Sunday, December 20, 2009

Gun rights.

Call me crazy, but I just don't see any rational argument with any of this. Preach on, Ted.

Friday, December 18, 2009

I'm a big HAM!

So a week ago I took the test for the Technician Class amateur radio license. I passed, and today I received my first callsign, KJ4RIC. I'll probably get a vanity callsign, but for now, that's my unique ID on the airwaves! Made my first transmission on the OCRA 442.150 repeater this afternoon thanks to a lot of help from Troy getting the radio setup properly. There's nothing terribly hard about it, but just a lot of little details to get figured out. Fun stuff!

Still getting my feet wet figuring everything out. Looks like some pretty neat stuff will be possible. At the very least I'll now be much safer when I mountain bike as I'll have communication capability pretty much everywhere.

Friday, December 11, 2009

March Madness

Oh yeah, baby! From the super scintillating to just plain awesome, the adrenaline levels are off the charts! This tournament is the P-T-Per of tournaments! It's awesome, baby!

Oh, sorry, got stuck in Dickie V. mode there for a second. Anyway, just needed to vent a little bit. The NCAA is apparently considering options on expanding the already-65 team field for the men's college basketball tournament. Say what? I understand there's always some whining about who got in and who didn't, but in reality, once you subtract out the automatic bids, we're talking about teams that weren't in the top 25 of college basketball. And if you weren't in the top 25, well, you didn't have much of a chance of winning anyway. So while the selection process isn't perfect, the reality is that it is pretty good and it's definitely "good enough."

I mean honestly, if the NCAA wants to change something, give us a FOOTBALL playoff! But messing with basketball is silly. But okay, let me throw out an idea. If they want to increase revenue and improve the tournament, how about considering making the Final Four a double elimination tournament? So you make it to the Final Four and then you still can lose one game and win the championship. That adds two (or perhaps three) games, but those are BIG games. HUGE. I think most fans would prefer that to another earlier weekend slammed with too many games to watch anyway.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Hey, Cliffy!

I've used this forum in the past to espouse the virtues of one Elizabeth Warren. She's still pushing for a Consumer Financial Protection Agency, and as expected, the banks are fighting back with all their lobbying might. She's asking for our help in contacting our federal government representatives, and I think we should oblige (again, this link is thanks to Sarah who is always on the watch for EW articles).

But I want to take this "losing the middle class" thing a step further. It's widely thought that the Democrats have a master plan of pushing for all Americans to be able to go to college and have the government pay for it (ultimately). Why? Well, I suppose they assume it's everyone's right and it can't help but make us a better society and nation if everyone goes to college.

I disagree. Completely. Look, right now the "middle class" is a big thing. Very big. But it's typical to break it down into the upper middle class (UMC) and lower middle class (LMC). I see the UMC as mostly those who graduated college and have good jobs, two cars, nice house, and at least should be planning for retirement well. I see the LMC as typically those who probably didn't go to (or at least finish) college but still managed to work their way up from an entry level job to a management type position. Both parents probably work, but they have steady and reasonable jobs and make ends meet in a reasonable house with two cars. They're probably in the most financial jeopardy now, but honestly I see both upper and lower groups as the type folks that EW is concerned about and wanting to protect.

But which group is bigger or smaller and which is shrinking or growing? Well, my gut tells me the UMC is probably generally doing okay (and would be able to do better with EW's help, certainly). It's the LMC that's having the most trouble and stands to benefit the most from EW's ideas. But I also think the LMC's numbers are probably shrinking by most reasonable measures. I see illegal immigration as well as lack of adequate training absolutely killing the ability for someone to get a good entry level job and move up from it. The immigration thing bugs me, but that's not what bugs me the most. What bugs me the most is the education angle.

Higher education has grown and grown in this country and we've done a tremendous job to date with making it highly available via scholarships, student loans, and state subsidized programs. But I don't care what more we do, college isn't for everyone. Some choose (perhaps poorly, but it's gonna keep happening) to start families too early and thus can't commit to that level of education. Some just don't want it. Some may not be smart enough across a wide array of topics to manage getting a full college degree. Some may just not be motivated at the right time in their lives for it. Add in the fact that I really think to keep "college" as something of tremendous value that it has to be something somewhat hard to obtain. If it isn't then too many people will just think it's too hard once they get there and quit. Or worse, we'll have to dumb it down so much that the value is lost so that everyone can also "pass."

But where did that LMC used to come from? People with skills that were in demand. But demand for those skills has shrunk here in the US as the world economy has gotten more connected. Is it gone? I don't think so. But we've stopped training people to have skills. The biggest "skill" they worry about in US high schools now is how to prep kids for college. The first thing they cut? Physical education and vocational programs. I could go on for days about the importance of P.E., but again, this isn't the place. What is most important are vocational type programs.

When I graduated high school it wasn't common to have full calculus classes in every high school. We only had pre-calculus at my school. Now most schools have up to two full years of calculus available. Why? Because it prepares kids for college. That's great, but what are the kids taking that aren't going to college? There are still slower tracks that have your "highest" math class being something like geometry with some trigonometry. There's still the regular english class instead of A.P. english. There's still "civics" instead of A.P. history. Why? Because the
other thing we've done is worried about "passing" everyone. Let's stop worrying about passing everyone and start worrying about giving those who we're "just passing" some skills for when we "just pass" them right out the door with a worthless diploma.

This leads into one of my new favorite people in the whole wide world, John Ratzenberger. You might recall him as Cliff Clavin on the TV sitcom Cheers, or more recently as many of the voices in Disney Pixar movies such as Toy Story and Cars. John's current passion is helping change the education system so we can start producing more "makers" in this country again. What's a "maker"? Well, it's someone with a knack for making something useful out of raw materials. Most talented makers ultimately turn into entrepreneurs in one form or another, and there's nothing more that this country needs than good entrepreneurs. I found out about John's work in the latest issue of Make Magazine (probably my favorite magazine ever). You can learn more by grabbing the latest issue, or by doing some googling on John's name and finding sites like this one.

But the point here is that we need to wake up and start educating everyone properly and not just trying to make everyone "college bound." We need to teach more skills in high school like we used to with metal and wood shop classes. No, it can't and shouldn't stop there. We need to expand that kind of thing dramatically. Kids are smarter and smarter these days, even the ones that aren't going to college. Let's stop "passing" them through with the minimum and up the minimum to include at least some basic skills that will get them a real job. Let's reinvigorate the trade school industry and make it easy for people to get loans to go to those schools, too. I think it's more important for a kid that wants to learn to weld to be able to go pursue that than go get a relatively worthless degree in history because societal pressure says everyone should go to college.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

What is "cool"?

So I have thought in the past some about what "cool" is. At the time the best I could come up with was examples. Like Arthur Fonzarelli from Happy Days:



I was recently reading an interview in Make Magazine with Adam Savage, one of the ever-popular Mythbusters. The interviewer, Paul Spinrad, points out that enthusiasm is the opposite of cool. My first response was "huh?!?" But further explanation and discussion with Adam points out some interesting things. First, it's children that are most often overly enthusiastic. There becomes a point, however, when a more grown up child finds that enthusiasm immature (or perhaps "dorky") and invents (or steals, at this point) "cool" as an alternative. Not caring about what someone else cares about is a way to sort of "take it away."

That's an interesting way to think about it, and kind of useful to me as a parent. Much like anything out there, it's fine to be a little "cool", but it's also easy to go overboard with it. Thinking about it in these terms will help me help my kids better understand why it's bad to act some ways. This could be particularly important for folks with multiple kids with ages that vary widely.

I don't know, just something to think about.

Pinzgauer For Sale

Go to my new For Sale site and check it out.



Monday, November 16, 2009

Wow.

So I just got addicted to Scrabble thanks to my buddy Steve a little over a week ago. Then I found the Scrabble app on Facebook and started playing it today. Then Jane joins and challenges me to a game. First move in that game? Used all seven letters. I'm pretty stoked. It's even better that I got a triple word on top of it. That's Scrabble nirvana.

Looking for free audio books?

That's right, completely free! The drawback is that only books available in the public domain are available, but there are a lot of them. Many more than you might think with many of them being very good books, too. You can download in almost any format and easily burn an audio CD or put them on your portable music player. Check out LibriVox if you've been looking for this kind of thing for those long car trips.

I'm told some readers aren't so good and some are very good, so if you find a reader you really like you can go back and search for other books done by that particular reader, too. I believe you can also choose to omit bad readers from your searches. And if you like the service and use it, try to give back by signing up to do some reading. It's pretty easy.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

What's in a wink?

It's an interesting question. What's really in a wink? Love? Lust? Humor? Or just something stuck in your eye?

I don't know why, but I've recently started to use the wink a bit more. Seems a bit of a lost "art." No, not the actual ability to wink, just the actual use of it in social situations. Or maybe it's the people I hang out with, I don't know. I just know that as a kid it seemed like people did it more often than they do now.

Is there some social taboo to it? Can something like a wink be "in" for some time period and then become "out" just the same? I don't recall participating in or overhearing any conversations where anyone talked about the wink as if it were an old style of blue jeans that was no longer in style, but perhaps the wink is like that.

But the question becomes what can one really do with a wink? In my experience, it can be a good way to let someone in on a piece of humor. Particularly tall tales or simple sarcasm. It's worth noting that humor can go over much better in a crowd if just one person gets the joke (or, more importantly, that you're even telling a joke and not attempting badly to be serious). Let that right person in on it with a quick wink, and they pass an infectious laugh around.

Another option is the ability to make someone feel special with a wink. In the above situation, you might do both by winking at the insecure person in the group. Or a younger member. Or an older one. There are also situations where you could just be letting someone in on the fact that you just made a backhanded comment about someone else (but we're not the type to do that, are we?).

I should also mention that a wink can be a good way to let someone else know that you've noticed them. It could be a great way to seize the moment and turn what might have been awkward eye contact into a suggestion that perhaps a conversation might be in order if the other party is willing. People are generally shy by nature, but often it only takes a small signal to get someone else out of their shell. And why not try it? It's certainly easier than striking up the conversation yourself, and definitely easier to write off if the other party doesn't take the bait. I mean none of us like verbal rejection, but failing to respond to your wink is a lot less damaging than "you'll have to excuse me, but I just don't find your lame attempt at a pick-up line very intriguing." I'm sure nobody has ever gotten that exact response, but many have probably gotten that exact vibe after a failed pickup attempt!

Okay, I'm just exploring this "meeting people" thing. I'm happily married and intend to stay that way for a long time. And this is where I should bring up the fact that I can't wink around the house. Why? Because my wife thinks it is funny that she can wink with either eye and I can only wink with one. And she's mean about it and likes to gloat. Okay, that's not true. But she does give me some much-deserved ribbing about it.

So what wink stories do you guys have? Any thoughts on whether the gesture should be used more or less? I can't see what it can hurt to use it more. Sure, it could be very easily overdone, but I'm going to encourage folks to use it in moderation. Why the heck not?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Interstate 40 Detour

So by now, most people who read this space and who might be traveling on Interstate 40 from points east of Winston-Salem into Tennessee should know about the big rock slide that has I-40 blocked and detoured. Why am I posting about it then? Because the DOT detour is REALLY BAD for anyone coming from anywhere further east than Winston-Salem. Their detour is an extra 53 miles. It makes a certain amount of sense to publish this as the official detour since there could be a lot of people coming from in between Winston-Salem and Asheville, but for everyone else there is a better way.

Check out this map:


View Larger Map

This detour is 13 miles further than just staying on I-40 would have been. It's also the way I go almost exclusively because it's an easier and safer drive. Going up Fancy Gap is much preferred to me over going up the mountain near Asheville. It's a wider and safer road. The speed limit is higher on most of this route and the traffic is usually better, resulting in the extra distance not actually causing any extra time. To summarize it:
  • I-40 West to Highway 52 North
  • Highway 52 North to I-74 West
  • I-74 West to I-77 North
  • I-77 North to I-81 South
  • I-81 South to I-40 West
(If towing, use the above. If driving a car and it's not rush-hour, you might consider taking I-40 West to Business I-40 West and then to Highway 52 North. But know that the ramp from Business 40 to 52N is VERY short and a potential problem in a tow vehicle.)

It's driving me nuts that the only published detour by the news outlets is the official one, even though I pointed out to WRAL that their entire viewing area is east of Winston-Salem and thus they were being irresponsible by posting only the DOT detour. For almost all of their viewers my detour is better. And it will save fuel and time. So it's greener. WRAL did respond to me, but ignored my request to add the better detour.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Piracy

So by now most everyone should know about the pirates off the Somali coast that have been taking large ships and their crew hostage. They made around $80M in 2008 alone (from ransom). Amazing. Now the Navy is getting more involved and using drones capable of deploying weapons to patrol the seas.

That's an interesting attempt, but experts say it won't do much to deter the bandits. They say the biggest thing that would help would be fixing the Somali government, but that doesn't seem like a plausible solution. My solution? Get a big juicy cargo ship, mark it up properly, load it with empty containers, and a couple dozen Navy Seals. Just let it run around collecting up pirates. I mean they "attack" from tiny boats usually with less than ten bandits and some handheld automatic weapons. At best it seems they have some handheld rocket launchers, too. No match for Navy Seals. Probably no match for McHale's Navy, either, but let's not take any chances. Send in the pros.

Let them video each capture for evidence in whatever international court they get tried in and just keep doing it until the pirates quit. They might never quit, but we could just do it forever using it as a training tool for Seals. Just rotate them through every few months. And if a few pirates get killed trying to do their thing, so be it. Heck, let National Geographic do a reality TV show around it. I'd watch that.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Sweet Georgia Brown!

So Holly's blog post on songs about NYC got me thinking about the Harlem Globetrotters theme song for some reason (okay, not for "some reason," for a very good reason...Harlem is part of NYC and it made me wonder what the song was about and if there was a version of it with lyrics). The answer to that question is there are lyrics to it, but I haven't found them yet. What I did find was far more interesting. You see, it's proof that even I could play a music instrument. That's right, me. And what musical instrument is that? Why, the tractor, of course!



I guess it's worth noting that some group of long haired hippies from England also did a remake of Sweet Georgia Brown. Strangely enough. But thanks to that one, now I know the words. Not a bad little song. Here is the original done by the author's band. And if you don't know the version the Harlem Globetrotters use, well, shame on you. Get some tickets and go check out the show next time they are in your town. You'll be glad you did.

(** The image used here is from the original 45RPM record jacket and scanned by yours truly.)

Saturday, October 10, 2009

"Thingee" is one way to describe it!

It's styled like a Jeep that got it's nose pinched, but it's really just two-wheel-drive and VW powered. And, uh, it's quite ugly. But hey, if ugly is your thing, well, it ought to be cheap.


It actually looks like it was built fairly well. I just can't figure out the why. Find it here on eBay.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Spinning a fact into a lie?

According to this blog, I'm "spinning a fact into a lie". How so? By my previous blog entry pointing out that President Obama did nothing to deserve to be nominated before February 1 of this year, I'm curious what lie I've spun? No, he wasn't talking about me specifically, just everyone out there pointing out this little problem.

It seems clear to me. He didn't do anything to deserve nomination, but this writer appears to think that's okay since Hitler and a whole host of other people have been nominated in the past who were clearly undeserving. Oh, yeah, that makes perfect sense. How silly of us to be pointing out that he shouldn't have been nominated and therefore not able to win an award that he somehow won without deserving it either way.

More information on the Nobel Peace Prize

According to this official link, the Nobel Peace Prize is selected from people nominated by February 1. What had Barack Obama done to change the world between January 20 and February 1 to receive such a nomination? I suppose he could have won it based on things he did before becoming the forty-fourth President of the United States, but I'll be darned if I can figure out what that could be. I mean he was pretty busy doing nothing more than campaigning for that entire year leading up to November, and he sort of couldn't do much until he was inaugurated.

I'd be baffled, if it weren't already obvious that the Nobel committee is nothing but a group of people with a political agenda. See Al Gore's award. Whether you agree with Mr. Gore's ideas or not, what "peace" has he brought to the world through his environmental work? Is it important and potentially worthy of high award? Sure! But the Nobel Peace Prize?

Obama wins Nobel Peace Prize? Seriously?

So the list of Nobel Peace Prize winners includes Martin Luther King, Jr., Mother Teresa, Desmond Tutu, the Dalai Lama, and Nelson Mandela. And now we add Obama to the list? Why? Well, according to the committee “He has created a new international climate” with respect to his campaign goal of a "world without nuclear weapons." Maybe I'm crazy, but I didn't see his administration do anything different than any other administration has done since the Reagan years when it came to issues like Iran and North Korea doing nuclear work. Nothing, zip, zero. Can someone please enlighten me as to how he's done anything at all different or better?

The NY Times can't even come up with any good reasons for this selection. Their next stated reason was Obama's speech in Cairo. I admit that was well received, but I'm not sure I've seen much lasting effect. Even so, this speech wasn't so great it puts you on the Nobel Peace Prize list, I don't think. The next item they list is he sought to restart peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. Who hasn't?!? Make some headway on that one and get back to me, will ya?

So could it be that the Nobel folks think he's going to do great things and that's why they gave him the prize? They say that's not the case, then all but say it is:
“We are not awarding the prize for what may happen in the future, but for what he has done in the previous year,” Mr. Jagland said. “We would hope this will enhance what he is trying to do.”
Let's look at some other items from Obama's campaign rhetoric that would have been things that might have won a Nobel Peace Prize:
  • closing the prison at Guantanamo: Still not done
  • ending the war in Iraq: Still not done
  • ending the war in Afghanistan: Going the OTHER way! It's getting worse!
And while not necessarily campaign promises, in reality we have North Korea doing whatever they please with respect to nuclear weapons, Iran doing more and not less since Obama took office (sure, the current trend is they now say they're willing to "talk", but that means unless we make concessions for them they're going to do what they want), and Israelis and Palestinians still going at it just like always.

All I can say is perhaps he did more for peace than anyone else did in the last year. That would be a sad state, but perhaps it is true. I certainly can't come up with anyone else who did anything significant at all. But maybe they should have just picked a current Iraqi government leader? Those guys are trying to help their country and are hunted in thanks for it. *sigh*

At any rate, another thing I find strange is that the Nobel Peace Prize has a cash award currently worth $1.4M. Wonder what President Obama is going to do with that money?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

My first triathlon

Okay, first some background...while I can swim and even love to play in the water, I have no interest whatsoever in swimming long distances. None. I simply won't do it. But there are some triathlons out there that are "adventure triathlons" and combine other sports, typically paddling instead of swimming and the bike and run are on trails instead of the road. There's one such event near home called the Dark Mountain Challenge. Myself and some friends decided to do the DMC this year, and I started training fairly seriously a few months ago. The paddle was three miles, the run 4.5, and the bike was 10.

My paddling experience is fairly diverse, but didn't include much flatwater kayaking. To that end I got myself a fairly long boat that should have been fairly fast and did some training for that part. I won't go into the stories about that right now, but that was somewhat interesting, to say the least. The race was the more interesting part. The DMC folks have a handicap system for boats because such a diverse group shows up. They basically measure length and width and use a formula to assign a start delay from zero to seven minutes in one minute increments. My boat was given a four, but the guy seemed to really want to find a reason to make it a five. Matt also got a four, Alan got a two, and Bob and Michael each got zero as they were in sit-on-top recreational sea kayaks.

Matt totally killed me in the water and I was barely able to pass Alan for second in our group out of the water. I passed Bob about half way and Michael near the end, too. Unfortunately there's no such thing as a sit-in-kayak that will fit me while wearing running shoes, so I had to wear water shoes and change in the transition to the run (yes, traditional triathlons are swim/bike/run, but when paddling replaces swimming they usually switch it to paddle/run/bike so your arms get a break from holding the paddle before having to hold your handlebars). Alan passed me in transition since he didn't have to do anything but throw down his PFD and grab his water bottle. But I was still in front of Michael and Bob.

I started the run and Michael passed me right at the start and was hauling pretty quickly. We were probably half way through when Bob passed me. Both those guys were just in better shape than me. So now I was last out of our group, which wasn't where I wanted to be! But I kept my heart rate in check (mostly) and just did as much as my body would allow.

I got through the run and headed for the bike. I was really happy to get to that part as I felt it was my best part of the race. Then I got a cold dose of reality...about 2.5 miles into the ten my calves started cramping really bad. This was when I remembered that I had forgot to execute the part of my plan where I took electrolyte replacements before and during the race. I was well hydrated, but that does no good without enough electrolytes.

The cramping was really bad, but I found I could mitigate it by walking up most longer hills and pedal carefully on the lesser hills. Flats and downhill was fine. This is a pretty hill intensive course, but I wasn't going to give in, either. I figured I should REALLY bomb the downhills and get as much out of the flats as I could, so that's what I did. I still had resigned myself to not catching anyone else in my group, but I did pass a lot more other competitors on the bike than passed me, which was cool. Toward the end I saw something I really didn't want to see...Matt. Struggling. I buzzed by him with less than two miles to go and gave him some words of encouragement, but I still had work to do. (While I didn't want to be last, I had resigned myself to the fact that I would be long before I caught Matt. He had done such a great job I hated to see him bonk that close to the end.)

I finished with a respectable time, though not as good as I would have liked. We're still waiting for results to be posted, but I was fourth out of my group of five. That said, I think I might have beat Bob in the bike portion, and if so I'm not going to let him forget that. He likes to be in front of me on our group rides and he's in pretty good shape for riding. Should be fun to compare all the splits once we get them.

You can see my paddling track, run track, and bike track via these links. Note, however, that the paddling one is missing about a quarter mile of the start as I forgot to start my watch. Also note that the paddling portion did not go nearly as well as I would have liked. My boat either doesn't suit my body for some reason or there's some kind of serious technique issue I need to address. Either way, I think next year we're going to try to do a team or two for the triathlon and then compete as individuals the next day in the duathlon at the same place. Gonna start training NOW. Matt can go kick the paddle's butt, Alan the run, and I'll try to bring it home on the bike.

I want to take this opportunity to thank Jon Forsberg of Santa Cruz Bicycles. I've never actually met him in person and only know him via another friend, but he's been a HUGE help via email and in some other ways with my bike. I ride a Santa Cruz Blur XC in full carbon fiber now, and the thing is simply incredible. I can't imagine a better cross country bicycle. There's no doubt it makes me a MUCH better rider. Thanks, Jon!

Also, a big thanks to all the event sponsors, which you can find on the Dark Mountain website. And finally, thanks to Maritza Greene for putting on such a great event! I can't wait until next year (but I think my legs would be fine waiting).

Monday, September 28, 2009

Car racing heart rate data

So, I wore my Garmin 405 GPS and heart rate data logger during a session at the race track today. What's interesting is we did a "mock" race start during this session and I don't see any extra spike thanks to it. But my heart rate is in the 140's on average for the driving portion (had to start the data pretty early before even getting in the car and getting belted up).

That's actually a little higher than I thought it would be. Given the temperatures we see inside the car, it's easy to see why race car driving should be considered a sport. I can't sustain that kind of heart rate while paddling a kayak! Anyway, check out the data. I'm curious what others think. The dip at the end in speed to zero was a pit stop to change the rear wing angle on the car and then we went back out to see what effect it had.

(And in case you care, the 158 and the 223MPH speeds are data errors. Earlier in the day we were seeing 132 or so, but that's near the max that car can do at VIR.)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Movie Review

I'm an admitted sucker for a romantic comedy, so keep that in mind. If you're not, well, you probably won't enjoy this one. It's He's just not that into you. There's nothing terribly special about it, but within that genre I'd say it was very good. Most romantic comedies can also be called "chick flicks", but I wouldn't say this one is quite that far down the pipe. Guys will definitely enjoy this one as it does make a certain amount of fun of the amount of obsession women can have over the details of dating. It also has a pretty stellar all star cast, and the acting is very good. All in all, I'd say this one is a good date movie.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

That Disney Magic

First, some background. DisneyWorld has what they call the "PhotoPass." Whenever you see a Disney photographer in any of the parks (and they are EVERYWHERE), you can grab them and have them shoot a few pics of you and your loved ones. They're pros with good equipment and they do their job well. Then they give you a PhotoPass, which is just a little credit card sized card with a big long number on it and a 3D barcode. Get more pics taken and you can just give them the card and they add it to your "account." Forget your card or whatever and just grab another one (they are free) when you next need pictures. You're saddled with an additional "account", but that's okay because you can combine them all to one account at any PhotoPass kiosk (again, free).

Share that number with friends (or pull it up yourself and share the link) and any of your friends and family can see what's going on with your trip as it happens. At the kiosks you can buy prints in an array of sizes. But the best deal of all is to buy the CD. You get the raw images sent to you and you retain all copyright on them. It's expensive at $150, but there are pre-purchase deals that can cut the price to $100 or so. And if you go to Disney with other families, just pool your dough and put all the PhotoPasses on one account and then copy the CD. Disney doesn't seem to mind that kind of thing one bit.

The problem arises when you combine a bunch of Photopasses to one pass and then you LOSE IT. Don't do that! One way to avoid it is to "back up" your PhotoPass by simply using your own digital camera (a cellphone camera will usually suffice) to shoot a picture of the number on the pass. Or write it down. Or when you combine you can actually have them put it on two or three passes that they'll give to you and you can put those in different places or in other people's hands. There are lots of ways to avoid being a dumbass, but sadly, as you might have guessed, I took none of these.

That's right, I had a Photopass with 65 pictures for THREE families from an entire day at Blizzard Beach, the best water park in the world. What makes that doubly bad is that this is the one place we generally don't bother taking our own camera in since it's a water park, even though we have an awesome new Canon D10 that's waterproof (just too annoying to keep up with when you're doing all those big slides and stuff since EVERYONE was participating in lots of BIG rides!). But at Blizzard Beach they have "little" PhotoPasses that are waterproof and have a rubber band that will go on your wrist and are no problem. Except we ended up with about a dozen of them throughout the day.

So at the end of the day I combined them at a kiosk to one. I shunned the smart man's attempt to give me two or three and said one was fine. Then, somehow, today, I lost it. I think I left it in the hotel room in a stack of old receipts I didn't need. We left the hotel around 9am and stored our bags for one more morning in Animal Kingdom before coming back to depart for the airport. It was right as we returned I realized I didn't have it and the staff was VERY helpful in tracking down the person who had already cleaned our room to find out if they had it or had seen it. In fact, that entire process took less than SIXTY SECONDS from the FIRST person I asked about it when I walked in the lobby of the MASSIVE hotel. But alas, not surprisingly, the cleaning lady did not have it.

I was a bit dejected, but then the security guy said "let's go over to the PhotoPass kiosk...sometimes they can find your pictures." I was a bit stunned at this possibility, because Disney doesn't really link your Photopass to YOU in any way. You go do that yourself at the end of your trip. You can enter ALL your PhotoPass numbers you might have accumulated and link it to your CD and have it pressed. Why they don't do this earlier (or make your room key a PhotoPass) I don't know, but that's the way it is.

Anyway, it turns out that not only do the pictures get put in a database that's linked to the number on the card they scan when they shoot the pic(s), but they are entered into the database by park and even location as well as the time they were taken. Since I remembered about an hour window at one of the Blizzard Beach rides that SEVERAL of us had gotten PhotoPass pictures at, I was able to have the kiosk guy just show me big thumbnail views of pictures from that time period on that ride until I found one of myself. He was then able to pull up that entire PhotoPass from that one picture of me. SWEET! He then scanned another card, handed it to me, and I was on my way, all in under ten minutes. I immediately snapped a pic of it with my iPhone and ran to catch my bus. Yeah, you got it, that's the Disney Magic. I'm not only amazed they could do all that, I'm amazed at the speed at which it happened. Truly special. Thank you, Disney, for saving me the embarrassment of being the one to lose 65 pictures and really the entire record of our day there.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Healthcare

Here's my thing. The government isn't just out of money, we're borrowing just to float everything we're already doing. We need to stop that trend and go the other direction or our future is going to contain much more significant economic problems than those we've seen recently. So that said, we simply can't spend billions right now on healthcare hand-outs. Period, end of story.

Face it, nobody is denied healthcare now. Is it a problem that some people might have catastrophic healthcare events that cause them to have to file bankruptcy? Sure. But this situation has existed for a long time now, and that's what those financial protections are in place for!

What should we do? Everything we can do to ease healthcare costs that does NOT cost huge government dollars. Tort reform is a great start. Sure, some claim that the additional insurance costs to cover the huge lawsuits only amounts to some very small percentage of healthcare dollars. That may be true, but it's also true that doctors order something on the order of a few BILLION in tests that they wouldn't otherwise order to cover their own butts in the interest of staying OUT of court. Why? Because in many cases even GOING to court can cause them to become uninsured and thus basically out of work.

We could also investigate what other countries do, such as forcing healthcare insurers to go completely non-profit for that kind of insurance. Or kill that business entirely in favor of a government regulated non-profit that does it. All the models change dramatically when that happens, and we no longer don't worry about paying for huge insurance company profits, but we can also drop a LOT of current administration costs where insurance companies are having to do some much checking behind hospital administrators to protect their profit numbers. The insurer can now work WITH hospitals instead of against them.

There's probably a few more things the government can do without spending huge money that will help. I'm fine with everything we can do that doesn't cause huge spending. Just getting these things done would help in a big way. And not cause taxes to go up or the deficit to get large amounts worse.

Friday, September 4, 2009

US Healthcare vs the rest of the developed world


Some very interesting facts packed into a short, easy-to-read article. Thanks to Chris for posting this on Facebook. This is a great read if you want to know the direction we really need to be taking on healthcare reform. Get rid of for-profit insurance on healthcare and clean up administrative costs. Add in tort reform and the article would have covered it all!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Put the fun...

Well, the picture tells the story!


Thanks to Brad for finding and submitting this one.

Monday, August 31, 2009

No, the lens didn't strech it...


The top really is chopped and it really is a 4x4. Not only that, it's got four wheel steering. Come on, you know you've always wanted something like this!

Here's the much maligned sign!

From our previous post and comments about funny signs, here's the one Ashley and her sisters used to giggle about as kids (yes, it's been there 30+ years now!):

The "funny" here is that a "chapel" already is a "church" in this sense. So the girls would apparently spend the next little while saying things like "look, there goes an automobile car" and "cool, check out that gravel rock" and such redundant nonsense. I'm sure there was much giggling involved, too.

Yikes!

Submitted by my friend John, we have this little gem:


I'm pretty sure this little maneuver is not OSHA approved.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Goodbye, Don't Bring a Trailer

You might notice some new posts intermingled with original ones on my blog today. Those are the content from my now-defunct "Don't Bring a Trailer" blog. That site was a bit of a parody on the very popular Bring a Trailer website, but those guys felt there were some trademark issues there, so they are buying us out. I can't disclose the financial terms of the deal, but let's just say they are substantial. They have to be, since I can't disclose them. And the coolest thing is I can still keep blogging with those interesting vehicle finds, I just can't associate them with that name any more, so I probably will and just post them here. You'll find all the past content under the "dbat" label. Enjoy.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Lego Tedium!

Thanks to my friend Mr. Blizzard who posted this on Facebook. If you've got kids, fire this video up in full screen mode and let them check it out. Adults who ever cared about any classic video games and/or Legos will enjoy it, too. It's done with stop animation, which is also called "claymation" when the animation is done with clay (so maybe we should call this legomation!). It's basically the process of moving things tiny amounts and taking a new picture each time and stringing the pictures together to produce animation. They claim 1500 hours of moving lego pieces and taking pictures to make this, and frankly, that number seems low to me! Kudos to the author of this one, especially since it's nice to find kid-safe videos on Youtube!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

She's a beauty!

We might be going out on a limb by putting this absolute beauty into our collection, but what the heck:


It's got an opening price of $499. We've seen some working examples of this early 1980's electric car on eBay in the past and we're not sure there's any parts on this thing that are worth $499. It's mostly toast from the sound of things, and these weren't worth much when they were new, let alone now. You can find a lot more scary pictures here. And in case you were wondering, the Electric Boogie by Marcia Griffiths actually came nearly ten years AFTER this lovely beauty above. That makes this thing nearly THIRTY years old. We're not sure which is more annoying, looking at the above car, or playing this video:



But, much like coming to this site day after day, you'll watch the video. We know you will. And somewhere deep down inside, you'll be dancing to it.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

We like dune buggies, but...

...this one just doesn't cut it:


Let's see. Last ran when parked seven years ago, most lights missing, interior is sparse at best, tires look scary, and, well, it's just ugly. We wouldn't have spent eBay listing fees on it, we would have had a scrap yard pick it up and thanked them for doing it (assuming they didn't CHARGE us for the privilege!). But maybe we can help this poor seller out by finding him the perfect buyer. If that's you, by all means, go get yourself a deal. On the plus side, you still Don't [need to] Bring a Trailer because it does have that handy tow-bar built in!

Hiking near Blowing Rock with the Conservation Trust for NC


Through a strange twist of fate Ashley and I found ourselves doing a hike today with Ashley's sister, Hilary, and some folks from the Conservation Trust for NC. The hike was around five and a half miles and almost all downhill (they left shuttle vans at the downhill end of the trail which was quite awesome). I'll post my GPS track from it soon, but can't tonight. The above was one of many beautiful waterfalls along the hike.

Anyway, the highlight of the trip was Thunder Hole waterfall (which is not the one pictured above). A very pretty little waterfall and swimming hole that I and a few of the others on the hike decided to take advantage of. Here's a short video of me going behind the waterfall and then through it back out:

video

And here is another video of me sliding off the top of the waterfall and into the water:

video

A huge thanks to John Bell and Johnny Wilson for working so hard to put on this event, and it was great meeting a lot of awesome new folks today. We look forward to seeing you all at future events. And for those of you reading my blog who weren't there, please consider donating to CTNC! They are doing some great work to help conserve NC's beauty. They not only buy land to conserve it, but they fight to stop the forest service from logging land already owned by the government. Thunder Hole won't be the same if they lose their current battle to stop the Globe logging project, for example. Visit their site and help if you can!

More on the Whole Foods/John Mackey Story

My friend Dave sent me a link to this article by a friend of John Mackey's. Folks might recall that John Mackey is the CEO of Whole Foods and recent wrote an article that was published in the Wall Street Journal speaking out against ObamaCare. That resulted in a fairly large backlash of folks starting all sorts of different movements to boycott shopping at Whole Foods.

The whole thing is quite funny, but if you're at all interested in the issue of ObamaCare, this article is a good read. My personal opinion is that this author (Michael Strong) and John Mackey are both a little too far down the Libertarian path for my tastes, but they are a lot closer to good ideas than the Democrats currently, too. What do I want? Reasonable regulation that protects consumers and preserves fair markets. You know, the kind of thing Elizabeth Warren is harping on.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Rocket Dragster

Okay, we admit that we want it. And we want it bad:


So why does it make our list here at DBaT? Simple. It's a rocket and it's sold as-is and looks like that. Seriously. Who in their right mind would jump into a rocket that someone else built that they bought off of eBay and think "oh, I can't wait to fire this puppy up!" It's called a death wish, and we don't have one. But if you do, hey, knock yourself out. Literally. Or just use it to do your own tribute to the great Hal Needham and one of his classic movies, like this scene from Hooper (yeah, we're showing our age here):

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Reverse Trike

This just wasn't well executed at all:


Reminds us of a Pontiac Fiero in the front, and we're not really sure in the back. We started to post a picture of a Pontiac Fiero for comparison, but then we realized we just don't want to do that to our blog. Anyway, the concept of the reverse trike with side-by-side seating isn't new, and can be done fairly well as evidenced by the Campagna T-Rex:


Now, we admit that even the T-Rex isn't great looking, but it's a lot better (especially without the saddle bags pictured above, which are removable) than the "Trigger Y150" (where did they come up with that jewel of a name?) above. Outperforms it, too, and they're available already in the US for about the same money if you look around. But if you just have to get the Fiero-wannabe, find it here.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Our first submission! Or SCOOBYDOOBYDOOOOOO!!!

Okay, so we're a bit excited about our first reader submission. Here we bring you the Mystery Machine:


We've got a pretty serious soft spot for golf carts, but a Mystery Machine themed one? Someone had way too much time on their hands. They also seem to think their time is worth quite a pretty penny at the $2500 asking price, too! No, they didn't post a great picture, but searching Google Images for Mystery Machine will find you plenty of other not-so-awesome clones. We prefer the original:


But if you just have to have a golf cart that vaguely resembles the van that Thelma and Shaggy and Scooby and the gang all rode around in, find it here on Craigslist. Thanks to John for the submission, and John, if this is your golf cart for sale, well, you've got a LOT of explaining to do.

Doubledecker Limo?

We're not entirely sure what to make of this one:

What we do know is that the exterior is way better than the interior. We don't exactly understand why it has a huge stuffed animal inside, nor why there are pictures of a random box of jumper cables. If you scroll through the photobucket pictures you'll find a video of the engine running and the bus driving around. What you won't find is any mention of how difficult it can be to drive something that's 14'4" tall, and you can certainly leave your trailer at home since the last thing you want is to have something even taller to drag home. But hey, we love any vehicle with a true hot tub in it, and you gotta admit the Vegas wrap is pretty cool. What it is doing in Miami we have to wonder, but hey, it's Miami. Anything goes in Miami. We think you have to be the most interesting man on earth to rock this bus, though:



But if you're that guy, well, you aren't surfing eBay and you certainly aren't reading this blog. But if you want to try to be that guy, well, get a plane ticket to Miami and get to bidding.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A V8 RWD Geo Storm? Well, almost.

Just needs a few small details ironed out to get her running:


Now, we like "sleepers" just as much as the next guy, and if this was a finished and running car it might not grace our precious web space. But you can't just get part of the way done on a project like this (a "mock up" motor?) and then expect to get any kind of money out of it. Yes, the wheels appear to be worth more than the current bid of $152, but it's not at reserve and we're quite confident it won't make it there, and that's without any idea what the reserve really is. If you are hurting for more projects of your own that you'll never finish (like this guy), find it here.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Pet Resale?


These two signs appeared to me to be the same actual business. Sadly, it was closed so I couldn't verify that for myself, especially since I love me some "Clothin." Combine that with "Pet Resale" and you have a clear winner. More from Blytheville, AR.

Mobile "Dance" Club

No, seriously:


We at the DBaT offices are unsurprised that such a creation exists, but we have never spent one single minute inside a moving "dance" club. Not one. *cough* This seller claims some lofty prices for what they have invested in this little beast, but we're unimpressed with the painted windows and the general appearance. And I suppose the idea is to be too distracted by "the show" to care that those seats look pretty darned uncomfortable. And there can't be many states where it's legal to be selling alcohol for consumption inside something like this, can there? And where does the "dancer" go when the show is over? And where do the patrons go to relieve themselves? Do you just have the driver make regular stops at McDonalds? We want more details on how this business venture can work! Or, uh, no we don't. But we do want to make sure you get to see the video of the cool light show inside this thing:



And if you're so inclined to get more info, you can just head on over here and place your bid now!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

PeopleMoving is Big Business

Well, it might be big business, but even this isn't likely to meet reserve:

This auction made us ask a lot of questions. First, who would spend $80k on something that looked like this originally? Second, why does a church own it (look at the listing ID) if it's not even street legal? Third, why wouldn't it be street legal? Looks to have lights and wipers and all that jazz and it's powered by a drivetrain that appears to have been out of something street legal (and fairly efficient, no less). Anyway, if you have to have an unattractive peoplemover that isn't street legal, this just might be for you.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

We're full of hot air.

And so is this thing:


So what we have here is a hot air balloon that seems to be a rainbow tribute to a mace:


I mean, here at the DBaT offices we can appreciate a big bag of hot air as much as anyone, but this thing is one of the least attractive hot air balloons that we've seen. But if you've got a hankering for a big medieval weapon themed balloon, find it here.

Friday, August 14, 2009

H3 hits the links

The good news here is that this is probably just as off-road capable as a real H3, if not more:


So if Hummer owners are "compensating for something", what are owners of Hummer-clone golfkarts "compensating" for? A poor golf score? Or something, err, worse. We're actually very impressed at the level of detail this builder puts into these, but at the same time we just can't help but ask "why?" It's like a Power Wheels for adults:


Look, even the Power Wheels version is more off-road capable than the real thing! But if you already own a real H3, a Power Wheels H3, a 1/10 die-cast H3, and just have to add the golfkart version to your stable, you can find it here.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Thank You, Les Paul

Les Paul passed away today. If you've ever listened to Rock and Roll or any of its many derivatives, you owe Les Paul a big thanks. His innovations in music since the 1950s are probably unmatched. By all accounts he was a truly amazing individual and musician, and a friend to many of the folks revered as the greatest of all time. You will be missed, Les Paul, but your legacy will live forever.

The color is good.

Past that, well, not so much.


But you'll have to change the color and a decent amount more to turn this into what it should have been, and that's a replica of the car from the old TV show, The Munsters:


Outside of a Munsters tribute, we're really not sure what else you might do with this thing. But if you have a compelling desire to try, you can find it here on eBay. It isn't at reserve, but if it isn't too high perhaps the 283, TH400, and 9" Ford posi will end up worth the hammer price by themselves. It's a shame because it looks like some quality work is hidden by poor aesthetic design with no clear way likely to fix it. But it does have a lot of side area for advertising!

ObamaCare

If you care at all about the healthcare debate, this article in the Wall Street Journal yesterday is an awesome read (thanks for pointing it out, Trudy!). It's by the CEO of Whole Foods, one of the better run companies as well as a pretty awesome grocery store.

In a nutshell, there are good alternatives to a government run healthcare plan, and people need to voice their support for what they really want in healthcare. Personally, I think tort reform to cut down on all these crazy lawsuits would put a HUGE dent in healthcare costs.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

New Blog Announcement

I've decided to start a new blog for car enthusiasts called Don't Bring a Trailer. It follows on the Bring a Trailer website, which is a very popular site that brings attention to cars for sale that might be desirable to true auto enthusiasts.

My site, on the other hand, points out vehicles for sale that you should not buy and in fact probably shouldn't have been built. Turns out there is a lot more of that kind of thing out there than you might think! Check it out...