Friday, September 28, 2007

Friday Funny!

It's been quite a while since the last Friday Funny, but this one was good enough to revive the tradition!

The Moral: Never Kiss A Dog!!!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Episode IV - A New Hope

Those of you who know me, will likely also know that I am NOT a fan of Apple's iTunes/iPod empire.

I will shock some people here and admit that the iPod is a cool gadget. I'll even grant that the mp3 revolution was fueled in fairly large parts, by the iPod.


From the very beginning, Apple's plan was to sell you music from its iTunes music store. And that music was laced with DRM, or "Digital Rights Management", a sugar coated way of saying "We will control what you can do with music you buy." And to top it off, no other digital music player is compatible with Apple's DRM. Not because other player manufacturers don't want to be, but because Apple wants it all for themselves. So you buy your player from Apple, you buy your music from Apple, and you can't play that music on other players, so when your iPod breaks, or you run out of room and need another one, your choices are to either jump to another brand of player and re-purchase all your digital music (or burn it all to CDs and re-rip in an open format, which is enough of a pain that 90% of the public doesn't know you can do it, or wouldn't bother to do it), or just shell out the cash for a new iPod, which allows you to easily move your iTunes music library over. People have hassled me for many years for my anti-iPod views, and I don't think I've ever actually spelled out my argument so clearly. In any other medium, that kind of closed-marketplace wouldn't fly. But thanks to the fact that they were the first mainline digital music player, Apple has been given a free pass by the public to fleece them at will.

Okay, now that I've established my gripe with the iJuggernaut, let's take a quick look at the LEGAL music download landscape.

  1. iTunes, with lots of selection, but also restrictions.
  2. WalMart,, Many other stores offering music with the Windows Media DRM - which is supported by a huge variety of players, but is still DRM, and has earned my wrath through its ridiculous limitations.
  3. eMusic, which sells all their music as mp3 files, which have NO DRM. Oops, but there's really not much on there that you've ever heard of. The mafia that is the recording industry likes to sell you the same music as many times as possible, so they hate un-restricted music sales. eMusic has lots of independent groups, which is cool in its own way, but largely useless to me...
  4. (well, really 3 and a half) EMI, one of the big four mafia -oops- music companies, announced that they would offer their music in open, DRM-free form earlier this year. Apple made EMI and a few other product lines available DRM-free, but still used their .aac format that isn't supported by many players outside of the apple universe. Walmart and the other Windows-based stores also started selling un-DRM'd files, even going a step further and offering them as universally playable mp3s. But shopping for them was confusing, since they had the crippled tracks available alongside them, and I just KNOW that there have already been people thinking they were getting one, and winding up with the other. If only a major player would step up and do it right, offering mp3 files from the big guys in an easy to navigate way.
  5. (really IV) Amazon unleashed their long-talked-about download store today, offering everything in mp3. And they're even using high quality mp3s, the kind that I'd be happy to welcome to my media server. I've browsed around a little this morning, and their selection is better than I've found on the hybrid DRM/mp3 sites, and their prices are great - 89 cents a song for most songs, and albums averaging $8.99.

Amazon is big enough that hopefully this will be a success, and more record companies will agree to sell their catalog through their site. Until then, I've actually found music I've been looking for on there, and I intend to support this venture! Viva la Revolution!

(click here to support sensible legal downloads)

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Brilliant Advertising

Check out this new ad for the Citroen C1 - I actually didn't realize Citroen was still around, but apparantly not only are they around, they're making amazingly cool ads for their cars.

I think it would be great to have a follow up ad where the invisible hands turning the cube turn out to belong to a 6 year old who gets frustrated and decides to pry the cube apart in a final effort to solve it...

Monday, September 17, 2007

Now I REALLY Want A Pool!

I've always loved backyard swimming pools. Growing up, I spent a lot of time in eastern WA, where summer actually means "HOT" and as a result, a good percentage of homes have pools in the backyard. Luckily for me, most of my relatives are part of that good percentage. However, I now know that there is a downside to having a wonderous backyard oasis. But again, lady luck smiles on me, by providing the solution along with the problem. It appears that when you have a delightful body of water behind your house, it not only attracts all your local (and not-so-local) relatives, friends and neighbors. Yes, apparantly in addition to all those generally welcomed guests, the local pigeon population also likes to visit. But they don't want to swim. They want to foul your little slab of paradise with pigeon poop!! But now that this ingenious homeowner has shown me the way, I will fear no pigeon in my pool... When I do finally get my pool, that is.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Monday Diversion

You're looking at a new flash game. It's called Bloxors. It's addictive. It starts so simple - all you need to do is get the square block into the square hole - then before you know it gets so hard that it leads to obsession... I've just spent about 45 minutes playing it, and got to my personal end point... Might actually need to read all the directions, but I'm pretty sure I've gotten how to play it. Anyway, if you're looking for a "simple to learn, impossible to master" game, click here to check it out!

Sunday, September 02, 2007

If Summer Must End...

Tomorrow, our kids start school. (well, except for Andy... we're still waiting for the Tacoma school district to stop proving their superior stupidity so he can start another year at Internet Academy.) It is so incredibly hard to believe that he and Ellysa are going into *gulp* 9th grade this year. HIGH SCHOOL!! Woah. Still odd, but not as hard to swallow, are Kaylee and Tyler, in 5th and 4th grades respectively. Naturally, we wish them all great success in this school year. Also naturally, we look forward to having some good solid routine back in our lives. Finally (and naturally), all the kids are excited to get back to school again, even though some show it less than others. Good to know they're all okay with it.


I'm not ready for summer to end!! This has been such a weak summer weather-wise already, that it feels like we're still in early June, not early September. But as if in an effort to soothe my angst at the flittering away of the lack-of-summer, a few little gifts have popped up. I already mentioned the first gift, school starting again... (heehee!) But finally, some of the garden items I've been patiently waiting on are starting to reward me. Today I picked the first two tomatoes of the year - apparently they like SUN in order to ripen - and Cindy popped them in her mouth, so they must have been good. And the sunflowers that have been creeping taller and taller against the front of the house are finally starting to open up. Here are a few shots I took yesterday evening. Something about a nice sunflower provides a good, smooth transition from summer to fall.

(click the pics for the full size version)

Nice, huh? Just makes everything seem okay. But there was one more gift, hidden among the sunflowers. Many of you know that I've had issues with bees over the years. Well, a very industrious spider took the real estate mantra of "Location, Location, Location!" to heart, and built a web right across the face of a nice, big sunflower. That little spider is gonna be a big fat healthy spider with all the bees he's catching! Here's a pic of last night's haul...

Warm, sunny sunflowers and bees falling to spiders... I guess all really is right in the world!

Of Poultry and Hens

Those of you who not yet acquainted with the newest members of our flock, meet Floppy. At the time we got her, she had just molted, and really looked like the chicken equivalent of a train wreck. Neither her comb (the red pointy thing on top of her head) nor her wattle (the red wattly things below her beak) were very red, she looked anemic, she was missing feathers. Floppy got her name because her comb was very floppy, even partly covering one of her eyes. (but she really has a great personality, trust us!) Well, she's been with us since mid-March, and has now assumed her rightful place as "least pretty hen in the flock." But remember, she's got that personality!! And she really does. Our beautiful chickens that we raised from day-old babies run nervously to the opposite side of their yard when we come in, even though we nearly always have food of some kind. But Floppy and her sister Layla (thank Kaylee and Tyler for the names) are always right there, underfoot like cats, waiting to see what wonder and joy and joyness we have for them.

They're also smart enough to have learned that when a shovel goes into the ground, worms often come up. So as I was working on the backyard project detailed earlier, I'd only been digging for a couple minutes, when who should come walking up, but Floppy. Now, I know what you're thinking! You're thinking "but wait - the chickens are all fenced in to their own yard so they don't get out and trash YOUR yard" and you'd be right. However, a couple of them are quite skilled as escape artists. Traditionally Ginger has been the lead escapist, but she's beginning her first molt, and doesn't appear to be all that spunky right now. So Floppy is more than happy to take her place, and slips in and out of their yard at will. And with a shovel working the ground, her will was definitely to get the heck out there and find some worms!! I just laughed as she started helping me dig. For once, she wasn't underfoot like she usually is, she would wait until I dumped a shovel-full of dirt, then shred it up, snacking all the way. As soon as I was done with the shovel, she hung around a few more minutes, then went back to her yard like a good little hen. I'm sure the next few eggs she lays will have extra high protein from all her extra snacking!

Oh, and what was Ginger, the former queen troublemaker up to? Well... Like I said, she's not feeling too hot right now. But from looking at her, I'd say she was pouting.

She used to always be so pretty, and full of herself... And she used to lay eggs too... But her beauty and production should (aka BETTER!) return soon. Then it'll probably be a whole new round of hen-pecking with Floppy to reclaim the Queen of Mischief crown.

For Labor Day Weekend: Manual Labor!


Our poor, beleaguered back yard. While it looks approximately 3,000 times better than it did when we bought the house, it's still a bit of an eyesore. And the vegetable garden on the outside of the fence, that just seems wrong. Plus, that whole outside the fence area is completely overrun by weeds. We'll clear it out, and two weeks later you'd never know it! Perhaps there is a relatively easy solution to this problem... Perhaps a couple pallets of landscaping bricks from Home Depot would help! Yeah, and since it's a long weekend, perhaps Mike can carry (we're told the correct term is "hump", but that's just too wierd to say) those bricks around and make a retaining wall...


Let me just say: Bricks are heavy.


Wow, it's a wall! And despite the obvious challenges that could have caused it to be a disaster (for example, the fact that I was building it), it turned out really quite nice! How does this solve three different problems? Well, next year the garden will be planted in the new raised bed. It'll even have its own built-in sprinkler system. Woo! And on the outside of the fence, we're going to bulldoze all the weeds and nastiness (one of the perks of working for a construction company, no doubt!), and plant grass along that strip. With a nice, thick, healthy lawn out there, the weeds won't stand much of a chance. And those that do, will be mowed over on a regular basis! Ultimately, we also plan to put some fruit trees out there as well. This is the first of many property improvement projects we have in the works... When they're all done, our back yard is going to be a place where we'll intentionally choose to hang out!