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Saturday, June 28, 2008

Pro-life and Pro-choice Can Be Two Sides of the Same Coin If That Coin Is Education

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.

Bill Gates Cleans Out His Desk and Leaves Behind a Priceless Email

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

The American Spaghetti Crisis: Part 1

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.

Read More:
American Spaghetti Crisis: Part 2
Other articles, news, and information resources

Thursday, June 12, 2008

I survived the Bad Storm In Northern New Jersey

Click for slide show of Nutley NJ storm damage
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

Win a Microsoft Visual Studio Team Suite Package Worth Over $10,000

DonationCoder is running another whopper of a coding contest, with the help of Chris Hanscom (who runs veign.com).

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.

Good luck!

Friday, June 06, 2008

Van Gogh's Bedroom in Arles

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.