Archive for December, 2006

Vista at Home

December 29, 2006 Leave a comment
After planning and lots of backups of irreplaceable photographs, I have installed a new 400GB hard drive – nearly all for recorded content – and installed Windows Vista on our home PC. It runs beautifully. I’ve been running Windows Vista at work on a couple of machines – including my Tablet PC, which has lots of great support from Vista – and have finally had the time this week to install it at home. I took some time off before I lost said vacation time, and because after many months of painstaking work and lots of documentation I needed it.
Vista has a ton of bells and whistles that do come at a cost, but on machine that can handle it Vista looks truly amazing. Just take a look at some of the screenshots below. In one such screenshot, you’ll see that I’m watching TV in Windows Media Center and thumbnails are available in the Alt+Tab menu (to switch applications using the keyboard, along with Win+Tab for Flip 3D) along with a sort of tooltip when the mouse hovers over the task bar button. The start menu also lets you type a search term – or any program, file, or URL like from the Run dialog – and will show you all matching programs in the start menu, as well as email, files, and more.
Vista truly does help you do more. Play around with you – you won’t break it!

Liberal Expenditures on Education

December 20, 2006 Leave a comment
I’m conservative, but close to the middle. I only mention that because when I say I was happy – and still am – about our democratic governor, Christine Gregoire, hopefully that means a little more to readers. She recently outlined a plan to spend almost $30 billion on education, and the liberal media is asking if this liberal governor is spending too liberally. That’s just the funny part.
But this is on education – something this state seriously needs help on, if not the whole country. Yeah, we have the richest man in the world here and a lot of other extremely bright and rich people, but meanwhile our education level is one of the worst in the country. And that’s in a country that is toward the bottom of all countries in the world. If we don’t educate our youth better, we will not survive as a country.
Is $30 billion too much? I won’t say because I don’t know all the details of the plan, but I applaud Gregoire for putting focus on areas that will hopefully ensure we don’t have much greater problems than a few polluted beaches; not that I’m for that, but there’s typically a correlation between education, discipline, and respect, the latter of which will help eventually clean-up our environment by keeping it clean.
Categories: Rants

Affirmation of Stupidity and Craziness

December 16, 2006 Leave a comment

During the big blackout, I saw further proof of just how stupid the seeming majority of people can be. Practically every traffic light became a four-way stop. Yet, either because people didn’t understand the concept of "taking turns" – or they just didn’t care – it was a mess. Honking horns at each other was a rarity around here until yesterday.

There was also many instances of fire engine sirens, because of things like this. I’m betting more than a few people didn’t know how to use their fireplace, too. When you invite fire into your home, great care must be taken.

On a lighter side, how crazy for coffee people here in the greater Seattle area are because abundantly apparent. That little area of Bellevue that had electricity also had one thing that attracted people from literally miles around: Starbucks. Because Tracy had to go into work – even though they had only emergency power and no customers – she and another girl took some food and drink orders and went to that Starbucks to see long lines of people – some waiting up to an hour. One lady that helped Tracy and the other girl get all the stuff in the care said she drove from Mercer Island that sits between Bellevue and Seattle in Lake Washington, and further south still from this now-popular Starbucks.

We also went to the grocery store to pick up some variety in canned foods. We had plenty for days at home, but that was only tuna, Bushes baked beans (like there’s any other), and various soups. Since we have a big gas grill, we picked up some cans of chili – which was about all that was left. We ran into my general manager at Microsoft, so I hope she didn’t think we were unprepared, though we could’ve used more firewood.

Categories: Rants

The Blackout of 2006

December 16, 2006 Leave a comment
Thursday night Puget Sound suffered a massive wind storm with gusts up to 90 miles an hour along the coast west of Tacoma. Winds here gusted to about 55. Granted that was a common occurrence in Iowa, but Iowa didn’t have as many trees. As a result, at about 12:30 AM Friday morning when I was doing some writing, the power went off. It was off all over the Eastside, except for one small area in downtown Bellevue that we – and everyone else – knew of. Though I knew it was futile, I drove to work anyway to assess the damage, and saw many trees literally uproot. All the rain during November, 2006 – rainiest month in recorded Washington history – and what we’ve had so far in December didn’t help, since the ground was saturated.
Being without power wasn’t so bad, though. Without being able to work, though – power was off both at the Microsoft Redmond Campus as well as at JC Penney, except for emergency lighting – it got a little boring. It’s not like we were out in nature enjoying God’s creation – we were in an apartment looking at white walls. We did all stay warm in front of a fire for a while and went to bed – Suzie’s first overnighter in our bed. It was chili here, with freezing temperatures.
Just before 6:00 AM this morning, we heard a beep (we think it was the microwave) and woke up to find one light on – our reading light I had on when the power went off.
Categories: Home

If You Challenge Them, They will Learn

December 9, 2006 Leave a comment

Recently a New Jersey school administrator challenged his 700 kindergarten through eighth grade students that if they read 10,000 books by a certain time he would camp overnight on their school, with a "HP" – for Harrington Park school – shaved in his hair.

Few teachers challenged me – and many other students – when I was growing up through school. Fortunately one teacher – my own mother – did. I already would’ve been a prime candidate for ADD or ADHD – which I believe in like the Easter Bunny and Santa Clause (they all have some basis of truth, but little more) – because I had to find ways to challenge myself, even if that was upstaging the teacher regarding something I knew more about than they did.

Today things seem worse. With so many restrictions on what can be taught and how, and far too many people worried about students’ self esteem – often times people that have no ties to any particular schools. The result is poor teaching, and teachers can’t easily challenge students individually, lest they hurt someone else’s self esteem. Frankly, I’d rather have a modest child than a stupid child, but I know I won’t have to worry because we will educate and challenge our kids a well.

Of course, it doesn’t help that I’ve heard so many people – especially while attending college myself – that stated they’d just teach if their dumb choice of a major (like History, the choice of many a college drunk and jocks – who are often the same people) wouldn’t land them some super fantastic job. You know, like The Librarian – there’s just such a high demand for cool, adventurous jobs. Teaching shouldn’t be a fallback, because those falling back to teaching are only hurting all our future. And don’t even get me started on allowing people to teach because they’ve been in a particular industry for 5 years.

It’s when I see stories like that which prompted this rant that I have some hope that there are still good teachers out there – even good administrators to support those teachers – who still know how to challenge kids, because the vast majority of them I believe will rise to the opportunity. Most kids love challenges of various degrees. Why is it that teaching through games is so popular? Games challenge. Failing a challenge may hurt a little and a little self esteem is good, but what doesn’t kill you will only make you stronger and this country is already heading toward becoming the dweeb that is easy to bully.

Categories: News and politics

How to Make a Hot Dog

December 4, 2006 Leave a comment

When I was young during those cold, blustery winters across the plains of Nebraska, I found comfort huddled in front of the heating vents. I loved how the hot air rushed over me. Lately – just after our tropical fronts on the Pineapple Express – Washington was hit with frigid arctic fronts. Keeping warm, I find myself again in front of the heater reading the morning news online.

Of course, Suzie is loose and constantly starving for attention, so she’ll huddle up next to me by the heater. One day Tracy didn’t see Suzie at her usual haunts, and found her – alone – in front of the heater. Someone has picked up the same habit.

So when Suzie comes running to our bed and her fur is nice and toasty, we now know where she’s been. And that’s how you make a hot dog.

Categories: Family