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August 31, 2012

Slinging the Mud

I said before that I thought this election would get bad. I didn't realize the lies would start so soon or be so big this early!

Both Romney's and Ryan's speeches at the RNC are more factually incorrect than correct. When even Fox News people are admitting the fallacies of a Republican candidate, you know they must be pretty bad. I urge everyone to take what is said on both sides of the aisle with a large grain of salt and read the fact checkers thoroughly from around the web before agreeing or disagreeing with anything either side says.


Ryan (note that I linked to the Fox News site for the list of fallacies used)

If the Republicans are starting this up at their convention, and are heating up the false rhetoric this soon, I can't wait (*sarcasm) to see what the Democrats respond with. I thought it might be ugly, but this could get downright nasty.

I linked to just two (one each) fact checkers; there are at least a half dozen from both biased and independent fact checking groups that all say pretty much the same thing; the Republicans are lying about Medicare, lying about job creation, lying about Social Security, and making statements that needlessly associate the need for welfare changes with blacks (to anger and get the white voters involved and engaged).

With this precedent set, I fear what direction Obama will go in to respond. I hope, as I always do that one side and/or the other will try to remain accurate, truthful, and minimize the spin. I hope it is Obama, since both of the Republican candidates have proven incapable of that, but history suggests I will be disappointed yet again.

August 24, 2012

Tripping the Light Fantastic

I love books. I like the look and the feel of them. As long as they aren't moldy, I like the smell of them. I like the sound the paper makes as it crinkles and the page turns. I have a lot of books.

I have had a Kindle* e-Reader for closing on two years now. While I do miss the aspects mentioned above, the change to electronic books is a vast improvement to my reading enjoyment.

My eyesight is not what it once was. I'm at that point where sight starts slowly degrading. In addition, I take medications that are potentially hastening that degradation. My Kindle has the ability to make the text of any book I read larger or smaller so that I can always find a comfortable size to view.

I read a lot in bed while having trouble sleeping. As I don't want to keep my wife up with either the overhead light or my table lamp, I need light to read by. We found the LightWedge to be a great compromise; I have light to read by, and the LW keeps that light primarily focused on the book I'm reading. However, this and similar solutions have issues as well. They require extra weight for you to hold. The LW has to be removed from the book and replaced each time you turn the page, which slows down your reading enjoyment and necessitates more movement than maybe you wish to do. Some clip-lights don't direct light onto the page in a uniform or pleasing way, so you get glare points and dark areas.

I have a clip-on light that works great when using my Kindle to read at night. I can read in low-light situations much more readily than with the standard type in the standard hard or softback book. The e-Ink screen is designed to be anti-glare, so there are fewer hot spots and any darker spots from a clip-on are less problematic when you can simply increase the font size. There are rumors that Amazon is working on an eReader that has, basically, a built in LightWedge, so you would not even need a clip on. Also, many Kindle covers have LED lights that use the Kindle's battery for power, so you basically have one unit that provides all the options you need.

When reading in bed, or in a reclined situation, most people rest the book on their belly. When reading at a table or on a plane, many people rest the book on the table, especially if they are reading War and Peace or anything by Stephen R. Donaldson. Books get heavy quickly. In addition, when the book is resting and you turn a page, the page scrapes across whatever you are resting it against. And you often have to use two hands to hold it and turn the pages. With my Kindle, I typically hold the book with one hand and keep my thumb on the page turn button. I can read either right handed or left handed by rotating the Kindle (and many Kindle models have the page-turn button on both sides of the case, so no rotation is needed). The fact that the average Kindle is much lighter than the average book (even lighter than most softbacks) means you can hold it one hand very easily and for longer periods than you can hold a standard book.
Note: The LightWedge actually works pretty well with the Kindle as well. However, it turns into a bit of a flashlight because the LW needs the spine of the book to stop the light from streaming out the far side of the clear plastic lighted area, so it is not optimal. The makers of LW really should put a thin opaque edge all the way around the clear area so that less light "spills out" of the viewing area.
Another nice thing about an eReader is that you have so many more options at your fingertips. I often get to bed and think, 'I don't feel like reading that tonight; maybe I'll read this other thing.' Well, when you are dealing with actual books, that necessitates a lot of space used for both books, comparatively speaking. I currently have approximately 75 novels of various lengths on my Kindle, yet they do not take up any more space, or additional weight, than the Kindle itself. I can add up to another approximately 3425 books to my Kindle without increasing the weight I carry or needing any additional nightstand or bookshelf space. When you are traveling, it is nice to "pack" as many books as you want to but only have to carry the weight of one Kindle, especially if you have an unexpected layover somewhere.

Lastly, my Kindle can read to me. It has a voice and the ability to read anything I put into it. So if I'm in a situation where I won't bother others, but don't want to read for myself, I can ask Kindle to do it for me and still make progress in the latest book. When I ask my wife to read to me, she usually just gives me a look like she's about to call the men in white coats to take me away.

My Kindle does not look or smell or feel like a "real" book. However, the advantages of increasing the font size, storing dozens of favorite or new books, low weight, one-handed reading, and the ability to be read to make the Kindle a replacement that can do far more than an actual book can. It makes some situations, like reading in bed, much easier. Overall, reading a Kindle is actually better than reading a book.

* = I have and use a Kindle eReader. Many of the pros I list are true of other brands of eReaders. However, I caution against using one that uses a back-lit LCD/LED display, as the eyestrain, especially reading at night/in the dark, can add up and make you use the product less. Also, back-lit LCD/LED readers use a lot more power (average of a couple of hours to up to around 10 hours use before a needed recharge. eInk displays only use power when you do something, so my Kindle stays charged for around a month of pretty heavy use (with the Wi-Fi turned off). Your mileage may vary.

Armstrong Again

I think Lance Armstrong is right to give up his fight. Regardless of whether he did or did not use PEDs, the USADA is bound and determined to hound him until they get some level of satisfaction. In my mind it is pretty simple: he has dozens if not hundreds of clean tests (scientific, factual evidence in his favor) versus the testimony of a few people who rode both with him and against him and many of whom are on record as hating Armstrong (circumstantial evidence from biased sources).

Even the judge in the case thinks there is bias. "USADA's conduct raises serious questions about whether its real interest in charging Armstrong is to combat doping, or if it is acting according to less noble motives," such as politics or publicity, U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks wrote.

I've mentioned my stance on this before, a couple of times (here and here). I'll simply sum up here:

  1. Either Armstrong did not use PEDs and he was the superior rider over his rivals of the day, many of whom have been found to have used PEDs OR,
  2. Armstrong did use PEDs and was the superior rider versus his rivals of the time, many of whom have been found also to have used PEDs.
Either way, Armstrong is the superior rider of his generation and deserves his wins and accolades.

This certainly feels like a witch hunt and I respect Armstrong more for stepping away from it after years and years of fighting. He is still an inspiration to Cancer survivors everywhere and hopefully he can focus more on raising money for that worthy endeavor.

And, hopefully, one of the groups like the UCI will continue to challenge this on the merits of the case. Hearsay should not overwhelm the tests. Now, if they were able to test his blood and urine again and this time, with today's technology, they found PEDs, I would be singing a slightly different tune (but, actually, not much). But unless or until that happens, I'm taking the dozens and hundreds of tests over the word of people who hate and envy Armstrong every day.

August 20, 2012

I Just Don't Get Suicide

I simply do not understand suicide. While I have been fairly low at certain times in my life, especially dealing with chronic health conditions for years, I have never once even contemplated taking my own life. For as cynical as I am, for as world-weary as I act, I am basically a fairly hopeful person, and I'm sure that helps.

What I do not understand about suicide is simple: as long as there is life, there is hope. As long as you are alive, there is the chance for something to change, to evolve, and new opportunities to come your way. If you are dead, those chances are gone. Zilch.

Suicide, to me, seems like an awfully selfish act. You are, in my eyes, telling your friends and family, your coworkers and acquaintances, that they are have nothing to offer you, they have no hope of understanding you or your state, and that they cannot help you in any way whatsoever. Actually, you are actively taking away their chance to help you, and leaving them with nothing but regrets, questions, and anger. I guess I have an incredible set of friends and family, coworkers and acquaintances, because I simply know that they can help me with anything that comes along. And they have, repeatedly. And I have helped them whenever I could.

Suicide seems like an awfully lonely act, too. You do not often hear of a suicide committing the act in front of another person or a group of people in an intimate setting. I guess, on occasion, some people commit "suicide by cop," or drive the wrong way down a highway until they hit someone, but those seem rare to me. Most suicides go somewhere lonely, away from others, and do it quietly. I would even argue that those who go into public to commit suicide are the closest to being stopped, or the least convinced (subconsciously) that the act is the right thing to do, because they are surrounding themselves with people who might talk them out of it or physically stop them. Why else go into public where any number of people can stop you?

The vast majority of the world holds Judeo-Christian/Abrahamic beliefs, being predominantly Christian or Muslim. Throw in Jews and the various "Unitarian" style religions (that predominately follow Judeo-Christian belief structures) and you have approximately 55-60% of the entire world's population covered. And in every case, suicide is considered one of the most dire of sins. (Yes, even in Islam. Look it up.) Hinduism is also negative toward suicide, feeling that it is without purpose, and it makes up approximately another 13% of the world's population.  How is it that so many people still commit suicide when their belief system tells them not to? How could people in these low points of their life not seek out their religious leaders and ask for help, when they know that their religion frowns on these acts (at best) or considers it something that will cost them their eternal reward (at worst)?

No one who knows me well would accuse me of empathy. There are certain emotional reactions and situations that I simply do not understand and have trouble "getting." Yet I've had a couple of friends who have said that I "saved" them from their lowest points. Neither said the word suicide, but it was strongly implied. Apparently my strong conviction in life, in change, in opportunity swayed them to hold on a while longer and something positive happened. I once had a teacher tell me that an off-hand comment I made to him caused him to rethink his direction, lose over 100 lbs, get into better shape, and get a much better attitude.

I guess my point here is that you never know where that life-changing, mind-altering affirmation of YOU is going to come from. It might even come from that totally-lacking-in-empathy friend/acquaintance you have who has totally missed any and all clues that you are low and sinking lower. It might come from a close loved one, a bumper sticker, a religious intervention, or from a strange, unexpected other source. But, if you aren't there to receive it, it will be wasted. Why not hold on and see what's around the bend?

August 15, 2012

Get Low

I don't have much to post today except that the Presidential race this year may be one of the dirtiest we've ever seen. I'm already shocked and surprised at the lies and acid that are being slung about by both parties. I'd like to reiterate that I think lying in political ads and speeches should be illegal and the party that is found guilty of it should be automatically disqualified from the race.

And I am so tired of only hearing the far right and far left talk. We need moderation, we need consensus, and we need to work together to get America back on track. Why is it when my educated friends from the far left and right get together, we can agree on middle ground and reach consensus on most every issue, yet the country's official politicians can't do that to save their lives?

August 3, 2012


Originally, I used Yahoo! as my home page. However, I never liked how everything sort of got clumped together with ads and other things that just made it seem overly cluttered and without any sort of purpose. When Google released iGoogle, I switched to that because I could finally create tabs of information, separate out things I wanted to see, and keep some sanity on my home page.

Google recently announced that they are doing away with iGoogle in November of 2013. At first I was upset by this, as I had used iGoogle for a number of years as my home page and it displayed information in a way that made sense to me. I had a lot of control over the display and how I saw and interacted with the data I wanted. But, now, I'm thanking them for making this decision, as it has turned me onto Protopage.

My wife sent me a link to an article that gave the pros and cons of both NetVibes and Protopage as good iGoogle replacements. After reading the article, I decided to try Protopage and see if I could recreate what I had in iGoogle quickly and easily. If I could not, or didn't like how it worked or what I had when I was done, I was going to move on and try NetVibes. However, I was able to easily recreate every tab I had in iGoogle with more color choices, more column choices, and more freedom of where and how I placed the widgets and gadgets of information. I was able to recreate all but two of the widget I had in iGoogle, and those two are really just "would be nice" ones (seeing my stock portfolio via Google's own stock ticker widget and the widget that I can't seem to find a replacement for in Protopage... yet). Protopage allowed me even greater freedom.

I now have some widgets spread over multiple columns. I have at least four columns on each tab, and five on a couple (iGoogle couldn't do more than four, and had best results for three or fewer columns). There is even an option for manual placement anywhere on the page! I have color themes for each tab so that I can tell at a glance which one I'm on, and I am actually now using more widgets and gadgets than before, as I found it so easy to add them. There is a search tool at the top right that I customized to the things I most often search (Google, IMDb, Wikipedia,,, and Yahoo), and there are literally about 100 more I could turn on if I wanted to -- but I don't see a reason to clutter my search area up with those at this time.

In deciding to do away with iGoogle, Google said they felt there were plenty of other options available to users. Thanks to their decision, I have found one that, for me, works as well or better than their's. Thank you, Google!

ADDENDUM (1/4/2013)
Protopage has added a Yahoo Stock Ticker that you can put on your page. It is not complete and it only does certain stocks, but it is a start. Click Add Widgets and look in the Add a Widget section. There will be a "Stock Ticker" option.