Wednesday, December 19, 2012

"What Kind of Camera Should I Get?"

A lot of people ask me what camera they should buy if they’re either just buying their first DSLR camera or upgrading from a point and shoot to a DSLR.

I’m a Canon guy, and that’s what I know, so I recommend Canon products (because I can help them then if they have questions or issues.) Nikon makes some great cameras, as well, and you can’t really go wrong with either a Canon or a Nikon camera.

That said, I start by asking what their budget is. I learned pretty quickly that you can spend a lot of money if you want to on camera gear.  But the good news is that you don’t have to if you know what to buy for your particular interests and needs. These are some bare bones suggestions.

I’ve put together a few options that will hopefully get you started:

Option 1: The Absolute Beginner – “I just want to take pictures”
Canon T3i (Canon just released the T4i, so T3is are at good prices right now) ($599)
Canon T3i bundle (a good starter kit with a couple of lenses, tripod, bag, etc… Pretty much a complete beginner’s kit.) ($709)

Option 2: “I just want to take photos of my kids, wherever”
• Canon T4i  (camera kit with 18-55mm lens) ($749)
Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 lens (a prime lens that doesn’t zoom, but one that takes amazing photos in low light and indoor situations without a flash) ($110)

Option 3: “My kids are in sports and I want to take photos of them playing.”
 Canon T4i bundle ($900)


Canon T4i  (camera kit with 18-55mm lens) ($749)

Option 4: “No- I mean I want to take really good photos and video of my kids playing sports.”
Canon 60D with 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 IS zoom lens kit ($1099)

Option 5: “You don't understand- I mean I seriously want to take some professional quality photos and video of my kids playing sports.”
Canon 7D kit with 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS zoom lens ($1449)
Transcend 16GB 400x CF Card (this camera uses a different type of card than the other cameras I’ve listed) $34

I hope that helps!

Friday, November 9, 2012

On Voter Fraud

I love how Democrats who are opposed to having to show an ID to vote claim that "there's never been any instance of voter fraud proven" when there are thousands of dead people voting in every election.

That Didn't Take Long, Part 2

From The Hill:

The Interior Department on Friday issued a final plan to close 1.6 million acres of federal land in the West originally slated for oil shale development.
The proposed plan would fence off a majority of the initial blueprint laid out in the final days of the George W. Bush administration. It faces a 30-day protest period and a 60-day process to ensure it is consistent with local and state policies. After that, the department would render a decision for implementation.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Well, That Didn't Take Long.

From Reuters:

Hours after U.S. President Barack Obama was re-elected, the United States backed a U.N. committee's call on Wednesday to renew debate over a draft international treaty to regulate the $70 billion global conventional arms trade.

But, to be fair:

U.N. diplomats said the vote had been expected before Tuesday's U.S. presidential election but was delayed due to Superstorm Sandy, which caused a three-day closure of the United Nations last week. 
An official at the U.S. mission said Washington's objectives have not changed.
"We seek a treaty that contributes to international security by fighting illicit arms trafficking and proliferation, protects the sovereign right of states to conduct legitimate arms trade, and meets the concerns that we have been articulating throughout," the official said. 
"We will not accept any treaty that infringes on the constitutional rights of our citizens to bear arms," he said. 
U.S. officials have acknowledged privately that the treaty under discussion would have no effect on domestic gun sales and ownership because it would apply only to exports.

It's Because I'm White, Isn't It?

From David Simon (via Daring Fireball):

But make no mistake: Change is a motherfucker when you run from it. And right now, the conservative movement in America is fleeing from dramatic change that is certain and immutable. A man of color is president for the second time, and this happened despite a struggling economic climate and a national spirit of general discontent. He has been returned to office over the specific objections of the mass of white men. He has instead been re-elected by women, by people of color, by homosexuals, by people of varying religions or no religion whatsoever. Behold the New Jerusalem. Not that there’s anything wrong with being a white man, of course. There’s nothing wrong with being anything. That’s the point. 
This election marks a moment in which the racial and social hierarchy of America is upended forever. No longer will it mean more politically to be a white male than to be anything else. Evolve, or don’t. Swallow your resentments, or don’t. But the votes are going to be counted, more of them with each election. Arizona will soon be in play. And in a few cycles, even Texas. And those wishing to hold national office in these United States will find it increasingly useless to argue for normal, to attempt to play one minority against each other, to turn pluralities against the feared “other” of gays, or blacks, or immigrants, or, incredibly in this election cycle, our very wives and lovers and daughters, fellow citizens who demand to control their own bodies. 
Regardless of what happens with his second term, Barack Obama’s great victory has already been won: We are all the other now, in some sense. Special interests? That term has no more meaning in the New America. We are all — all of us, every last American, even the whitest of white guys — special interests. And now, normal isn’t white or straight or Christian. There is no normal. That word, too, means less with every moment. And those who continue to argue for such retrograde notions as a political reality will become less germane and more ridiculous with every passing year.

I'm so tired of being told that I only voted against Barack Obama because I'm a white guy or because he's a black guy. Or that I think the way I do only because of my race. That pre-supposes that people who look a certain way can only or should only think a certain way. I reject that wholeheartedly, but I certainly understand that it's a tried and true Democrat division tactic. Democrats lumping all members of a particular ethnic group into a voting bloc - and then shaming them into only voting that way - is real racism.  It's looking at someone only based on their race. That's the kind of thing we, as a society, as a country, as people should be fighting against at every turn.

Race has never, ever had anything to do with my vote.  Ever.

This comment below the lined article does a much, much better job than I have:

The smug moral superiority of leftists is getting increasingly infuriating. Which campaign was it who accused the other guy of being “Not One of Us”? Oh yeah, that’s right: Obama’s. Which campaign was it that constantly thrashed on about a bogus “war on women”? Oh, that’s right, Obama’s. Which campaign was it that consistently demonized rich people (because, heaven knows, they aren’t human or worthy of respect)? Oh, that’s right, Obama’s. Oh, and by the way, which mighty champion of the poor and scourge of the pampered rich was it who won EIGHTY PERCENT of the 10 richest counties in America? Oh yeah, that’s right. Obama. 
Show me one racially tinged thing the Romney campaign did. See how I cited specific examples up above? Give me just one. Give me one example of Romney playing the race card. You can’t, because he didn’t. 
Face it: you’re so damned reverse racist that you think anybody who has the temerity to run against your sainted Obama is inherently racist. That’s what it boils down to. You won’t see it. You won’t ever see it. But you infuriate and sadden me with your blindness and your holier-than-thou attitude. 
You think the vast majority of the Republican vote isn’t based on a sincere belief that borrowing more money and saddling our children with even more debt is a bad idea? You think the vast majority of prolifers are really people who are trying to keep women in chains? You don’t see even the *slight* possibility that someone might care as much about an unborn baby’s life as about, say, the life of the delta smelt that would be such a righteous cause for your side? 
You claim to be on the side of tolerance. You claim to be on the side of the open-minded. You claim to have righteousness on your side. You’re full of shit. You, and so many Hollywood liberals and media liberals, are the most intolerant people on the planet. You can’t abide that somebody *actually* might have a different view of the world, or a different opinion. So those who disagree have to be racists and sexists. They just HAVE to. There’s no other possible explanation of how anyone could disagree with your choice for president. Your side — even though examples of corruption and venal opportunism are evident everywhere — your side is the bringer of light and truth, to the exclusion of all others. 
And *we’re* the intolerant ones? Grow up, Simon. Grow up, all of Hollywood. Get a clue and get a grip. People who disagree with you aren’t evil. They think our problems should be solved in a different way. 
You can’t see that, because *you* are the one with entrenched, unthinking views. All of you supposedly independent-thinking liberals who went through colleges that brainwashed you into seeing sexism and racism at every turn — you think that the fact that you believe exactly what your professors told you to believe is the product of your brilliant minds coming together? Wake up and become truly independent thinkers and understand that people who disagree with you are not evil. 
God, I’m so tired of leftwing bullshit.

Thoughts on the Election

First, I want to say congratulations to my Democrat friends.  Your guy won.  I'm not sure how, exactly, but he did.  I don't want to debate it, either.  But I did want to congratulate you.  This is as close as I can come to being magnanimous this morning.  The wound is still just too fresh.

I want to say that for those of you who voted for President Obama again out of a genuine philosophical match, I respect that.  I commend that.  If you genuinely think he's the guy to lead us and think his way of doing things is the best for the country, then I can live with that. I've got no beef with you. Well, not exactly, but at least I respect your motive, if not your ideology.

What I can't stomach are the people who voted based on ignorance or hearsay against Mitt Romney or for a reason such as the color of his skin. When you vote for (or against someone) based on the color of his skin, that makes you a racist. When you view the world through a prism of race - that makes you a racist.

Looking over my blog posts about President Obama from the past four years - and I haven't blogged on nearly everything that I could have or wanted to - I'm simply amazed at how short our collective attention spans are. One thing that struck me again was just how often the Obama Administration says one thing in public and then does the exact opposite.

So President Obama remains in office.  The Senate remains under Democrat control and the House remains Republican.  Nothing has changed. But watch for the Democrats to start talking about a mandate. And watch for it quickly.  They've been salivating for this moment ever since they lost the House in 2010. It'll be interesting what they try to get done as soon as possible. The real agenda items will be the ones they pounce on.  Watch for it.

As I write this, I've finally calmed down after the election.  I'm not mad anymore, but I still have a sense  of disbelief.  How is it that so many people in our country could side with a party with ideology that runs completely counter to traditional values and to my ideals and morals? Are there really that many people out there that don't understand what President Obama's spending is threatening to do to our nation?  How can people not be insulted by his use of executive order and fiat to pass things that should have to go through Congress? How can people not see his actions as a dangerous precedent upon which a dictatorship could be built by a power hungry leader in the future? How can so many people not be incensed by the erosion of our individual liberties?

My only thought on that is that the Democrats have become so good at the shell game that people don't realize they're losing all those things. In fact, they've got some people actually believing that they stand for freedom. People are willing to let their government imprison them indefinitely with no recourse or order American citizens killed without trial or take control of all communication systems in the U.S. if it deems it necessary or put American citizens into military camps... as long as they get a shiny new Obamaphone or some other shiny trinket or handout out of it.

Elections have consequences, and I gravely fear the consequences of this election for our future liberties.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The One with the Proposal

Today is a very, very special day.  15 years ago today I proposed to Kristi on the 50 yard line of my senior year Homecoming game, and she (eventually) said yes.  That's the story in a nutshell, but this is the whole story...

I'm not sure when it was that I decided to propose to Kristi.  I think it was late in the summer of 1997.  We had been dating for well over a year, and we were both heading into our last year of college.  I knew that I didn't want to be with anyone else, and so I set about trying to think of a truly legendary way to propose.    One of my friends had just proposed at the top of the Eiffel Tower, and so I also wanted to do something romantic and memorable.  But I was broke, and a trip to a foreign land just wasn't in the cards.  I wanted to be a lot less predictable than that, too.

And then it hit me - I had a golden opportunity that only a very few people ever get.  I was the mascot of the school, and so I had access to a lot of resources that most people don't.  At that time, I was doing skits at halftime of every home football game at mid-field, so I thought that would be the perfect opportunity.  But there was only one problem: I was supposed to be in the Sammy Bearkat suit, and it just wouldn't do to have Sammy propose.  I needed to be the one to do it.  But popping off Sammy's head in front of the entire stadium wasn't an option either.  In fact, it was the very last option.  I wanted to remain Sammy, after all.

So I devised a plan where Sammy and Samantha (Sammy's female counterpart at the time) Bearkat would go out to the 50 yard line and begin a dance skit, but at some point the skit would stop and my proposal would happen.  But I needed someone to be Sammy while I was busy proposing, and it would have to be someone who was good enough to perform as Sammy for an entire quarter and all of halftime while I was out of the suit.  It couldn't be just anyone.  Only another Sammy would do.

Two years earlier at Homecoming, I was fresh on the mascot scene and looking to establish myself and my version of Sammy's character.  That day a former Sammy named Chris Gill came to the game and asked me if he could suit up for a quarter, just for old time's sake.  And I told him no.  This guy was a Sammy LEGEND, and here I was telling him no.  Chris was suspended for three games after he repelled down the Bowers Stadium wall during a game a couple of years earlier.  Chris is big and built and in the army and could've wiped the floor with me and done the whole game unbeknownst to anyone else (until they found my mangled body a few weeks later).  But he was very gracious about it.  And looking back on it later, I felt absolutely horrible about what I had done.  So I figured I owed him.  So I called him up one afternoon after I had dreamed up my proposal and apologized for my immaturity and my stupidity two years before.  And I let him in on my plans and asked him if he would come back and be Sammy for half the game that day.  He graciously accepted my apology and agreed to help me out.  He was the first person to know of my plans.

The second person to know of my plans was a guy in the RTV department named Steve Carmack.  He and I had worked on my last couple of UCA competition videos together.  He videotaped Sammy's appearances as part of a class project and helped me edit the footage down into two minute videos.  He also helped me record the audio for my halftime skits.  I usually planned and recorded the music for my skits about two weeks in advance, but this time I put it off as long as I could.  I think we recorded the skit audio just one day before the skit.  The skit started out as Sammy and Samantha see each other from afar and slowly move toward each other and dance to "Strangers in the Night."  Then there was a record scratch and the music stopped and my voice came on.  I would say on the recording "Wait a minute, Sammy.  There's something I've got to say." And then my voice on tape asked Kristi to marry me.  I remember getting really short of breathe just recording the audio.  And I remember shaking as I stood on the sideline waiting to walk out on my cue. But I'm getting a little ahead of myself.

I tried to think out all the logistics.  How would I get off the field afterward? When would I get back in the suit? How could I get her and my parents there without tipping her off? How would I get her out on the field to begin with?

I was devious and cunning.  I laid the foundation weeks in advance.  I began dropping little hints here and there that I was really concerned - and later unhappy - with the job Steve had been doing taping Sammy.  In reality, he was doing an amazing job, but I was setting the stage.  Finally, the week before Homecoming, I told Kristi that I had asked Steve not to tape and if she would tape the skit for my Nationals tape.  Being the best ever, she agreed readily, and played right into my trap.  I was specific - I wanted her on the field about a quarter of the way out on the 50 yard line so that she could make sure to get all the action.  Using the zoom on the camera would cause too much shake, so I needed her close.  I even cleared that with the appropriate people at the stadium (and let them in on my plans.)  They were very gracious and accommodating.

Luckily, it was the last Homecoming for both of us, so asking our families to be in attendance wasn't anything out of the ordinary. Kristi's mom and dad and brothers were there, as well as my mom and stepfather, Luke, and my dad and stepmother, Mary.  My sisters and my brother were both there, as well. I was, however, devastated, when I found out that morning when I got a call from my grandfather, who's health would prohibit him from making it.  He had called to wish me well, and I let him in on my plan.  He was very happy for us and supportive. That really helped me make it through that day.

I knew that I would need to get off the field quickly, and I didn't just want to walk off.  That's a bit boring.  I considered hiring a limo to pick us up and drive us out of the stadium, but I did mention that I was a poor college kid, right?  So instead I added a pre-game skit that incorporated a Gator 4x4 vehicle that the trainers use to cart players off the field when necessary.  At the time, there was a very popular Volkswagon commercial that had been parodied quite a bit, and I thought that would be a great way to get my getaway vehicle onto the field in an inconspicuous manner.  I asked my pal, Mark Barry (who ended up succeeding me as Sammy) to drive the Gator both for the pre-game skit and for the getaway.

Cris Gill drove in early that day and met me at the stadium so I could show him how to walk and move as my version of Sammy.  He proved why he's a Sammy legend.  He picked up my walk and mannerisms in less than a half hour and we went over the plan for the switch.  At the beginning of the second quarter, he would meet me in the "Kat Kave" where I changed and he would perform the second quarter and halftime while I went home and showered.  We went over the skit several times, not because he needed to, but because going over the plans in and the skit were helping to calm me down a little.

Later, when the game started everything went according to plan.  Our families were there.  The pre-game skit went well.  Kristi was walking around taping me for Nationals.  Perfect.  Then the second quarter came and time for the switch.  Chris got into the Sammy suit and ran out to perform and I left to shower.  Unbeknownst to me, Kristi had seen Sammy come out and went down and followed him for awhile and even asked him some questions about where she was supposed to be at halftime.  Chris played the whole thing perfectly and Kristi never had a clue that it wasn't me in the suit.  I told you Chris is a legend, right?

Finally - the big moment.  Kristi is out on the field, her back to the stands and laser focused on her task. I had returned to the stadium and had snuck down to the sideline, where I waited for my cue. Finally - my cue came and I walked out onto the field, walked around Kristi between Sammy and her and dropped to my knee.  I opened a ring box just as my proposal came over the loudspeaker.  It took her several seconds before she realized what was going on and that I was kneeling in front of her and not in the Sammy suit.  She lowered the camera, put her hand over her mouth and began crying.  The crowd roared.  I later found out that Tim, her father, had wandered over to the end zone under the scoreboard and was talking to someone.  Whoever was talking to stopped and said, "hey, check that out, somebody's getting engaged."  "Yeah," he said with a laugh, "that's my daughter!"

Our boss, Linda Gorski, ran out from the sideline and grabbed the video camera just as the Gator cart pulled up to drive us away. Kristi was crying, and I was still waiting for an answer. We got in the Gator and made a victory lap around the track of the stadium.  The whole time I was asking, "well?" Kristi was still crying and I was starting to feel pretty stupid.

Finally, as we rounded the stadium and neared the Kave, I asked her again, "will you marry me?" and she nodded (still crying) and sobbed, "yes."


Everything else is pretty much a blur after that.  About the only thing I remember is that I had forgotten to bring my usual shorts and T-shirt back with me and had to perform the last quarter and a half in my underwear and how scratchy that was.

So that, kids, is the story of how Kristi and I got engaged 15 years ago today. And given the opportunity, I would do it all over again.

I love you, Girl.  Happy engagment anniversary!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

On Tax Cuts

I don't get it. In one answer, the president says that Bush's tax cuts caused the economic collapse, but in the very next answer, he touts that he's cut taxes and that has strengthened the economy and created jobs. So which is it?

Friday, October 12, 2012

Crazy Uncle

Everybody's got a crazy uncle.  Everybody loves their crazy uncle.  He's fun.  He loves to joke. He's rude.  He's inappropriate. He speaks his mind.  He's, well... crazy.

Having a crazy uncle is awesome.

You just don't want him to be Vice President.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Fair Share

Dear Liberals,

Please, if you would, define in certain terms the phrase that you so love to use- "fair share." As in "all we're asking is for the wealthy to pay their fair share."

What's fair? 20 percent? 30 percent? 50 percent?

Please, please just come out and tell us in exact figures or percentages instead of these crap generalities.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Mascot Style

I know I'm late to the Gangnam Style party, but I finally broke down this morning and watched the Gangnam Style video by Psy, a South Korean rapper.

I'm not sure what to say, other than that it's a really catchy song.  But what I love even more is the video.  Without the video, the song is just another mediocre song.  But the video...

It's vibrant.  It's creative.  It's funny.  And there's just something about this little guy in sunglasses dancing around all crazy that's kinda... endearing.

But what I like the most is that the dance that he's doing is how I've been dancing for fifteen years.  I call it mascot dancing, and I simply can't dance any other way anymore (with the exception of County Western dancing...). It's not the same exact dance, but rather the style of dancing. Called it "controlled flailing" if you like, but it's how a mascot dances.  Look forward to lots and lots of parodies of this song this year at nationals competition and next year at summer camps and pep rallies everywhere.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Why Not, Mr. President?

One more thought that kept occurring to me last night watching the debate...

Every time President Obama said "we need to do" this or "I'm going to do" that, I thought, "well, sir, what's been stopping you?  Why haven't you done that, if it's the obvious fix? If these are all things that are within your power to do, then why haven't you already done it?

Incumbents should not get too campaign on the things they want to do or should do.  They should be held accountable for the things they have (or haven't) done.

The Framework

Watching the debate last night, there were many key moments that I thought  shone a very bright light on the differences in philosophies of Governor Romney and President Obama.  And some of them were particularly telling.  This is one of them (read a transcript of the debate here):

OBAMA: The first role of the federal government is to keep the American people safe. That's its most basic function. And as commander-in-chief, that is something that I've worked on and thought about every single day that I've been in the Oval Office. 
But I also believe that government has the capacity, the federal government has the capacity to help open up opportunity and create ladders of opportunity and to create frameworks where the American people can succeed. 
Look, the genius of America is the free enterprise system and freedom and the fact that people can go out there and start a business, work on an idea, make their own decisions.

What struck me about this particular quote was the president's belief that it's the government's job to "build ladders of opportunity and create frameworks" for the American people.

I have a huge problem with that.

When the government creates the frameworks, then opportunity takes the shape that the government thinks it should and the people, largely, are beholden to that.

However, when left unencumbered by government, those frameworks are created by the American people anyway - if there is a need for them - and it takes the shape of things in which people are interested and will spend their money collectively. Those frameworks are stronger and more durable in the long run.

Take a look at "green energy," for example.  When the government builds frameworks, it does so by regulation and coercion by tax code.  You get products such as $10 light bulbs that are far more toxic and dangerous than incandescent bulbs and the Chevy Volt that loses more than $40,000 per vehicle sold.  You get products that no one really wants and that are inferior to products that are already on the market, but that the government has chosen to push.

But when the private sector - the public - builds the frameworks, you get companies founded specifically to compete competitively to create energy cleanly. You get the Prius and the Insight from companies competing against each other to make a better, more efficient product so they can make money doing it.

So it boils down to this:

Do you trust the government to run your life and decide what products you should buy and what job need to be created, or do you trust yourself and the American public to decide what's best for ourselves?

President Obama said many times last night that we need to "work together" to create more jobs and to get things done.  But by that, he clearly means "work together and do what the government thinks is best."

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Magnolia... What???

Yesterday I was sent reeling. I was introduced to something that I just can't seem to wrap my mind around: Magnolia Pearl.*

I was shooting video for my buddy, Clover Carroll, out at Marburger Farm at Round Top yesterday for a web show he's putting together when we stumbled across a booth that was just buzzing with activity - Magnolia Pearl. There were women in what I would describe as various states of undress and disheveldness pouring through racks and shelves of what I thought were feed sacks.  It turns out the feed sacks were clothes.  And they were seriously lapping them up with gusto.
The interior design blogger we were filming, Holly Mathis, was well familiar with the brand, as was Rachel, Clover's wife (and co-host of the show).  They both loved Magnolia Pearl.

To me, Clover and our sound guy, it looked like... well, just old tattered crap.  As we were sitting around at lunch talking about it, Clover summed it up pretty well.  He said it looked like they should've broken out in a chorus of "It's a Hard Knock Life" at any moment.   My thoughts were a little more raw and less poetic, as usual.  I thought the clothes looked like what old west hookers would wear when they were hanging around the whorehouse during the day.

I've been thinking about it some more.  If I had to describe Magnolia Pearl I would say it's "Sharecropper Shabby Chic."  I happen to like the Shabby Chic look (I got to meet Rachel Ashwell while we were there, too... and couldn't help but wonder if she hangs around in Magnolia Pearl - I doubt it, but who knows?)

When I got home and mentioned Magnolia Pearl to Kristi, she, too, said she loooooved their stuff.

Say what??!!?

How could I not know that the woman that I love - the mother of my children - has a secret desire to dress like she's straight out of the Industrial Revolution? It's bad enough that we're poor enough to BE sharecroppers, but does she really want to look like one, too?

I was truly shocked.  How is it that all these ladies not only were totally in tune with this brand, but also looooooved them some Magnolia Pearl, and none of us guys had ever even heard of such a thing?

Shocked.  Just shocked.  I'm not shocked that something like Magnolia Pearl exists - I'm floored that ladies absolutely love it.

I get the irony of it all - it looks old and tattered and cheap, but it's actually new and expensive ($250 for a pair of bloomers).  I guess I can't see people actually wearing this stuff out anywhere - to the mall or to church or to the movies.  The ladies I saw walking around Round Top looked, well, ridiculous to my eye.  Maybe it's just a "working around the house (or around the farm?) kinda thing.  I guess that's one thing.  Maybe that's Magnolia Pearl's niche - "what to wear around the house to be comfortable when your furs are out being cleaned..." People would think I was nuts if I bought a pair of $250 ripped up and worn out sweat pants.

I make fun because I still just can't understand it. But then, I'm a jeans and t-shirt kinda guy.  I've never claimed to understand women's high fashion.

*Note: if anyone from Magnolia Pearl ever actually reads this, three notes about your website:
1. it's buggy in Chrome and Safari and scrolls very, very quickly by itself so that you can't actually see the images.  Could've been a Flash player error, but that's actually worse because your low-bandwidth site gives a 400 bad request error. In fact, almost every page other than the front page on your store gave me a 404 error.  You might want to look in to getting that fixed.
3. Try as I might (in three different browsers) I couldn't seem to add white bloomers or a white dress to a shopping cart.  Rose bloomers?  No problems there. But I had loooots of problems with your shopping cart. Seems like a kind of important thing to have working properly, no?  
3. Please, for the love of all this holy, make it easier to turn off the music on your site.  Sites that begin playing music by themselves are the worst things.  Ever.  Sites that play music and have no easy way to turn it off are even worse and are on par with those websites you go to where there are fifteen animated ads all flashing at you at the same time.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Quote the Day

"Just because Bush sucked doesn't make Obama wonderful."

Friday, September 14, 2012

Am I Getting an iPhone 5?

Many, many (many) people have asked me since the iPhone 5 was unveiled on Tuesday if I'm planning on getting one.

No, I'm not.

It's not that the phone isn't beautifully stunning (although, honestly, I can't bring myself to get excited about a larger device to keep in my pocket.  I found the original and subsequent iPhone's dimensions to be pretty well suited to fit perfectly in my jeans pockets.)

And it's not that the new display doesn't look incredible.  It does.

Frankly, it's just that I find myself in the same position I found myself in 2008 when the iPhone 3G (and again when the 3GS) was introduced: I'm still ridiculously happy with the iPhone I have.

I have an iPhone 4 that I pre-oprdered and got on the very first day they were available back in 2010. Do I wish it had Siri?  Sure.  But that's about the only thing I seem to be missing. It still does everything I need it to do very, very well and I'm still satisfied with the speed with which it does it.

But I'm a gadget guy.  Yeah, I know. But I'm not your typical rabid Apple fan who will buy any Apple product, no matter how stupid it is.  I have a conscience.  And a budget. And a family to support.  And I have other hobbies that are expensive, too.

So I'll just sit this one out and wait for a year or so until the iPhone 5S. But if you happen to get an iPhone 5, drop by and let me lick it.... er.... hold it for a minute.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Teachers Strike in Chicago

So let me get this straight...

The average teacher salary in Chicago is around $75,000 annually, while the average citizen in Chicago earns around $45,000. And they're out in the streets protesting because they're only going to be getting a four percent raise every year?

The school district is running a budget shortfall of $3 billion over the next three years. And they're upset that there might be cutbacks?

Teachers unions are up in arms because teachers are being asked to be evaluated on merit and performance (just like those of us in the private sector.)  Aren't the students they teach evaluated on merit and performance in the form of grades?

I just don't get it.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Friday, August 3, 2012

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Superman vs. The Hulk

1000 percent pure awesome.

The Statistics of Socialized Medicine

Some fascinating statistics on Fred Thompson's website from the United Nations International Health Organization comparing the health care system in the U.S. to the socialized health care system in England:

Percentage of men and women who survived a cancer five years after diagnosis:
U.S. 65%
England 46%

Percentage of patients diagnosed with diabetes who received treatment within 6 months:
US 93%
England 15%

Percentage of seniors needing a hip replacement who received it within 6 months:
US 90%
England 15%

Percentage referred to a medical specialist who see one within one month:
US 77%
England 40%

Number of MRI scanners per million people:
US 71
England 14

Number of seniors with low income who say they are in excellent health:
US 12%
England 2%

Olympic Photographer Leaves Lens Cap On


On Bigotry and Intolerance

I've been called a bigot and intolerant (both directly and indirectly) many, many times in the last week over the Chick-fil-a thing and gay marriage simply because I'm a Christian and a Conservative.  From friends on Facebook and Twitter, from complete strangers in the same places and especially in "news" articles on the web.  The snarky, condescending rhetoric is thick.

For the record, here is the Webster's dictionary definition of "bigotry:"
'Bigotry' is the state of mind of a "bigot", a person obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his orher own opinions and prejudices; especially : one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance".
You see?  By demanding that I accept something that I think is wrong and by  saying I'm some sort of a hatemonger because I don't support gay marriage and by treating my viewpoint with intolerance, you're actually a bigot.  Having a common disagreement of ideas is fine, but when you refuse to accept my viewpoint at all and start calling names and trying to force me to accept your viewpoint, not through reasoned debate or discussion but by intimidation and coercion then not only have you already lost the argument, but by definition that makes you an intolerant bigot.

I would like to respectfully request that everyone see where the controversy started and read the original interview that this whole kerfluffle came from.  The tone of the rhetoric simply doesn't match the resulting hysteria coming form the "tolerant" left.  

I simply don't get it.  Here is a guy - a leader of a corporation - and a Christian in a very candid moment saying that he doesn't think that gay marriage is in accordance with what he considers to be family values and what he understands to be God's word.  He's entitled to his opinion and to run his business the way he wants just as much as the next guy.  If you don't like what his business stands for, just don't buy their product - it's as simple as that. 

There are people out there saying, "but well, yeah- I support his personal right to say whatever he wants to, but his company gives money from the company's profits to anti-gay hate groups that lobby against gay marriage!!!!" Fair enough argument, I thought.  Then I realized that Chick-fil-a is a private company without shareholders that can do whatever it wants with its profits.  Then I got to wondering what anti-gay "hate groups" the company might be sending money to.  The only thing I could find referenced by these shrill people was "Focus on the Family" and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.  It's interesting to me that some people have started classifying anything they don't agree with as hate. 

But what really gets me is all the people demanding tolerance and calling people bigots are many of the same ones spewing some truly hateful rhetoric.  Here are some real comments posted in the comment section of Tennessee representative Diane Black's Facebook page after she posted a photo of her holding a tray of Chick-fil-a sandwiches (names removed to protect the guilty):
"Like she needs to eat another one of those sandwiches. Look at how fat that cow is". 
"Jesus would be so proud, as we all know, he was all about hate and intolerance..." 
"shouldn't that be in the shape of a swastika. Ahh, remember when these bible thumpers called jews "christ killers?" 'mericans'" 
"So far I've stopped at 3 for water...mentioning that Im far none have offered to feed a poor hungry person...( as Jesus would )" 
"A tray of chicken biscuits...and one turkeyneck." 
"Some peoples beliefs are as outdated as their hairstyle!"
And I could go on and on...

I would like to take a moment here to say that just because one doesn't support gay marriage doesn't mean that they hate gay people or want to see them die or be unhappy (ungay?) or wish them any kind of harm.  It simply means that from the beginning of time that there have probably been homosexuals out there as a small percentage of society. And also from the beginning of (human) time the concept of "marriage" has meant only one thing - one man and one woman.  Deviating from that definition is what gets people up in arms.  Take a look at polygamists.  They weren't and aren't accepted because they had multiple wives.  They are deviants from accepted societal norms.  The same is true of pedophiles and those who engage in beastiality.

But I guess what really bothers me is the vicious attack on Christianity itself.  People spouting truly hateful  and intentionally ignorant things such as:
"So far I've stopped at 3 for water...mentioning that Im far none have offered to feed a poor hungry person...( as Jesus would )"   
" should probably spend a little extra time studying Jesus's commitment to social justice in the Gospels this morning. I don't think He'd be very proud of you right now." 
"David, you're not a Christian. You just play one on Sundays. REAL CHRISTIANS do what their book tells them. Ever wore a cotton blend? Sinner. You should be stoned for that. "
"Right where bigotry & hate fit in, a bible study."

...and, again, I could go on and on...

How, exactly, is that not hate and intolerance (and ignorance) of Christianity and Christ's teachings?  I'm no Biblical scholar, but it seems to me that Jesus said to 'love thy neighbor as thyself' but said nothing about condoning and accepting their actions.

Until now I have not waded into the homosexuality debate - and I don't plan to, either.  I have friends and family members who are gay.  I'm not going to tell them they can't be gay. That's not my right - it's not any individual's right to force their beliefs onto another.  I simply have to tolerate it and let them live their lives. But those are not the people I have any issue with, anyway.  The people I take issue with are the people who insist on making gay marriage an issue and forcing it upon us as some sort of a civil right.

Simply put, I don't believe the way that a person chooses to have sex has the same standing as the color of their skin.

All that being said, I think that the solution is an easy one: leave religion out of it.  Christians need to accept that there will always be a "gay community" and that they will want to partner up just as "straight" people do.  But marriage has traditionally been a religious union.  Perhaps the answer is simply a governmentally recognized union that carries the same benefits of marriage, only without the religious connotations.

Words mean things, and the entire "gay marriage" debate boils down to those of faith wanting to uphold the traditional definition of the word "marriage," not keeping "people from having love" or "keeping gays from being happy," as I've seen many times in the past week. If the gay community would simply cede the word "marriage" from their debate and demands and accept a civil union, I suspect that Christians would be accepting of that. They will still not agree with homosexuality, but I suspect that they will be tolerant of it, just as they always have. Neither side will be completely happy or will get 100 percent of their way, but at least maybe then we can bring a little more civility back to the world.

We need it, especially now.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Still Standing

From The Atlantic:

When NASA launched the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter in 2009, of course scientists were hoping the spacecraft would add to the knowledge we have of our sole natural satellite -- its geography, topography, weather, and so on. But one question many were hoping the LRO would answer had little to do with the moon's environment: What had become of the Apollo sites, left behind by the humans who visited the surface between 1969 and 1972? 

For forty-odd years, the flags have been exposed to the full fury of the Moon's environment -- alternating 14 days of searing sunlight and 100° C heat with 14 days of numbing-cold -150° C darkness. But even more damaging is the intense ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the pure unfiltered sunlight on the cloth (modal) from which the Apollo flags were made. Even on Earth, the colors of a cloth flag flown in bright sunlight for many years will eventually fade and need to be replaced. So it is likely that these symbols of American achievement have been rendered blank, bleached white by the UV radiation of unfiltered sunlight on the lunar surface. Some of them may even have begun to physically disintegrate under the intense flux. 
From the LROC images it is now certain that the American flags are still standing and casting shadows at all of the sites, except Apollo 11. Astronaut Buzz Aldrin reported that the flag was blown over by the exhaust from the ascent engine during liftoff of Apollo 11, and it looks like he was correct!

Pretty cool, if you ask me.  And what's even cooler - and something that I keep forgetting - is that the entire span of the Apollo moon missions that actually saw man walking on the moon was only three years. 

See the LROC website here.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Sprint to Offer Free FaceTime Over Wireless

From AppleInsider:

While AT&T hasn't confirmed or denied whether it will be charging for the upcoming FaceTime over cellular iOS feature, Sprint says it will offer the service for free when the next-gen mobile OS launches this fall. 
In a report regarding AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson's recent statements pertaining to a rumored fee for over-the-air video chat capabilities, The Wall Street Journalreported that a Sprint spokeswoman confirmed her carrier would be keeping with its unlimited model and is expected to offer the service free of charge.

I'm very seriously considering switching to Sprint now that they have the iPhone and don't seem interested in nickel and diming iPhone customers for the very reasons that people want to buy an iPhone.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Quote of the Day

"There are two kinds of people in America - the people who sign the checks on the front and the people who sign the checks on the back."

-Bill Whittle

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Star Spangled Banner Rocks

This rendition by a band called Madison Rising is the most awesome version of the Star Spangled Banner I've heard since I first heard the Hendrix version.  Perfect for listening really, really (really) loud.

Monday, July 16, 2012

RIP: Donald J. Sobol


Donald J. Sobol, creator of the Encyclopedia Brown series for children, died at age 87 on July 11. Over the course of his mystery writing career, which began in 1959 with Two-Minute Mysteries, Sobol wrote more than 65 books and won a special Edgar Award in 1976.

Encyclopedia Brown books were among my favorite when I was little, and have recently become a favorite of my daughter's as well.  And in a few years, I hope to spend time reading them with my son, as well.

Obama: Be Grateful, For Your Government Has Given You Everything

From the UK Daily Mail (among others):

President Barack Obama said in a speech at the weekend that governments and not individuals create jobs, telling entrepreneurs: 'If you've got a business - you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen.'
He added: 'You didn't get there on your own.  I'm always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart.'  
He continued: 'If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help.  There was a great teacher somewhere in your life.  Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive.
'Somebody invested in roads and bridges.  If you've got a business - you didn't build that.  Somebody else made that happen.  
'The Internet didn't get invented on its own.  Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.'

President Obama is making the case for full-on Socialism here.  He's telling us - you and me - that we are nothing and have nothing and can do nothing unless the government allows it to be so - that we're basically wards of the state.

Memo to President Obama: where do you think the government got the money to build the roads that you so graciously built for us?  Where does funding for the military come from that built the internet?  It came from the people.  It came from small - and large - businesses and the taxpayers of the United States.  

The government does not make money on its own. It derives its power and its funding from the citizens of the United States. The government - any government - does not build roads or infrastructure out of sheer benevolence, either.  It does not do so for government employees or use only.  It does so because it allows for free trade and commerce, which in turn allows for more money to flow into government coffers.

Your ideas and rhetoric are insulting.  I have worked for small businesses and none of them were successful because of the government.  In fact, sometimes they were successful in spite of the government.  They were successful because they offered goods and services that people wanted to pay money for and worked long hours and many years to either build a market for those services or to claw their way into that market.

Your ideas and rhetoric are chilling to the successful mindset of entrepreneurs in the United States.  By belittling the success of small businessmen and women in the US, you do not make future entrepreneurs want to work hard to be successful.  You undermine their success and dispirit their ambition.

I, for one, plan on owning a successful small business (again) someday. And I will get there with my own talent an initiative, not with government handouts.  In fact, I could be a lot more successful if I got to keep more of the money I earn, instead of having to send 30 percent of it to Washington in the form of self-employment taxes.  That money would allow me to build my business faster and to feed my family and to buy more products and services. 

You, sir, are a cancer on country and on our economy and on the morale of our nation.  Not only do I hope you are defeated in November, I hope you are defeated in embarrassing margins and are run out of town in a landslide of epic proportions.

I reject your silly ideas of government benevolence and I hope that the voters of our country show you just how stupid you are very, very soon.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Get 'Em Out!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Drinking Superman

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Shooting Fireworks

Last night to celebrate Independence Day, we went to dinner in the small country town of Hempstead at the home of some friends from church.  We and another family from church had a great dinner, some really fun conversation and the kids had a - dare I say it - legendary time playing in mud and water in the back yard.

Then sunset came and time for the fireworks.  I've been reading a lot of tutorials this week about how to shoot fireworks, so I decided to give it a shot.  I've never tried to shoot fireworks before (well, not since I've had any kind of clue about photography, anyway), so I was pretty excited about it.

We headed to the outskirts of town to a hill where we would have a good view of the show.  And we waited for the fun to start.

The scene was picturesque.  I opened the shutter at f/1.8 at 8 seconds and got a pretty decent shot of what we were looking at.  It was a beautiful night  - the bugs weren't bad, it had cooled off from the day and a light breeze was blowing.  The perfect evening for fireworks in the country!

When the show started, it turned out that there was a large oak tree that was blocking a lot of the fireworks that were lower to the ground, but the larger ones would burst perfectly over the tree.  Our friends lamented that the tree was blocking some of the fireworks, but I loved it because it gave me a foreground element to add some interest to the frame.  A black frame full of fireworks isn't as interesting as a frame with other elements to set the scene.

Then something cool happened.  The full moon started rising behind the very same clump of trees that were framing the fireworks.  Because I was shooting long exposures, I knew that the moon would be blown out in the shots, but I thought it looked awesome anyway.

Anyway, these are my first attempts at shooting fireworks.  These are pretty much straight out of thre camera - no processing, except for a little crop.  It was a lot of fun, and definitely something I'm going to do again.

And this was a 33 second exposure of the grand finale: