Monday, May 30, 2011

Friday, May 27, 2011

Wal Mart thinks we're suckers

$10.00 at Wal-Mart. $4.00 at Dollar General next door.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

And So It Begins, Again

Monday, May 23, 2011

Scenes from a Lunch

Yesterday was my sister, Celena's, 30th birthday, so my dad threw a surprise lunch for her at Fadi's - a Mediterranean restaurant in Houston. I'm pretty sure everyone had a good time, and I'm certain we all left very full. These are some of my favorite photos I took at the lunch:

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See the entire Flickr set here.

Friday, May 20, 2011

What Immigration Problem?

Who's Paying For All This Luxury?

From Slate:

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, allegedly sexually assaulted a maid in a $3,000-a-night Midtown Manhattan hotel suite this weekend. Then, police arrested him in the first-class cabin of a Paris-bound flight. How can a socialist public servant afford such a luxurious life?

DSK's compensation and expenses are in line with his peers, the small handful of central bankers and finance ministers at the helm of the global economy. The president of the World Bank, for instance, makes almost exactly same amount. As per the bank's most recent annual report, Director Robert Zoellick earns $441,980 in salary, plus $79,120 for living expenses.

Nevertheless, DSK's finances became a major issue in his home country of France even before his arrest. This spring, he faced accusations of being a "champagne socialist" after a photograph of him climbing into a $100,000 Porsche* got play in the papers. (The car was not his.) And France Soir published a viral hit-job-slash-investigation, reporting he wears suits made by Barack Obama's tailor that cost up to $35,000. (DSK denies the allegation.)


Wait. Did I just read that Barack Obama's tailor charges $35,000 for a suit?!?!? Who do you think is paying for that? And just why do Socialists need such expensive clothes?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Images from the Depression

From MailOnline:

It was an era that defined a generation. The Great Depression marked the bitter and abrupt end to the post-World War 1 bubble that left America giddy with promise in the 1920s. Near the end of the 1930s the country was beginning to recover from the crash, but many in small towns and rural areas were still poverty-stricken. These rare photographs are some of the few documenting those iconic years in colour. The photographs and captions are the property of the Library of Congress and were included in a 2006 exhibit Bound for Glory: America in Color. The images, by photographers of the Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information, shed a bleak new light on a world now gone with the wind.


Absolutely breathtaking - some of the best, most moving photos I've ever seen.









Shooting the Shuttle

 

An Impromptu Prom Shoot

Last weekend, Kristi's cousin Marsha from Kansas was on her way down to Houston for a conference, so she stopped by Brenham to spend the night. She's a photographer who loves to take flower shots, so we decided to take her and Kristi's mom out to the Antique Rose Emporium in Independence. We all had a great time and I got some great shots of Kristi and Kayci - and Noble.

I had just finished taking some shots of honey bees on some flowers when I heard, "James!" I looked up and saw my friend Sydney. Sydney is a college student that worked in the Marketing Department at Germania for a couple of years while she was attending Blinn. She's moved on to UTSA, but she's still a Facebook friend, and a really nice person.

As I went over to say hi I noticed that she was trying to use a tiny little point-and-shoot camera to take pictures of two people who were obviously dressed for prom. She introduced me to her sister, Lauren, and Lauren's date, Justin. She seemed to be frustrated because she didn't seem to be getting the shot that she wanted, so I asked her if I could jump in and take a few shots of the couple. She agreed, and these are some of the shots that I got:

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I only had a single flash with me, so I tried to light the couple as best I could. Where they were sitting was in a heavy mid-day shadow. I also wish I had opened up my aperture a little more so that the background had become blurry, but all in all, I thought that for a quick set of unplanned shots it wasn't too bad.

Thanks to Lauren for letting me share her photos, and thanks to Sydney for letting me jump in.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Opa's Beef Sausage FAIL

All beef sausage... In pork casing.

The Deficit Explained, Simply

This is why I enjoy Dave Ramsey:

The federal government will take in $2.173 trillion in 2011. That’s their income, and it sounds pretty good. Until, that is, you factor in that the federal government will spend $3.818 trillion during the year. So, just like many families, the government’s outgo exceeds their income—to the tune of $1.645 trillion in overspending. That’s called the deficit. Altogether, the government has $14.2 trillion in debt.

What would happen if John Q. Public and his wife called my show with these kinds of numbers? Here’s how their financial situation would stack up:

If their household income was $55,000 per year, they’d actually be spending $96,500—$41,500 more than they made! That means they’re spending 175% of their annual income! So, in 2011 they’d add $41,500 of debt to their current credit card debt of $366,000!

Somebody at iStockphoto Has Some Sense


I got an acceptance notice this morning for the one shot that I really wanted to put on iStock - the shot that I went to the Alamo to get in the first place: sunrise over the Alamo. It uses the same keywords as the ones that were rejected yesterday, which means that it was obviously reviewed by someone at iStockphoto that had some sense and maybe a little bit of knowledge of history.

So if you're looking for a shot of the Alamo, buy it here and make me rich. Well, help me buy a cheap cup of coffee, anyway.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

iStock Editors Need to Learn Their History


I just got the following rejection notice from iStockphoto for a shot I took of the Alamo a couple of weeks ago:

The following keywords used for this file do not appear to be fully relevant to the subject.

{[ Freedom, Liberty (Single Word), Freedom, Travel, Courage, Travel, Pride, Honor, Death, Conflict, Fighting (Physical Activity), Independence, Hope, Destruction]}


Now, Texans, you tell me which of those keywords don't apply to the Alamo.



[Edit:] My response:
Regarding the keyword notice on images 16549717, 16549749, 16549765, 165497920 and 16549780, you obviously have no idea the historical significance of this building. I suggest you read the Wikipedia article on the battle of the Alamo (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_the_Alamo) and tell me which of the keywords don't apply. This is one of the most famous buildings - and famous battles - in history! The Alamo holds a very special significance in the hearts of Texans, and I assure you that any of the keywords (with the exception of "travel" accidentally added twice) does, in deed apply to this very special place. In image 16549920, the notes very clearly state that the darkness and lens flare are for dramatic effect. And in images 16549780 and 16549765, please keep in mind that it's night time, so the colors of the building would naturally be somewhat duller than in full daylight. No flash was used. Of course there are heavy shadows - it's night time. There are no lens flares, and the white balance is correct. There is a yellow light shining on the front of the building, but the stones have a natural yellowish hue to them anyway. Any shot you see of the Alamo where the building looks white has been processed incorrectly (see similar image 3474434 as a reference).

All the Journalistic Greats in One Place

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Right Place at the Right Time



Stefanie Gordon slept for most of her flight from New York City to Palm Beach, Florida this morning. Luckily she woke up in time to snap these pictures through her window of the space shuttle Endeavour lifting off from Kennedy Space Center on its final mission to the International Space Station.


Amazingly beautiful.

One Distraction Down

From ABC News:

After a roller-coaster flirtation with a presidential bid, Donald Trump bowed out of the 2012 contest in true Trump fashion, saying that while he would not be a candidate this year, if he had run, he would have been able to win the primary and the general election.


Now let's work on getting Newt out of the race so we can get some quality, conservative candidates in there who can actually win and won't be bullied by his name.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Mr. Pharaon

On Monday my new summer design intern started at work. She's a very nice girl named Nichole who's going into her last semester in design school at Texas State Technical College in Waco, and so far she's doing a pretty good job. Except for one thing...

She keeps calling me "Mr. Pharaon."

I let it go the first time she called me that. The next time I politely said, "just call me James." But finally, I just had to tell her: "Look - Mr. Pharaon is that crazy old guy down the street who won't let the kids play in his yard. I'm James. Just James."

Although, a "your highness" every now and again wouldn't be so bad...

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Rocket Man


From Yahoo News:

In this photo provided by Breitling, Swiss adventurer Yves Rossy is seen during his flight over the Grand Canyon in Arizona on Saturday, May 7, 2011, in his custom-built jet suit. The 51-year-old Rossy was airborne for more than eight minutes, soaring 200 feet above the canyon rim on the Hualapai Reservation.




Sweeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeet.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Goodbye Baby Birds

We've been enjoying our time out on our deck the past few weeks. The weather has been beautiful, so we've been spending a lot of time out there eating our meals, cooking and just letting the kids play. A few weeks ago we noticed that a small mama bird (I don't know what kind) had built a nest amongst some toys that are in a big metal tub we keep out there. The first time we saw her, she was sitting in the nest on several eggs that she had laid.

We enjoyed watching her come and go from the nest as we played, and we peeked in periodically to see what was going on with the eggs. Then finally, this past weekend we noticed her coming and going much more frequently. We peeked in and saw some very tiny baby birds, just born. Their eyes were still closed, they moved weakly and they had fuzz all over them. There were six (!) little birds in that nest.

So this week as we've sat outside, we've enjoyed checking in on the baby birds and watching the mama bird bring them food. When we peeked over the side of the tub into the nest, the babies, their little eyes still closed, would open their mouths in anticipation of their mother bringing them a juicy bug. In the last day or two they had started cheeping, which the kids enjoyed a lot. We really enjoyed checking on our little baby birds.

Yesterday we got the first real rain in Brenham that we've had since February. A really good storm rolled through and dropped a lot of rain really quickly. We've all been praying for this life-giving rain to feed our yards, our gardens and our livestock (not that I own any, but I know many people who do.) It was a good thing for a lot of people.

After work, I got to go pick up Noble - something that I almost never get to do. When we got home, he wanted to immediately go and look at the baby birds - even before we went into the house. So we did. As I held him up and we peeked over the side of the tub, I was horrified.

The nest had collapsed under the rain. The baby birds were trapped inside the nest and their mother couldn't get to them, I thought. So I used a plastic stick that was in the tub to push back the opening of the nest. inside were the baby birds, dead. Apparently, the rain had come down so fast that the tub filled with water, and even though it has a drain hole at the bottom, it couldn't drain fast enough. The baby birds had drowned. Noble and I looked at them and then at each other.

"They are sleeping?" he said hopefully. No, I told him, they had died. I could have lied to him. I probably should have. But in that moment I couldn't bring myself to do it. Seeing those little baby birds laying there affected me somehow.

Kristi and Kayci came out to see us about that time and we broke the news to them. It was a sad, somber moment. And we grieved for the baby birds and for the mama bird's loss.

So this morning before I go to work, we're going to have a funeral for the baby birds. Kayci asked me to bury them in the back yard next to where our old dog Sami is buried.

Thank God for the rain. We all needed it. And thank you for bringing those baby birds into our lives, even for so brief a time.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

What Makes God Laugh?

Many years ago I heard something in a sermon that has really stuck with me and has been on my mind a lot lately - making God laugh. Basically, the idea is that just as our children delight us and make us smile and laugh at the things that they do and say - usually without meaning to - that we also delight our Heavenly Father.
And I wonder, what makes God laugh?

I know that when my son says something completely in earnest, but gets a word wrong accidentally that it makes me smile, such as the way he calls the Care Bears "tummy bears." Kristi and I used to love to listen to our daughter try to make sense of some pretty big words when she was small, such as "mapartment," "casisstant" and "buh-out."

I wonder if it's our little misspeaks that make God smile? Maybe, but I suspect that it's really things that we humans do to try to approach godhood. I bet he gets a kick when we think we've figured out how the universe works, only to find out later that the sun doesn't revolve around the Earth. And when we absolutely think we know something - maybe that some species are extinct - and then someone runs across one somewhere.

And I bet He gets a huge rise out of our feeble attempts to govern ourselves, only to make the same mistakes time and time (and time) again. I bet it's not the everyday things that makes God smile at his children, but the stupid things that we as a human race do thinking that we have all the answers.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Photographer I Try Not To Be



Seriously. Don't be that guy.

Brother, Can You Spare $80?


I put $15 of gas in my tank a couple of nights ago and it wasn't even anywhere near a quarter of a tank. Here we are, on the edge of summer - when gas prices usually go up anyway - and we're paying almost $4.00 per gallon of gas. It's costing me $80 to fill up my truck. And I know people with larger vehicles who are paying a lot more every week.

And yet, where's the outrage?

By watching the news or reading the news sites on the internet, you'd never know that gas prices are about to set an all-time record. And it makes me sick. There's not a single issue that affects every American like gas prices. It affects the cost of food and goods. It affects the service industry. It affects almost literally everything.

And what is our government doing about it? Are they building more refining capacity? No. Are they authorizing more drilling on U.S. soil (and waters)? No - just the opposite, actually. They're doing nothing.

When gas prices rose to record levels in 2005 following hurricanes Katrina and Rita our problem was apparent. We simply don't drill enough of our own oil and we don't have the refining capacity to meet demand. Back then the government should have allowed more drilling and should have worked with the oil companies to find a way to increase refining capacity and build new refineries. Those refineries would be just about ready to go online right about now and relieve some of the stress on our economy.

Our economy is trying to recover from a bad and lengthy recession, and it needs all the help it can get. Families - especially those out of work - can't afford to be paying $60 - $100 to fill up the gas tank on just one vehicle. That takes away income that we should be spending in other areas of the economy.

So why isn't the Congress and the Obama administration doing something about the price of gas?

I think it's because it's because they've got us right where they want us.


chart from gasbuddy.com

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

You Stay Classy, Obama

From the Herald:

President Barack Obama will visit Texas on Tuesday, with stops in El Paso and a fundraiser in Austin, but he won't feel the love -- at least not from unhappy Republican lawmakers who see the administration's refusal to designate the wildfire-battered state a disaster area as the latest slap in the face to the very Republican Lone Star State.

The refusal by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to give Texas disaster status, and the federal aid that goes with it, is the latest of the state's fights with the administration. The state and the Environmental Protection Agency have been battling over permitting under the Clean Air Act -- the federal agency even took over some state functions -- and NASA's decision not to give Houston, home to the Johnson Space Center, a retired space shuttle, sending them instead to California, Florida, New York and Washington, D.C.

"You can almost make the case the administration has a vendetta against Texas," said Republican Rep. Michael Burgess.

...

Asked if there was a Democratic vendetta against Texas, former Democratic Rep. Martin Frost laughed and said, "They love Texas. They want to raise money in Texas.

"Texas has not been a political priority for Democratic candidates," he said. "Texas has been an outlier among major states as far as Democratic politics and presidents are concerned. It shouldn't come as any surprise that a Democratic president doesn't pay much attention to Texas."

Why NPR Should Be Self-funded

From Cato:

“National Public Radio (NPR) is paying the lobbying firm Bracy, Tucker, Brown & Valanzano to defend its taxpayer funding stream in Congress, according to lobbying disclosure forms filed with the Secretary of the Senate,” reports Matthew Boyle at the Daily Caller. Once again, a government-funded entity is using its taxpayer funds to lobby to get more money from the taxpayers.


Shameful and wasteful. If NPR is so great, why can't they find a funding model that doesn't rely in the taxpayer? We're in a budget crisis, after all. And last time I checked, all radio stations were free. There's no need for a government-subsidized radio station.

I Suspect That Google Is, In Fact, Evil

From the Washington Times:

Google’s privacy record is shameful. In 2004, Google sparked a privacy outcry by scanning Gmail users’ private emails for advertising keywords. The next year, Google Earth put sites, including the White House’s roof and a Trident submarine base, on public display; a leader of the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade terrorist group said he was thrilled. In 2006, Google refused to comply with a California privacy law. Two years later, Street View exposed people’s homes and license plates to anyone who cared to look; a member of the British Parliament described the service as “invading our privacy on an industrial scale.” In 2009, Google began tracking the books people searched (via Google Books) and visitors to WhiteHouse.gov. Last year, Google Buzz exposed users’ private email lists to the public while Google’s Street View cars were caught eavesdropping on millions of users’ wireless networks. No wonder Privacy International cited Google for its “entrenched hostility to privacy.” But it’s easy to understand why Google has no respect for privacy. Just consider Google Chairman Eric Schmidt’s own words: “If you have something you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it.”


I've made no effort to hide the fact that I don't trust Google at all. Too much power - information - in anyone's hands (whether it be a company or a government) is never a good thing.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Quote of the day

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Quote of the Day

"People believe anything they read on the internet if it fits their preconceived notions."

--Thomas Jefferson.


via the Atlantic

Monday, May 2, 2011

Osama Bin Laden Dead

From the Associated Press:

Osama bin Laden, the glowering mastermind behind the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks that killed thousands of Americans, was slain in his luxury hideout in Pakistan early Monday in a firefight with U.S. forces, ending a manhunt that spanned a frustrating decade.

U.S. officials said the CIA tracked bin Laden to his location, then elite troops from Navy SEAL Team Six, a top military counter-terrorism unit, flew to the hideout in four helicopters. Bin Laden was shot in the head in an ensuing firefight, these officials said, adding that he and his guards had resisted his attackers. U.S. personnel identified him by facial recognition, the official said, declining to say whether DNA analysis had also been used.

The U.S. team took custody of bin Laden's remains. A U.S. official later said bin Laden had been buried at sea and the remains were handled in accordance with Islamic practice, which calls for speedy burial.


Today really ought to be a holiday. And I hope that for finality's sake that they did, in fact, do a DNA analysis.