Thursday, October 11, 2007

I just finished reading the His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman. In the trilogy, most of the characters have a companion daemon/spirit which sorta acts like a conscience. The first book in the series is The Golden Compass. The movie will be in theater's in December. Go out to The Golden Compass movie site to see what your daemon would be if you could see it. Here's mine:

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Zombie Nation

Why don't Americans stand up for themselves anymore? I look around, and I see our civil liberties being eroded left and right, and relatively few people are complaining.

The U.S. government can hold you indefinitely without legal representation. All it takes is a supposed threat to national security (real, imagined, or fabricated), and you can be locked away for a very long time. Most people I've spoken to about this think it only happens to bad people, such as terrorists. Our government has become so secretive, who knows?

Orlando has an ordinance making it unlawful to feed homeless people. An activist group has intentionally violated the ordinance, and now at least one man is facing a judge and jury. Activists rarely achieve hero status, however. They're usually demonized.

It's not just government bodies behaving badly. I saw an article yesterday where schools are banning any kind of physical contact between students, whether it be holding hands or giving someone a "high five". This is ridiculous. I guess we are all supposed to exist in these little bubbles of isolation. It's stupid, not to mention unrealistic. The students should band together and all hold hands one day to show school officials they are not going to stand for it.

I doubt that will happen, though. No one wants to make waves and stand out. We've all turned into a bunch of consumer zombies. We're all too busy talking on our cellular phones, playing Playstation 3, watching HDTV, listening to our iPods, and surfing the Internet to care what goes on around us.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

My Take on Tulsa's Plan to Develop the Arkansas

With a vote quickly approaching to determine if people in Tulsa county want to tax themselves to develop the Arkansas River, I thought I'd better educate myself on just exactly what Tulsa county is planning to build. If you are interested, the master plan can be found here. Now, I think developing the river is a great idea, whether it comes from private funding or from taxes (although I think Tulsan's money could be better spent on things like street improvements). So you can imagine, I was leaning toward voting for it. But after looking at the master plan, I will be voting no.

From what I saw, there are seven major areas of improvement. Each of these is spread out really far. There are areas in Sand Springs, Tulsa, Jenks, Broken Arrow, and Bixby. In my opinion, it's too spread out. Take Oklahoma City, for instance. When they renovated Bricktown and built the canal, all of the improvements were essentially concentrated in one area. It has wow factor. The improvements Tulsa county want to make are all too small to have a similar impact. I think the proposed Channels project had more wow to it--it was focused in one area and could have turned out really cool.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

A Dirty Secret

After cell phone companies, credit card companies are probably my least favorite corporate entities to deal with. I think they all need to be sent back to ethics school.

Almost all credit card companies allow you to post a payment on their website. It's fast and it's extremely convenient. Or at least it was--that is, until some greedy sonofabitch in accounting decided they could make a few extra bucks by tricking their customers. Allow me to explain. A lot of people are procrastinators, especially when it comes to money issues. If you don't believe me, go to the post office on the night of April 15th, and see how many people waited until the last minute to send in their tax returns. Recently, I've noticed the credit card companies are taking advantage of this behavior.

Here's how the scam works. Take the day that your payment is due and subtract a day. This will be the last day you can make an online payment without incurring a late fee. So if your payment is due on the 31st, you cannot log in on the 31st and make your online payment anymore. That day will now be blacked out, and the soonest you can make your payment will be the following day, or the 1st, at which point you payment is considered late and you will likely incur a late fee. To avoid the fee, you must now log in the day before your payment is actually due. Otherwise, your payment will not officially post in time. This is total bullshit, of course. It has not always been this way. Just a few months ago, I was able to log in on the day the payment was due and make a payment with no problems. But this way makes the credit card companies more money.

So if your credit card company is not doing it yet, keep an eye on them. They will eventually.

The Tulsa Zoo

I haven't blogged in a long time. I've just not been in the mood. That has changed.

Over the weekend, I went to the Tulsa Zoo. I've gone many times before, and one thing has always bothered me about this zoo and a lot of other zoos. Some of the exhibits are way to small for the animals they house.

For instance, all of the big cats are in small exhibits. The cheetahs have the largest area to roam, but it is still not that much. The lions, tigers, and leopards have the smallest areas to roam around in. I looked this up on Wikipedia, and a tigress may need around 65,000 square feet to move around in. A male tiger may need as much as 328,000 square feet. The tigers at the Tulsa Zoo have maybe 50 square feet to roam in. The other cats have approximately the same amount of territory to live in. A few years ago one of the tigers died. I'm not sure the cause was every determined, but I have my theories--lack of purpose.

The bears are also is similarly small cages. Maybe I'm applying some anthropomorphism to the situation, but when I look at these animals, they all look deeply depressed and bored.

What really angers me is that Mohawk Park (where the Tulsa Zoo is located) is huge. Wikipedia claims it is the third-largest municipal park in the country. So, it's not like there isn't room available.

I can't stand the organization known as PETA (People for the Ethical Treatement of Animals). I think a lot of their stances are ridiculous. However, I have seriously considered writing them a letter to see if they could apply some political pressure on Tulsa to try to do something to help these animals out.

Monday, April 02, 2007

My Experiences With a Mac

I recently purchased an iMac and switched from Windows XP to Mac OS X. After having worked with it for a few weeks now, here are my experiences:

- I like that Apple puts a lot of thought into visual design and usability. The monitor looks freakin' beautiful. The keyboard has a USB plug in it for plugging your mouse into (or whatever else). The keyboard is only USB 1.1. The USB ports on the back are 2.0, however. When the Mac is sleeping, a pulsating circle on the monitor fades in and out to let you know. The built-in speakers sound great. Yeah, you pay more for Apple hardware, but it's really well-designed.

- Mac OS X runs more smoothly and quickly. However, my Mac has 1GB of memory, whereas my Sony VAIO only had 512MB, so I'm not exactly comparing "apples" to oranges. Regardless, it boots up in about 15-20 seconds. You can be working in less than 30 seconds. On XP, even on my laptop at work (which has 2GB of memory), it takes longer than that.

- There are more built-in applications on OS X than XP. And some of them are really useful, like iPhoto, iDVD, iMovie, and GarageBand, to name just a few.

- Searching is great. The built-in Spotlight application works similarly to Google Desktop on XP, but it feels more integrated into the OS than Google Desktop. You can also use it to find applications to launch, which I now prefer to navigating through the XP Start menu.

- Printing is also great. You can either print to the printer or to a PDF. On XP, you need something like PaperPort to print to a PDF.

- Boot Camp is sweet. You can run XP on a separate partition, natively. So I can still play games I have that are XP-specific.

- Parallels Desktop (a separate purchase) lets you run XP in a virtual machine. It's amazing...BUT, whenever I run XP in the virtual machine, it thinks the hardware has changed and keeps asking me to re-activate with Microsoft. The other morning, it would not activate automatically, so I had to call Microsoft and explain to them what I was doing to get it unlocked. It was a hassle to be sure. I'm not sure if this is going to be an ongoing thing or not. This is exactly why I want away from Microsoft.

- OS X feels more stable. I can play 3D-accelerated games and drop back to the desktop several times and the OS doesn't lock up like it did on my XP machine.

- Each user gets a home folder to work out of, and all their settings, documents, music, etc. go under it somewhere. One thing I've always hated about Windows is that the user and the applications they run can write files virtually anywhere in the filesystem.

- Installing programs is usually as simple as dragging an icon into the Applications folder. Deleting them is also really easy. You just drop the application's icon in the trash.

- On OS X, the active application's menu bar is at the top of the scream, and disjointed from the application itself. It takes a little getting used to. Also, when you close an application's main window, it doesn't usually close the application. You have to explicitly choose the Quit command from the menu. The jury is still out if that is a good thing or not.

- Going back and forth between OS X and XP really has made it hard for me to use shortcut keys. On Windows, to copy, you typically do Ctrl+C. On OS X, to copy, it's Command+C (and the command key is where the Alt key is on a Windows keyboard).

- The Home and End keys work differently. On XP, they usually jump to the start and end of the current line. On OS X, they jump to the top and bottom of the document. Annoying.

- The mouse on the Mac seems to only have 1 button. The mouse is more sophisticated than it looks, though. It can actually detect pressure on the areas where the buttons would normally be, and do the left click or right click. Right-clicking is off by default. In normal usage, I found the mouse detected the right-click most of the time, but not always. I finally just took my Logitech mouse from my XP machine and am using it instead.

- No real backup tool is pre-installed. XP has a built-in backup tool (it's terrible), but at least it's there. From what I've read, Apple has a .Mac website that has a really awesome backup tool--they host your backed up data. It's $99 per year. I not paying that.

- Most websites work on Mac (especially using Firefox). Netflix's video on demand only works on Windows, probably because it uses Windows Media DRM. (But I can solve that by booting up XP).

- Most developers focus on Windows first. Quicken is a perfect example. Quicken 2007 for Mac looks years behind Quicken 2007 for Windows. It's very restrictive. I hated it so much, I sent it back for a refund. I found a great cross-platform program called MoneyDance that is much simpler to use, and it can download transactions from my credit card, bank accounts, etc., just like Quicken.

Overall, my experience has been more positive than negative. It took me a few days to get to the point where I actually liked working on a Mac. Now I wish I'd switched sooner. I've read a lot of reviews saying OS X is elegant. To the casual observer, it doesn't really seem that much different than Windows XP, but after using it for a few days, I finally "get" what they are talking about.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The Future of the Zingo

I have good news to report. As you may know, Bell's is being forced out of the fairgrounds. Well, it appears that Bell's intends to save the Zingo, their only rollercoaster. They are asking for a deadline extension so they can disassemble the Zingo and take it with them to the new site, wherever that may be.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

New $1 Coin Coming

Looks like the U.S. Mint is producing a new $1 coin. This has failure written all over it, just like the last two $1 coins they put out.

Author Douglas Mudd points out that no country has successfully introduced a $1 coin alongside paper currency of the same amount. One of them has to go. Also, most countries that have $1 coin have a $2 coin, too. No one wants to carry around 10 pounds of change in their pockets, and having the $2 coin helps with that.

This new coin is going to be updated with a new President's face every 3 months. Interesting, but it could lead to confusion.

Don't get me wrong, I like the idea of a $1 coin. It's more durable, harder to counterfeit than paper, and should be less expensive in the long run.

I guess we'll see what happens.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Non-English Speaking People Not Welcome

Sometimes, I'm really ashamed of Oklahomans. Channel 8 reported that Oklahoma lawmakers are back to trying to pass a law establishing English as the official language. Furthermore, when I clicked on the poll to see if viewers agreed or not, an overwhelming 89% said "yes". I wish I could put into words how dumb I think such a measure would be. I will try.

First of all, I have some Native American blood, and there are negative implications to the Choctaw and Chickasaw languages, not that I speak either. The way the news reported the story, it could be illegal to speak anything other than English in public. There are apparently two bills being considered. One supports a more relaxed rule called "English Plus" (Wow! That sounds so nice!) that would allow employers to speak Non-English with their employees, but waiters and waitresses would be required by law to speak English to customers. This is just 100% ridiculous. The news story had a woman who was offended because she ate somewhere, and her server didn't speak English. Well someone call the police! Some fat bitch couldn't order a tamale! There's no need for a law here. If a restaurant doesn't speak English in an English-speaking country, it'll probably go out of business. The problem will solve itself.

Second of all, this will be an expensive waste of time and taxpayer money. What do these proposed laws hope to accomplish? The United States already has established English as the primary language. Just look around. It's on our currency, traffic signs, you name it. I feel this is just a thinly-veiled racially-motivated attempt to establish that White people are superior in the law books. I feel that the proposed law is primarily aimed at Mexicans and other Hispanics. I just don't see the benefit. All this serves to do is diminish our cultural diversity (I'm sure to the proponents of the law, that sounds like a good thing).

Thirdly, how would you even enforce such a law, if it were passed? Would you throw someone in jail if they violated it or give them a citation? Would this mean you can no longer learn a foreign language in school? Why are Americans so threatened by other people and their languages?

Fourthly, and this one is the most important, in the United States we have a little thing known as the First Amendment which guarantees us the right of freedom of speech, English or not. So, even if the law passes, it would be clearly unconstitutional.

Looks like it is time to write my congressman.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Wal-Mart Shopping Carts

Has anyone else noticed this? I went to Wal-Mart the other day, and I saw a sign on my shopping cart saying Wal-Mart has implemented a new security feature on the cart that will cause the wheels to seize up if the shopping cart is taken outside a clearly-marked boundary in the parking lot. I assume this is to keep homeless people from taking their carts.

The odd thing is, I looked at the wheels, and I didn't see anything that looked like it could manually lock the wheel. The wheels look normal. And I didn't see a boundary in the parking lot. I'm thinking this is an empty warning. It makes me want to drag a cart outside this so-called boundary just to see what happens.

Hillary Clinton

You don't change Presidents in the middle of a war, or so the old saying goes. In the next Presidential election, we won't have any choice, assuming the war doesn't end before that time. There are no signs suggesting this might happen.

Over the weekend, Hillary Clinton threw her hat into the ring. And I've been asking myself all weekend, is America ready for a female President? Recently, we saw Nancy Pelosi become the first female Speaker of the House of Representatives. But with a war going on, it is really hard to tell if the American public would be receptive to a female Commander in Chief. Recent polls are showing America is tired of the war, and that Iraq is the single issue with the highest importance. Therefore, if she has any hope of winning, she will need to have an outstanding plan for Iraq.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Blocking Unwanted Ads

If you're like me, you get tired of seeing ads all over your browser. Here is a website with a pretty easy way to remove ads from your browser:

Basically, you replace the hosts file in your operating system with their hosts file (be sure to backup the original hosts file first).

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

An Inconvenient Truth

We just finished An Inconvenient Truth. I'm already convinced we need to try to do something about global climate change, but after watching this, I'm doubly convinced.

I felt Al Gore did an outstanding job of explaining the science behind global climate change, while keeping it accessible to everyday people.

One of the scariest parts for me was when they showed how the United States is drying out, and the south central part of the United States (where I live) is going to go through a major water shortage in the next 50 years. We're already in a drought. Up until now, I've believed to be a temporary condition, but now I'm not so sure.

Oh well, maybe the ice caps will melt and we'll get an inland sea again...I'd love to have a house on the beach.

Friday, January 05, 2007

New Oklahoma Postage Stamp

A new Oklahoma-themed postage stamp is going on sale this Thursday (January 11) to commemorate the Oklahoma centennial.

XM Radio

XM Radio made the news today. They've reached something like 7 million subscribers now, and I'm just wondering...who has XM? Everyone I know that has satellite radio (except for one) is on Sirius.

User-Friendly Software

There's no doubt that computers are easier to use today than they've ever been, but there is still room for improvement.

My Yahoo Messenger window recently started taking up the full screen when I got a message...and then some. So each time I would get a message, I'd have to resize the window to make the close button visible. After some google searching, I found that I needed to set my desktop resolution to smaller numbers and then back to the current resolution to fix the problem. That's intuitive!

Another unintuitive procedure happened to me a few months back when I upgraded iTunes, and it wouldn't play any of the music I had purchased prior to the upgrade. I actually had to create a dummy user account, open iTunes with it, sync my iPod to that account, and then finally log back into my original account and re-sync the iPod with it.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Banning Trans Fat

I know it's been a while. Happy New Year. On to important things...

I read the other day that New York City is banning trans fat in restaurants. This morning, Universal Studios Hollywood announced a similar measure. As someone who takes cholesterol medication to improve my cholesterol ratios, I think this is a good first step.

American diets are terrible. We eat all the wrong things. I think it is primarily because junk food and stuff that we shouldn't be eating are available everywhere. I hate to say this, but I think the only way Americans will be skinny again is if we start legislating healthier diets.

High fructose corn syrup is another culprit people should avoid. Since HFCS was introduced, diabetes levels in the United States have been on the rise. You can thank the American Farm lobbyists for that.

I don't want to go overboard, though, and get rid of all bad food. People still need ice cream every now and then.