Mar 30, 2008

Brotherly SingStar, EeeGPS, and then some

In no particular order, here are the things that have popped in my head for tonight's posting:

My brother and his wife came down this weekend to give my Mom and early birthday. Carla and Emily made a confetti cake for my mom, and Emily made the cake for lunch (a rum cake), so she has been quite the baker lately! She loved it! The cakes were great! Moist, good flavor, excellent! I dare Bobby Flay to have a throwdown with my five-year old!

While they were here, my brother and I sat down for a few rounds of SingStar. Shan says my brother and I have the same sound when we sing falsetto. In fact, she said there were times you couldn't tell if there were two voices or one. Now, if we were any GOOD, that would be one thing. We sound the same, and we both suck the same. Shan said the difference in vocals was very evident when we sang in our "regular" voices. Brian kicked butt on "Tricky" and "Respect" - he must have more soul than I have! LOL! After we were done, and Brian had gone home (it was about 1am), Shan got on there and she grabbed the Number 1 spot on several songs.

So, there's a rock, yes a rock, that has been around since the 1800's. People have carved on it, painted on it, whatever. A flood comes along and washes it away. A man decides to hunt it down in order for kids to write about it. He finds it, and sparks a war of sorts. See, he is in Ohio, and Kentuckyians claim it is THEIR rock. Ohioans say it is THEIRS. Each state's TAX dollars are being spent in order to take the matter to the Supreme Court. Seriously. Over a rock. How much government money is being wasted on this? Want to cut back on the deficit? Throw out stupid lawsuits. Or wait, maybe I need to find a rock... Or maybe I need to figure out how to get on the "do not grow" list so I can paid NOT to grow crops... Stupid.

Speaking of stupid, I think the government regulation of the banking industry is stupid. Look, people got screwed by the whole adjustable mortgage rate. We never switched to an AdPR because I was not so dumb to think things could not go sour. DUH! That's part of the risk you take when you undertake something like that. Okay, so then we have banks who made high-risk investments and now the government stepped in to save everything. BZZT! Wrong answer. People only seem to want an OPEN, FREE market when life is rosy. When the bubble bursts, they go crying to Mommy. Stupid. Nature has a way of weeding out the bad things or the things that need to be weeded out. Let the banks fail that do stupid things. What incentive is there for any banks to play by the rules, if the government is just going to rescue them anyway!? Heck, for that matter, the same holds true for airlines. Why should the government bail out airlines because they screw up?? Hey, I am up to my arse in debt, I want a government bail out, too!

A week or so ago, I ordered a USB GPS unit to plug into my EeePC. It came in on Friday, and I hooked it up to my Windows machine to test it out. Shan and I hopped in the truck and "made the block" while the GPS unit updated our location. I know, people have been doing this for some time now, but it was very cool! So, Sunday, I hooked the unit up to the EeePC, followed the steps on running the GPS unit from the EeePC WIKI, and POOF, I had a 7-inch LCD running GPS! Excellent! And, the software is free since the EeePC is running Linux (okay, so the GPS software is also free for Windows, too).

I am "In The Tribe!" The Indians started a new Fan Forum thing this year, and I joined earlier on Sunday. One of the perks is that I get MLB GameDay as part of the package, so I get to listen to Tribe games live online (at least I think that's what I get - LOL). I also get other perks, but it'll be cool to be able to have the game playing in the background at work or when I am at the house and can't watch the game on TV.

I have been selling off most of my eTopps collection on eBay. I have two portfolios, and one has been sitting stagnant for about a year. I figured I just as well let someone else enjoy the "cards" and make some money in the process, right? So, I am selling off those cards and dropping the cash in the bank. eTopps is a very cool way to collect, but because I only (okay, mainly) collect Indians cards, it is not really "for" me. I can buy the Indians cards after the initial offering, usually cheaper than the IPO price... Will I dump ALL my eTopps? Who knows...

I got an update about John's Mom - she had the surgery and was recovering fine. I'll post an update when I have more specifics...

Mar 28, 2008

How could I forget....

Today (Thursday), we learned that many families we know will have their lives changed forever:

News Release

Potlatch to Close Prescott Lumber Mill

SPOKANE, Wash.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--March 27, 2008--Potlatch Corporation (NYSE:PCH) today announced the permanent closure of the company's lumber mill in Prescott, Arkansas, due to poor market conditions.

The Prescott mill, which was purchased by Potlatch in 1966, employs 182, and produces southern yellow pine dimensional lumber primarily for the home building industry. The ongoing housing crisis has resulted in historic low demand for lumber and significantly reduced lumber pricing. Over the coming weeks, the mill will process the remaining inventory of logs, finish and ship the remaining lumber, and permanently cease operations in May.

"The decision to close this operation is a difficult, but necessary decision," said Vice President of Wood Products Rick Kelly.

In addition to a very weak lumber market, the mill's close proximity to other wood products facilities translates to increased competition for logs, which drives up raw material prices and requires logs to be transported from greater distances.

"Our Prescott employees have done exceptional work over the years and we regret that despite those efforts the operation is not viable," said Manufacturing Manager Brad Fountain. "We will work with state and federal agencies to help lessen the impact of the closure for our employees."

Potlatch owns 1.65 million acres of forestland in Arkansas, Idaho, Minnesota and Wisconsin, and operates 12 manufacturing facilities that produce lumber and panel products and bleached pulp products, including paperboard and tissue. The company, which employs 3,800 people, also conducts a land sales and development business. Potlatch, a verified forest practices leader, is committed to providing superior returns to stockholders through long-term stewardship of its resources.

This press release contains certain forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 as amended. These forward-looking statements are based on current expectations, estimates, assumptions and projections that are subject to change, and actual results may differ materially from the forward-looking statements. Factors that could cause actual results to differ materially include those risks and uncertainties described from time to time in the company's public filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The company does not undertake to update any forward-looking statements.

SOURCE: Potlatch Corporation

Mar 27, 2008


My thoughts and prayers are with John and his Mom. John's Mom is 92, and has been having a hard time keeping her balance lately. Today, she took a very, very bad fall. She broke her nose, her knee, and bruised herself pretty badly. According to John, she will undergo knee surgery on Friday, then be in the hospital for 3-5 days afterward. Following the surgery recovery, she will undergo hospitalized physical therapy.

I know this is a difficult time for both of them. We are praying for them both.

Tonight (Thursday) was the finale for Celebrity Apprentice. Piers raised gobs of money for his charity. That's all well and good. But, the simple truth is that throughout the show, it was rarely about his charity - it was about winning the task. His whole goal was to decimate the other team/player. I don't agree that Piers was chosen as the Celebrity Apprentice. I believe Trace raised more awareness for his charity (Severe Food Allergies) and brought a little known disease to a world-wide audience. His daughter suffers from the disease so he is very personally involved with his charity. To me, THAT is who should represent the "Celebrity Apprentice." Charity should never be about ruthlessness and rolodexes.

Mar 26, 2008

Going Home...

Who gets the boot tonight? Let's start by picking our own bottom three:

Shan - Carly, Syesha, Christy
Dave - Ramiele, Michael, David A

I had no idea who Kimberly Locke was, and when we saw her, Shan recognized her from an Idol special she saw. I didn't see it, so I had no idea who she was. Never heard of her.

Chikezie - Bottom 3 - WHOA... I was not expecting that at all. I thought he kicked it last night. Dang.
Brooke - Safe - Excellent!
Carly - Safe - Shan said she was glad. I think Carly will make it for quite a while yet...
David A - Safe - Bummer. Man, they need to send him HOME, America!
David C - Safe - I didn't like the song, but he is a fan fave for now...
Syesha - Bottom 3 - I don't see how that happened. She was one of the best last night.
Michael - Safe - Must be that accent...
Ramiele - Safe - That sucks. I didn't think she did well at all. I think all this using "sick" as an excuse is lame.
Jason - Bottom 3 - I hated his song last night, so I'm glad...
Christy - Safe!! - Wow!! That was unexpected! Awesome!

Well, crap, Jason is safe after all.... I can't believe Chikezie and Syesha are the bottom two. We are so not happy about this.

And tonight's loser: Chikezie. Well, I am sorry to see him go, but he'll have an album for sure. I have to say I am SOOO glad Syesha made it through. She is a great singer!

Mar 25, 2008

THIS is Ah-MER-ican Idol

Welcome to another edition of our American Idol Yea's and Nay's!

---- Name -------- Shan ----- Dave -----
Ramiele ------------ ? -------- N ------
Jason -------------- ? -------- N ------
Syesha ------------- Y -------- Y ------
Chikezie ----------- Y -------- Y ------
Brooke ------------- Y -------- Y ------
Michael ------------ Y -------- N ------
Carly -------------- Y -------- Y ------
David A ------------ ? -------- N ------
Christy ------------ Y -------- Y ------
David C ------------ Y -------- N ------

Ramiele - "Alone" - I think they call that screaming, not singing loudly. I thought she was flat, but that's just me. Sick or not, you have GOT to perform well. She didn't. Send her home.

Jason - "Fragile" - Shan says she can't vote NO on his birthday. We'll see... LOL... I'm voting no. If I closed my eyes, this song would either put me to sleep or make me throw the radio across the room. UGH.

Syesha - "If I was your woman" - We finally have a singer in the house! She is very, VERY good! She has a shot at the whole thing. Fantastic! Snag it off iTunes for sure.

Chikezie - "If only for one night" - He has a great classic R&B voice. He is old school throwback, and it works perfectly. Shan is not as impressed, not as good as Syesha (I agree with the last part). Download it.

Brooke - "Every breath you take" - Hey, will she beat-box it like Blake did last year? Probably not... She had a rough a start. I liked her take on the song, but it was not as strong as some of her other songs. Download-worthy for sure.

Michael - "We will rock you/We are the Champions" - This is not working for me at all. This is like some drunk guy at the front of the bar while his favorite team just won the world series. I say no, Shan says yes. We are pretty sure this is first time Shan agreed with the judges (at least up to where Simon said it was the only memorable performance).

Carly - "Total Eclipse of the heart" - Great song choice. Man, she really rocked this one! I really liked her performance here. I liked the fact that you could hear a little bit of her accent in the song. The last note was kinda rough, though. May be worth checking out the full version, we'll see...

David A - "You're the voice" - Ouch. Not a good choice. I just don't think he has a strong enough voice to last much longer in this competition. He might get the 'cute' vote, I guess from the girls, but dawg, this sucked for me.

Christy - "God Bless the USA" - I was afraid she would botch this, but I actually like her rendition of the song. I think it could actually do pretty well on the radio with today's "kids." Well done! I may actually download this one.

David C - "Billy Jean" - He gets bonus points for the pouty baby picture alone - hilarious! I have never heard of this version of the song. This is like William Shatner doing Michael Jackson. What the heck!? The chorus picks up a little, but the song never goes anywhere... Let's just hope he doesn't start moonwalking... UGH. He killed it. In a bad way. I admit, my problem is that I didn't like that version of the song, so I am biased against the singer. Sue me.

2010 Pontiac G8 "Sport Truck"

Can you say "El Camino?" Look, I enjoy a cool retro vehicle as much as the next guy, but come on - an El Camino!? Give me a break....

The question, of course, is: How long until Chevy puts out their own version? Okay, they sorta did already, but at least that LOOKED like a truck....

Mar 24, 2008

Something scary to think about...

Peep Show

The following picture appeared on one of the technology-related blogs that I frequent, and it also had been forwarded to me in an email. I knew then I had to post it. The details are what what make this one of the funniest uses of Peeps I have seen:

Mar 23, 2008

Easter Day Photography

I decided to break out one of the digital cameras to snap some photos. I decided to take pictures of all kinds of things. Why not, right?

Happy Easter!

Blades of Real Life

Emily spent the night at a friend's house on Friday night. It was the first time she ever spent the night away, except for staying at one of her grandparents' houses. I didn't think she would make it without calling home, but she did just fine. We were told that around 11pm, the lights were turned out and shortly after that, the girls were fast asleep.

She said she had a lot of fun at her friend's house! I'm sure they laughed and played and giggled about all the things 5 year-old laugh and play and giggle about.

Since Emily was gone and Tyler was next door, Shan and I decided to rent a couple movies. We finally decided to get "Dan in Real Life" and "Blades of Steel." The only reason we picked up "Dan" was because we had seen a Rachel Ray show where she went on and on about it. Her special guest was Steve Carell and he was hilarious during the segment. I am NOT a fan of "The Office" at all. I think it is one of the dumbest shows ever, but I know that is because I don't like the style of humor. Steve Carell, outside of that environment, is a very funny guy.

If you have not seen "Dan in Real Life" yet, I recommend checking it out. It's one of those "feel good, cute" movies that has a few funny moments, but is mostly about a clueless Dad that finds his 'center' after the death of his wife. It has some pretty corny moments (like the "A-Ha moment Steve has near the end), but the shower scene is very funny!

We also rented "Blades of Glory." Why? We have no idea. It was there, we wanted a stupid/funny movie, so we got it. Shan did not think it was as funny as I did. I was rolling on the floor several times during the movie. Okay, some of the innuendo stuff was more eye-rolling than funny, but the cameos by figure skating notables provided some of the funniest bits. Yes, I'm one of those guys that have to have a dose of "stupid" humor every once in a while, and this provided just enough to tide me over for a while.

The US flag that Mom had placed on Dad's grave was worn and torn, so while Shan and I were at Wal-Mart, we tried to find one that was the same size. They only had really tiny ones or ones that were bigger than the one Mom removed. So, we got a couple that were close. While looking though, we saw the "Self-Waving" flag that plays a march while it automatically waves. We are pretty sure Dad was looking down on us from Heaven, pumping his fists in the air, laughing and yelling out, "Yes! that's the one!" If it had been weather-proof, we would have bought it in a heartbeat! It had my Dad written all over it.

Mar 19, 2008

Horton Hears an Idol

Is it just me, or has the whole "group singing" thing gone way, way downhill in recent years? Okay, specifically, this year. The producers need to kill the whole 'broadway show' part of American Idol. Shan just clapped saying, "Yay, it's over!" I couldn't agree more! Another "feature" that needs to go? How about the stupid call-in questions? That is just a time-waster. I admit Simon saying that Paula was a good kisser was a bit of a surprise.

Kelly Pickler's "I just have a WAY better job" was hilarious! She is such an airhead. LOL. I can't believe she sang "Red High Heels," though it is the song she on Idol a couple years ago for "original song night," if memory serves....

So, how did the voting go, and more importantly, do we agree?

Brooke - Safe - I agree, keep her around for a while. She is going to have a contract regardless of what happens on Idol.

Carly - Bottom 3 - That is a HUGE surprise for us. Wow... She already has/had a contract, so you already know she'll do well. Not sure if she should be the "AMERICAN" Idol, though....

David A - Safe - Not happy, but he has his groupies, I guess

Michael - Safe - I think he'll do well overall

David C - Safe - Another one who should do very well in the competition.

Kristy - Bottom 3 - Not happy about it, but we had a feeling it would happen.

Jason - Safe - DUH, he has the face and the hair, I guess.

Ramiele - Safe - That sucks. I think she should be long gone by now.

Syesha - Safe - She has a good voice, but she better find good songs or she'll be out quickly.

Chikezie - Safe - I'm glad he's in. I really like him and hope he does well.

Amanda - Bottom 3 - I not really surprised only because she has yet to show something different.

Bottom 3 (Drum Roll Please):
Carly - Safe - Not surprised.
Kristy - Safe - What a surprise! She has been in the bottom 3 every week. She better shape up quick.
Amanda - OUTTA HERE. I am bummed about that, but she never outgrew what we saw in the auditions. As Shan said, though, she has a career that she likes, and this never came across as what she wanted to do for her life. I think she will still get at least a CD out of it and hopefully she will get to show off more than one side of herself.

We took the kids to see "Horton Hears a Who" tonight. It is a very cute movie. I have never read the book, so I don't know what liberties were taken, but it doesn't really matter to me, either. At the end, a bunch of kids in front of us were clapping. To me, THAT is the sign of a good, family movie.

Supper at Sonic for 4: $20
4 night tickets for a movie: $25
Popcorn, candy and drinks: $26
Cold Stone ice cream after the movie: $18
Spending the evening with the family: Pricele... Well, not really priceless. The price was just about a hundred bucks. We told the kids not to get used to that. :-)

Mar 18, 2008

Kite Flying and Idol Thoughts

We were supposed to get 4-6 inches of rain last night. The storm didn't move as quickly as expected, so we got nothing. But, the winds were kicked up enough today that Emily and I went out and flew a Barbie kite she had. It was a LOT of fun!!

Idol thoughts

Oh, please, didn't we just do the Beatles last week!? I mean, okay, so it was "McCartney/Lennon," but is basically the Beatles. "Expanding on a theme" is a STUPID idea. I am NOT a Beatles fan whatsoever. In fact, I think they are the most overrated band of all time - they were in the right place at the right time and had very good marketing behind them. Many people would argue they were exactly what the world needed when they came to the United States. Everyone has their own opinions...

Before things get going, I can already tell you I am taking this show with a grain (pound, perhaps?) of salt.

--- NAME -------------- Dave ----- Shan -----
Amanda Overmeyer ------- N --------- N ------
Kristy Lee Cook -------- N --------- N ------
David Archutleta ------- N --------- ? ------
Michael Johns ---------- Y --------- Y ------
Brooke White ----------- Y --------- Y ------
David Cook ------------- Y --------- Y ------
Carly Smithson --------- Y --------- Y ------
Jason Castro ----------- N --------- N ------
Syesha Mercado --------- N --------- ? ------
Chikezie --------------- N --------- ? ------
Ramiele Malubay -------- N --------- ? ------

Amanda - ("Back in the USSR") - As Simon and Paula said, she needs to show something else. She has a unique sound, but it is getting repetitive.

Kristy - ("You got to hide your love away") - I don't think I've ever heard this song before, so for me, I imagined I was hearing this song on the radio for the first time. Kinda pitchy, and as Shan said, "She has a good voice, but has not picked any good songs." Though, her "Faithfully" was spot-on for me.

David A - ("The long and winding road") - Ballads can be great. For me, this sucked. I think I fell asleep during this one though. Total snoozer in my book.

Michael - ("A day in the life") - My biggest complaint about the original version of this song is how WHINY the Beatles are while they sing it. Boo hoo, poor us. Micheal, on the other hand, came out SINGING it with force. Yeah, he botched the high falsetto, but he still did better than the folks before him tonight. Excellent work.

Brooke - ("Here comes the sun") - Though it seemed highly repetitive, this actually worked out very well. She has a great voice and she is very at ease in front of the microphone and the crowd. GREAT job!

David C - ("Day Tripper") - A Whitesnake version? Okay, Whitesnake sings the whiniest song in the history of rock ("Wait... Wait.. I never had a chance to love you..."). So, he went with an upbeat, rockin version. Interesting, and I'm saying "Yes" but only because it was better than the first few folks. I'm not sure it was great, but good enough to stay around.

Carly - ("Blackbird") - A nice ballad, but she took way too long to break out and let herself go. Again, very repetitive. Were all the Beatles songs just saying the same thing over and over for 5 minutes? UGH. No matter, she has a great voice. Too bad she has that awful tattoo down her arm.

Jason - ("Michelle") - Oh, please give me a break. I absolutely HATE this song and always have. Jason did nothing to the song that the Beatles hadn't already done. Someone had me a vomit bag, please.... Quick. It is songs like this that are so overrated that people were too stupid to know what made a bad song simply because it was "The Beatles" (insert screaming teeny boppers here)

Syesha - ("Yesterday") - The ultimate cover song. Every singer in the world has covered this song. As a singer, you either muck it up or you do it incredible justice. Syesha did okay, but it was kinda like something that would show up in a Beatles musical or something. I guess this would be an okay version to play at a funeral or something... I was not overly impressed, but she does have a good voice.

Chikezie - ("I've just seen a face") - Another song I've never heard of. I think he did nice job of putting a little R&B spin on it with his his voice. Well, and then he did the harmonica, and turned it into a square dance. What the-? As Shan said, "a little Hee-Haw." Randy said it might make it as a country song.... Maybe if Chikezie and Kristy get their "hick" on, they'll have an interesting bluegrass album....

Ramiele - ("I should have known better") - Okay, here it goes. Bad start. Well, really, it was bad period. Too soft, sounded off key or something. The only true karaoke version of a Beatles song tonight. Awful. Please, send her home people.

Mar 16, 2008

Vantage Point and free cheese fries

The kids went to spend the night in Little Rock with their Aunt Linnie on Saturday, so Shan and I had the day to ourselves. We decided to eat lunch at Texas Roadhouse and catch a movie, while getting in some shopping.

Texas Roadhouse was fantastic, as usual. But, they forgot to bring our bacon cheese fries, so when we asked about them, the waitress came back with a plateful and said she had taken them off our bill! Lunch was great!

We did some shopping and then went to see "Vantage Point." If you need a reminder, the movie is about an assassination attempt on the president as revealed through the viewpoints of about 8 characters. Of course, we bought popcorn and Milk Duds before we went in!!

I will say that I knew who one of the 'bad guys' was within the first five minutes, but that did not ruin the movie. So, if you figure it out that quickly, don't fret, you'll still be in for a decent time at the movies. Why only 'decent' and not a 'great' time? Because the 'gimmick' the movie uses gets old fast in my opinion. If you have not seen the movie, I will give you fair warning when I am going to reveal more than you may wish to know. For now, though, let me just say that the delivery mechanism the movie uses in order to present the differing 'vantage points' gets used and used to point of being abused. If no future movies in history use the same technique, that would suit me fine.

In fact, it was so overused that one of the moviegoers in the row in front of us kept us laughing with his commentary on it. At one point, he said, "You have GOT to be kidding me" which was followed during the next use of it with, "If they do that one more time, I am out of here." We all laughed.

If you can survive the gimmick, the movie is actually pretty cool. It is more than a bit far-fetched, as are most politically-based action movies, but isn't that why we go to the movies in the first place? The car chase scene is fantastic, though some parts are a bit beyond believable. Again, is that not why we go to the movies, though?

The movie would have been a "run-of-the-mill" political action film without the gimmick, and I am glad the used it as a departure from the standard method of telling a story. In the end, the viewer is left with two main thoughts to ponder: 1) No matter how insignificant it may seem that you are in a particular place at a particular time, your part may prove much larger than you could have imagined, and 2) Remember, EVERYTHING you watch has been edited in such a way that you see exactly what you are MEANT to see (be sure to pay attention to the final scene!)

I totally recommend seeing this movie, just make sure you check you sense of "reality" at the door.

After the movie, we did some more shopping, and then came home to stay up until 1AM playing "Sing Star!" When the kids are away, the parents will play!


Okay, here are my uncensored feelings about "Vantage Point." The first couple of times the movie "rewinds" back to 11:59:57am, it is a cool effect. After FIVE times, however, it has worn out its coolness factor and becomes annoying (in my opinion anyway; Shan loved the effect). Shan and I did remark that we seem to have stumbled on a slew of "Groundhog Day"-like movies however (see recent comment on "Premonition." At least in both movies, the gimmick actually adds a little more each time it is used. So, as we see each character's point of view, a little more is revealed about the events being played out again and again on the screen.

"The Jackal" (1997, Bruce Willis/Richard Gere) used a laptop with a remote control gun and remote camera in order to try and assassinate the First Lady. In "Vantage," the technology has 'evolved' on to (what appear to be) iPhones. Everything is remote controlled through touch screens nowadays, evidently. While it may have seemed cool to many, I don't think it was as 'believable' as Bruce Willis connecting his cell phone to his laptop to call the remote gun (which, as a sidenote: if you have not seen "The Jackal," I recommend it. Jack Black has one of the best roles in the movie - hilarious!). As I mentioned before, though, part of why we go to the movies is to escape reality.

Sigourney Weaver looks awful in this movie. It is as if someone said, "Hey, I know you just woke up, but could come down here and we'll shoot all of your scenes in one day? You won't need make-up."

During the chase scenes, Dennis Quaid survives at least two bone-crushing side impacts (one of which sends him plowing into a cement barricade), yet he simply kicks the windshield out and runs down the road. A bit of a stretch to say the least.

When Anna is standing in the middle of the road, the scene is intense, but also gets played out as one of the most cliched of movie moments - saved in the nick of time by her hero diving in front of the oncoming vehicle. There is a reason it is used so often, though - because, in reality, I think almost everyone wants to be that 'nick-of-time' savior for someone in such a defenseless predicament.

As I mentioned above, the final scene says it all: We see news in just the way the reporting station and/or government WANTS us to see it. How often are we told one thing, when the truth is much, much bigger than the "simple" version presented to us.

If you have read all of this, and you have not seen the movie, but you still WANT to see the movie, I say, "Do it!" You will have fun, and you will be shown a cool editing technique that will hopefully never be used again.