and selling the stuff, rather than letting it all go to the curb. Tall narrow jars, like the kind from olives, make nice bud vases and sell even faster with an old silk flower you would have thrown away, stuck inside it. Wash the flowers first, if they look a bit grimy.
Return bottles for deposit. In some states, you are required to pay a deposit on bottles, which is included in the purchase price of the product and will be refunded upon the return of the empty bottles. If you live in such a state, go get your money back.
Find a coupon for $2 or more off on some brand of cigarettes, purchase the cigarettes, then sell them to someone else for $1 off the regular price. It helps if you know a smoker that smokes that brand before you buy, though.
Sell your old cd's that you don't listen to any more to a second hand cd store. Tastes change, and there is no reason why you should keep something you aren't going to listen to any more, just to let it take up space and collect dust. You can get cash for it and someone else won't have to pay full price.
Sell your old unwanted fiction books to a used book store. Keep reference books, and in the future, get your fiction from the library instead of buying it. There is no reason to pay for something you will read only once. The library has so much in the way of good works of fiction that you will never run out of stuff to read. And you can read it all for free.
Check your state's unclaimed funds list for your name. I have found quite a few people I know on the list for my state, including my uncle, and an ex-employer.
That recent purchase you haven't opened, used, or worn that you really don't need, take it back for a refund. Impulse spending can be a serious drain on your wallet. Learn to control it.
Sign up with mysurvey.com and take surveys. The more people you have in your family, the more surveys you will be asked to take. You will make at least 10 points per survey, more if they ask you to take a long one. I have taken surveys worth 250 points each. When you have 1000 points you can cash them in for a $10 check.
Sign up with memolink.com and click links in emails and take surveys. You don't have to buy anything to make cash from them. Use some free email account to do it separate from your regular one. They will send you emails that if you visit the site you earn points. When you earn enough points you can redeem them for money. I have received quite a few $10 checks from them doing that.
Do some paid consumer product testing with ACOP. They are one of the few companies I know that will pay you for product testing. It's not a scam. It can be tough to qualify for a product test, but when you do, you usually can make a few bucks and get a free product out of the deal, too. I have tested all kinds of things from toothbrushes, to shampoo, to feminine hygiene products. I have been paid from $2 to $7 per test. I have also taken paid surveys with them. They don't run on a points system and they don't make you wait till you have accumulated a certain amount in rewards before sending you the cash. They pay for each thing you qualify and participate in, and mail out the money soon after you complete it.
Check your junk mail to see if it has cash included. I once received a letter from some magazine company asking me to go to their website and take a survey. The letter came with a $1 bill as compensation for my time and trouble, that I could keep even if I declined to take the survey. Now I never throw away junk mail without checking it for cash first.
Keep an eye on your neighborhood trash for sellable furniture. Grab it, clean it and sell it. (see #4) I once had a neighbor that was moving and threw away some beautiful glass tables that I grabbed & cleaned and hid in my basement till the following month's yard sale. I then sold them to another neighbor for $50. She never knew she had bought someone else's trash.
Write an easy to follow guide or how-to book and self publish it on lulu.com. Everybody knows how to do something that not everyone else knows how to do. All you have to do is explain it well. Put some time & thought into it and write something worth buying. Then upload the .pdf and charge a reasonable price for it.
Think up witty sayings to put on T-shirts and start a cafepress shop and sell the stuff on your site. Ask your site visitors to send you photos of them wearing the shirts, for publication on your site. Start your visitor gallery page off with a photo of yourself or your pet wearing one of the shirts. It's a great way to connect with your site visitors and a great incentive to get them to buy a shirt.
Sell your broken jewelry as scrap metal. If you can't wear it, and it's not fixable, it's as good as trash. But it's trash with a monetary value, if you sell it to a jewelry store.
Sell the collections (coins, stamps, toy cars, comic books, baseball cards, dolls, etc). You are probably keeping them thinking that some day they will be worth something. Today is someday. You should check and see if it is true. If it hasn't gone up in value after 5 years, sell it for whatever you can get for it and cut your losses. There are better ways to invest your money than in "stuff". If you have fallen in love with the stuff and can't bear to part with it, you have reduced its value to $0. Never fall in love with an investment. Sentimental value can't put food on the table.
Sell your old vinyl records. If you don't have a turntable any more, what good are they to you? You probably will never listen to them again. You might as well turn them into cash and let someone else enjoy them before they get warped or damaged and become worthless.
Sell those textbooks you don't need any more. Next time buy used books and you might even make a profit when you sell them.
Stand by a pay phone, holding the phone to your ear, and ask people that pass by if they have a quarter. People will assume you need it for the phone and usually give it to you if they don't mind wasting the time it takes to dig in their pocket for it.
Check the ground in the parking lot outside a convenience store for change. You would be amazed at how many people don't like change and will just throw it on the ground. There is a store in my neighborhood that is always good for finding at least $1 in nickels, dimes, and pennies.
Sunday, February 10, 2008
Hailing from Vancouver BC, Children of the CPU is the electro-pop duo of Cameron Shay and Veronica Rossos.
What is there not to love about this artist?
First of all, great name...but it gets better...
Their first album is called Back to BASIC, as in the programming language, of course.
Their music is pretty cool too. It's kind of like funky game music combined with Poe.
And just when you think they couldn't get any better, I have saved the best part for last...
You can download the entire album for free, in (DRM free) VBR MP3 format!
All 12 tracks!
In Cameron Shay's own words:
"Some people have questioned the wisdom of giving away our entire album for free on our website, but don't worry Mom and Dad, we are still eating well and making rent every month! They got me wondering, though, where my desire to share our music comes from and I realised that it is a direct result of my parents having bought me my first computer, a VIC-20, and then later a Commodore 64 in the mid-80s. Having a C-64 in particular triggered a couple of things: it fostered a DIY attitude because I was able to teach myself how to program games (Lawnmower for the VIC-20 and Tricycle Derby for the C-64 ;) and make electronic music (albeit rudimentary), and it opened the door to a vast community of sharing and trading and making friends. In a way this website and album are simply the extension of those times and attitudes. I spent hundreds of hours on this album over the past couple of years learning how to program the synths and record the midi and live instruments and vocals and mix the tracks and improve the sound and master it all, and then I spent many more hours designing and building cover-art and the website, and it was just like all the hours I spent figuring out how to draw sprites and get them to move around in a game on the C-64 with music and sound effects, and now that it's done I just want to share it with people, just like we used to do back in the day through BBS networks and with our friends. So thanks Mom and Dad for starting me off with those computers, I know you were worried about all the time I spent in my room on those things and I guess that hasn't changed much, but it's all a learning process and that's fun and it makes me happy and now it is making a whole bunch of our new friends/fans happy too!"
Like I said before...what is there not to love?