Now, which lucky person on my Christmas gift list is going to get this little gem. . .? ;o)
Sunday, October 25, 2009
Now, which lucky person on my Christmas gift list is going to get this little gem. . .? ;o)
I can understand using this level of surveillance in cases of national security (i.e. suspected terrorists), but does a woman suspected of falsifying her address so that her daughter can attend one school over another really merit that kind of scrutiny?
...Under a law enacted in 2000 to regulate surveillance powers, it is legal for localities to follow residents secretly. Local governments regularly use these surveillance powers — which they “self-authorize,” without oversight from judges or law enforcement officers — to investigate malfeasance like illegally dumping industrial waste, loan-sharking and falsely claiming welfare benefits.
But they also use them to investigate reports of noise pollution and people who do not clean up their dogs’ waste. Local governments use them to catch people who fail to recycle, people who put their trash out too early, people who sell fireworks without licenses, people whose dogs bark too loudly and people who illegally operate taxicabs.
. . .
One of the biggest criticisms of the law is that the targets of surveillance are usually unaware that they have been spied on.
. . .
“They promptly ushered us out of the room,” she said. “As I stood outside the door, they said, ‘You go and tell your friends that these are the powers we have.’ ”
Soon afterward, their daughter was admitted to the school. Ms. Paton began pressing local officials on their surveillance tactics.
“I said, ‘I want to come in and talk to you,’ ” she said. “ ‘How many people were in the car? Were they men or women? Did they take any photos? Does this mean I have a criminal record?’”
No one would answer her questions, Ms. Paton said.
And in a related story from the Associated Press ("Lutefisk and loot: Tax records open in Norway"), we read about a different type of invasion of privacy.
In a move that would be unthinkable elsewhere, tax authorities in Norway have issued the "skatteliste," or "tax list," for 2008 to the media under a law designed to uphold the country's tradition of transparency.
The article goes on to share the (non-tax-sheltered) wealth of a few high-profile Norwegians-- but this "tax list" isn't just for the rich and/or famous. Everyone's on it.
Many media outlets use the tax records to produce their own searchable online databases. In the database of national broadcaster NRK, you can type a subject's name, hit search and within moments get information on what that person made last year, what was paid in taxes and total wealth. It also compares those figures with Norway's national averages for men and women, and that person's city of residence.
Defenders of the system say it enhances transparency, deemed essential for an open democracy.
"Isn't this how a social democracy ought to work, with openness, transparency and social equality as ideals?" columnist Jan Omdahl wrote in the tabloid Dagbladet. He acknowledged, however, that many treat the list like "tax porno" — furtively checking the income of neighbors or co-workers.
Critics say the list is actually a threat to society.
"What each Norwegian earns and what you have in wealth is a private matter between the taxpayer and the government," said Jon Stordrange, director of the Norwegian Taxpayer's Association.
Besides providing criminals with a useful tool to find prime targets, he said the list generates playground taunts of my-dad-is-richer-than-your-dad.
"The children of people with low wages are being teased about it in the schools," Stordrange said Thursday. "People with low salaries are being met with comments at the grocery store, 'How can you live on these low wages?'"
The information had been available to media until 2004, when a more conservative government banned the publication of tax records. Three years later, a new, more liberal government reversed the legislation and also made it possible for media to obtain tax information digitally and disseminate it online.
. . .
Most other Europeans, including residents of Britain, Italy and the Netherlands, have very different attitudes toward transparency and privacy and would be horrified at such a setup. Last week, the Spanish government for the first time released information on how much each Cabinet member is worth, but data on ordinary citizens is still private.
In neighboring Sweden, anyone can order a printed edition of the Taxation Calendar, which lists the earnings of people in mid- to upper-income brackets. The information is also available online, although Swedes whose financial information has been searched are notified by mail of who checked their details.
Christine Ingebritsen, a professor at the University of Washington, said the Norwegian tax list exemplifies a time-tested, distinctly Scandinavian custom of egalitarianism.
"This is how you make sure that you're being legitimate in the eyes of the community — you show that the wealth of a CEO isn't off the charts," she said, adding that unlike the U.S., Norway "places the wealth and health of all as a priority above the individual success stories."
Still, there are plenty of opponents of the list in Norway. A 2007 survey by research group Synovate revealed that only 32 percent of the Norwegian public wanted the tax list published, and 46 percent were against it.
Georg Apnes, director of Norway's Data Inspectorate and a member of the Conservative Party, called publishing and combing through the tax list "repulsive" and "disgusting."
"It reflects very poorly on our culture and on our society," he said on an NRK morning news program.
So, any bets on how long it'll be before the U.S. has its own versions of RIPA and the "Tax List"?
Friday, October 23, 2009
As a puppy, adorable. . .
As a grown dog, beautiful. . .
A (mostly) loyal and (sometimes) obedient companion. . .
Energetic. . . Intelligent. . . Athletic. . .
And a constant source of amusement and company. . .
They are also little fur-shedding machines.
If you have an indoor Eskie, you can expect long, frizzledy white hairs on the sofa, rugs/carpet, and your clothes*. Dog-hair "tumbleweeds" will mysteriously appear in corners (particularly in hard-floored rooms). Your belongings will seem to generate not only a layer of dust, but also of dog hair. And your vacuum cleaner will fill up faster than you ever thought possible.
(A word of warning: If you're squeamish about hair and/or fur, it may be best if you just skip the next photo. . .)
This is our vacuum cleaner's canister after I vacuumed one room. (I know because I emptied it before I started.)
Admittedly it is a decent-sized room-- the room we use most-- the room Trixie spends 95% of her time in-- and a carpeted room. But still. I think you'll agree that this is. . . impressive (?)-- especially considering that it's been only a week since the last time I vacuumed this room-- and this time I didn't bother to hook up the attachments to vacuum the sofa and all the little nooks and crannies.
I guess I can't blame it all on Trixie, but she's responsible for the majority of it. It's just part of what you have to expect when you keep this kind of dog inside the house.
And yes, she's worth it.
*When dressing to go out, you have a few options. Don't wear dark colors, change at the last minute-- and don't you dare sit down or handle the dog after changing-- or have someone de-fur you on your way out the door. Well, there's one other option-- decide that you don't care if people know that you have a sheddy dog at home. Wear your dog-hair-covered clothes with pride!
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
So, on to the real reason for this post. . .
It's a really important subject, of course. Otherwise, I wouldn't even be writing about it, because I only ever write about big, important, deep subjects. Like the weather, and puppy dog pictures, and-- oh, ok, it's just a puppy dog picture. But it's not Trixie this time, so it's a palate-cleansing photo, for those of you who were getting a wee bit tired of Eskie photos. (Seriously, though, if you don't like Eskie photos, you're not welcome here. Go now, and never return. We don't want your kind 'round these parts.)
Mainly I'm writing because I wanted something else at the top of my blog instead of that "Illegal Alien" costume. So here it is-- something else!
I get the "joke"-- it's a "chocolate" (chocolate-colored... brown) cocker spaniel sitting on chocolate bars. (I'll wait a moment while you finish laughing merrily at the cleverness of it all. ;o)) Maybe I'm just being difficult, but it seems like an odd set-up for a canine portrait, considering that chocolate is poisonous to dogs-- even potentially deadly. It's kind of like if Anne Geddes were to pose an infant amidst an arrangement of bottles marked with skulls and crossbones-- or delicately nestled into a big ol' pile of cyanide pills. (Kind of, but not quite.) It's just weird.
. . .Well, that's it, I guess.
I thought about regaling you all with an amusing anecdote about how, as a child, I thought that little decorative pieces-- you know, ceramic figurines, trinket boxes and the like-- were called "white nots" (or maybe "white knots"-- I wasn't completely clear on the spelling). Mom must've told me they were "what-nots", but I misunderstood. . .
Yeah, I thought about sharing that story, but then I realized that it wasn't actually a story, per se, and that bringing it up would be pointless (though only marginally less interesting than a photo of a puppy sitting on candy bars). And that being the case, it's time to bring this entry to a close. (g)
(Yes, I'm in that goofy mood again. It comes, from time to time.)
Monday, October 19, 2009
And here's the costume that's supposedly in such bad taste:
"He didn't just cross a border, he crossed a galaxy!" according to the costume's description. "He's got his green card, but it's from another planet! Sure to get some laughs, the Illegal Alien Adult Costume includes an orange prison-style jumpsuit with 'Illegal Alien' printed on the front, an alien mask and a 'green card.'"Apparently, Target is removing the costume from its website after receiving "several" complaints. How many "several" is in this case, I don't know. The important thing is that they've snatched it off the site, and furthermore, the spokesman ingratiatingly claims that they never intended to sell it at all. It was on the website by mistake! (How mysterious! Must be part of an Evil Right-Wing Plot.)
Now the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles will probably be "target"-ing the other retailers that still sell the costume online. (If you're looking for one to wear this year ;o) try walgreens.com, toysrus.com, amazon.com, meijer.com, and buycostumes.com-- but you'd better hurry, before they, too, realize the "mistake" that's been made and yank them down.)
If they're trying to say that immigrants (in general) are "not amused", then I don't believe them. I'm pretty sure my husband-- an immigrant-- wouldn't have a problem with this. But then again, he's here legally. (And at least when he was first living here, he was still termed an "alien"-- a legal alien, but an alien all the same. Anyone living in a country where s/he does not claim citizenship is an alien. I always thought it was kind of fun being able to say-- not that I ever actually said it, but you get the point ;o)-- that I was married to an alien. (g))
What they actually mean is that (some) illegal immigrants are offended-- or, even more likely, some Americans are offended-- those who for whatever reason feel that we should throw open (even more widely) our borders and put down a welcome mat. They're the same ones who feel that it's worth hushing-up the masses the avoid offending the few. Free speech can go to. . . well, you know where.
Some years ago, maybe we should have looked into changing certain regulations regarding temporary work visas, etc.-- but at this point, a lot of us are fed up with the situation. Not the least of that is anger with the inaction of our own government to act upon laws already in place. Act with humanity, yes, but still act! Don't just sit on your hands-- or worse yet, bind the hands of even local law enforcement officials-- and act as though nothing's out of the ordinary. People are sick of feeling that if anyone dares speak up for existing laws (or see the logic behind them), s/he will be accused of racism, bigotry, and every other mean and petty thing.
If people can get a laugh out of this silly Halloween costume, I say let them have it. I don't see what all the fuss is about. It's not that original an idea-- not that "edgy", is it? As for anyone offended by the costume, I recommend cultivating a sense of humor. It really does make life more pleasant.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
I'll be posting the photos on my Flickr photostream (in this set) as well as in a blog devoted specifically to the project. (There's a link to the blog over in the sidebar, too, to make it easy to locate in the future.)
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Last night, Donald and I finally got around to ordering some new glasses.
It's about time. I knew it had been a while-- maybe even over a year-- since we'd had our eye exams and got the prescriptions, but I had no idea (until I pulled out the papers and read the date) that it had been nearly two years.
Seriously, though-- this is ridiculous! I know times flies and all that, but nearly two years?! (Minus a couple of months. The exams took place early December 2007.) That's just. . . scary.
Life keeps slipping away, one day at a time. . .
Well, moving right along. . . (g)
We're trying Zenni Optical, an online source with exceptionally low prices and (as far as we can tell) a pretty good reputation for quality, too. You can get a pair of glasses (no extra frills, but perfectly good glasses) for a mere eight dollars (+ a flat rate shipping charge of $4.95). If you're in the mood to splurge ;o) there are other options (glasses for $15, $19, and so on-- tinted lenses-- anti-glare coatings-- etc.). Honestly, though, some of the $8 models were my favorites from the bunch.
Our new glasses should arrive within a couple of weeks. I'm excited! It's been more years than I care to admit since I had new glasses-- mostly because I rarely thought about it. (And when I did, I dreaded the hassle of the exam and picking out new frames and ended up putting it off.) These old ones are showing their age and are ready for retirement.
I'll probably take photos of the new glasses once they arrive. (Thought I'd give you all something to look forward to. (g))
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As we struggled to cut her hair (and nothing but her hair)-- sometimes against her very vehement wishes-- I renewed my vow to never have another dog of such a grooming-intensive breed. It simply doesn't work out well.
If I could go back in time, maybe I could familiarize her with the grooming process when she was still an impressionable puppy. Maybe then it wouldn't be such an agonizing ordeal to brush and cut her hair on her legs, feet, and underside. Maybe she would never get in such a state that I feel terrible, guilty helplessness over her mats and tangles. Then again, maybe there's nothing we could've done to make it easier. Either way, from here on out, I don't see myself ever owning a spaniel (or similarly haired breed) again.
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On the boardwalk, we saw lots of small crabs, some water fowl, and a raccoon. No turtles, snakes, or alligators, though. (I wouldn't have wanted to see them too close up, anyway.) I did a little filming there, so I'll try to edit and post that soon. In the meantime, here are a few photos that we took:
Donald added a couple of doors to the "shoe bench" by our kitchen door. (He built the bench years ago using leftovers from the bookshelf he built.)
After years of having it just as it was-- always right next to the door we use most, to house a few pairs of our most-frequently-used shoes-- it suddenly seemed odd to have a bunch of shoes in close proximity and open view of the table where our guests sit and eat. Isn't that the way these things usually work? You go a long time without noticing something, but once you see it, you realize that Something Must Be Done. So Donald found a piece of wood that would work-- the kitchen-sink-shaped cutout the builders made in our counter-top-- and with a little sawing, sanding, spackling, and painting, the shoe bench had two doors. We filled the middle compartment with a basket, and the result looks much more "finished" than it did a few weeks ago!
Here's a "before" photo:
And a couple of "after":
That'll do nicely!
The Luna Lovegood Scarf (pattern by Melissa Helton) is so called because it's based on an accessory worn by a character of that name in a Harry Potter movie. I liked the looks of the scarf, and none of the stitches seemed too difficult for a beginner. Overall, I'm happy with how it turned out. It is a little wider than I pictured it, but that's not really a problem with a scarf. I think my beginner status showed itself in a couple of spots, but I can definitely wear it without wrapping it up to my eyes to protect my identity. ;o)
Oh, and this was also my first attempt at blocking. I still don't know if I did it perfectly, but I do think it made a positive difference in the shaping and arrangement of the stiches, so that's good. At least I have a little blocking experience under my belt, now.
Yarn: Red Heart Sport, "Aran Fleck"
I used a little less than two 2.5 oz (70g) skeins.
Hook: G (I think...)
That's not what the pattern called for, but I knew it didn't really matter that much, seeing as it's a scarf, and I didn't have whatever hook the pattern did call for.
Time: I don't know. I don't really time my crafty pursuits. It's supposed to be fun, and I don't like timing things. Makes me feel like I'm in a race. . . It probably took longer than it "should" have, but I'm still a beginner.
Approximately 5.5 inches (14cm) wide and 78 inches (198cm) long.
The last time I got a jury summons was my first time to get a summons-- the first time I'd ever been notified that I might potentially be selected to sit on a jury. (When was that, exactly? I probably ought to try to figure it out in case they ask. Seems like they did ask something about previous jury experience, last time. . .) So, seeing as it was my first time seeing The Law up close and personal, I was interested, nervous, and kind of excited, even though I knew it was my civic duty to be completely bored and annoyed by the prospect of sitting on a jury. Everyone is (or so you'd think, based on what you usually hear and see people saying).
I happened to see a (2nd? 3rd?) cousin on my first day there, and she seemed bored and nonchalant. Unfortunately (?) I don't find it so easy to be bored and nonchalant. ("A bundle of nerves" might be closer to it, actually. This makes certain aspects of life more difficult, no doubt, and I'll never be really "cool", but at least it's probably also more dramatic and interesting this way.) In any case, being interested/excited made the first part of the experience. . . well, interesting and exciting. As time passed, some of that wore off. By the time it was over, I was ready for it to be over.
This time around, I'm not sure how I feel about it. I think I'd rather not have to go, but since I don't really have a choice, I'm trying to feel interested in it. It is interesting, when you're actually sitting on a jury and not just sitting or standing around waiting to be selected. I honestly feel a little sorry for people who don't feel even the least bit interested in the prospect of a brief period of jury duty. It must take a lot to keep them occupied and interested* in life in general. . .
*Note to self: Practice using synonymns for "interested" and "interesting". ;o)
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Friday, October 9, 2009
(Click to enlarge, if you so wish.)
According to Donald, this is similar to an actor being selected for an Academy Award based on his claim/promise that his acting in his next film is going to be incredible. ("Just wait and see. You won't believe your eyes! I'm gonna be phenomenal in my next role!!") Only, chances are that the Academy would be more stringent in its selection process than were those who awarded this Peace Prize.
Really, what were they thinking? Everyone-- even O's supporters-- seems to agree that this was a ridiculous decision.
P.S. Anyone unfamiliar with FAIL Blog may not understand the joke. . . Visiting that link will clear things up.
“The Republican Party has thrown in its lot with the terrorists – the Taliban and Hamas this morning – in criticizing the President for receiving the Nobel Peace prize,” DNC communications director Brad Woodhouse told POLITICO. “Republicans cheered when America failed to land the Olympics and now they are criticizing the President of the United States for receiving the Nobel Peace prize – an award he did not seek but that is nonetheless an honor in which every American can take great pride – unless of course you are the Republican Party."Oh, please.
Real mature, DNC. (Not that I expected maturity, of course.)
So far, it seems that most people are criticizing the committee that gave the award more than Obama for receiving it, but we mustn't let that get in the way of comparing Republicans to terrorists.
One final thought before I move on to more important things:
How can anyone take real pride in an honor he hasn't earned? However, considering that a previous recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize (Yasser Arafat) was himself a terrorist. . . How much of an honor is it, period?
Thursday, October 8, 2009
The motif in the scarf looks very familiar, and I think I may have seen in it an afghan before, but I can't seem to find it online-- mainly because I can't come up with the right search terms. I'm usually pretty good at finding things like this online (if I do say so myself (g)), but this time I'm stumped. (Apparently it's not a "crochet yo-yo" or daisy motif, even if it does look like some sort of tiny, daisy-like flower you'd find dotting an alpine pasture in an illustration from Heidi.)
I know some of my visitors have experience with crocheting and knitting. Can any of you offer a clue? This looks like crochet to me, but I may be wrong. (The photos are pretty low quality, but they're the best I could get...)
Do you know what this style/motif is called, so I can look it up online? Is it even crochet?
I really need to know what this thing is called so I can hunt it down and learn how to make it (assuming it is crochet). It's urgent! One of these days it may not warm into the upper 80s (paired with stifling humidity)-- and there may even be one or two scarf-weather days before spring rolls around again. ;o)
Update: After looking around some more, I think the center, daisy-ish part of the motif (the part that looks so familiar) is probably made using a small loom-- which, incidentally, is sometimes called a "flower loom" or a "daisy loom". Now, I wonder if I can make one of these at home, or if they're available cheaply at the craft store...
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
This is just a little video of hummingbirds at (or around) the feeders hanging by our patio.
The occasional squeaking you hear is coming from the hummingbirds (but not necessarily the one in the frame).
From what I've read, the ruby-throated hummingbirds with white throats are either female or juvenile males. The juvenile males begin to show greyish streaks-- or even the occasional ruby feather, here and there-- on their throats, late in their first summer (or early fall). By the time they come back north, most of them should have the full throat of iridescent, ruby feathers.
The ones we've been seeing are mostly juvenile males, I think, with maybe one or two females in the mix. I've read that the adult males migrate first, followed by the females and juveniles, so that explains why I haven't seen a really ruby-throated bird lately.
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Hovering, flitting, squeaking, and feeding. . .
Providing me with another excuse to play around with layers. . .
And giving me something to put on my blog. ;o)
The parent of a first-grader was disturbed when s/he read the lyrics for an "Obama song" that the students had been "instructed to sing".
Here they are (as presented by the school's assistant principal):
President Obama--He says
Yes we can!
President Obama--We say
Yes we can!
President Obama--I say
Yes I can!
President Obama--He says
Yes we can!
President Obama-- Oh yes he rates,
The first Black President in the United States!
He's smart and he's--so so good!
He'll lead this country as he should!
He wants us all to work together,
To make this country even better!
Prez' Obama says--"Yes We Can!"
Make the US batter--hand in hand!
Everything else aside, who wrote that thing? Is that really the best they could come up with? "Oh yes he rates"? And is it the songwriter or the asst. principal who has such a poor grasp of the rules of capitalization ("Yes We Can!", for instance) and punctuation (comma, comma, who's got the comma?!)? I mean, I know this is "poetry" and some poets seem to think the rules don't apply to them, but... These are supposed to be educators, and, well, I'm just not impressed.
If you're going to indoctrinate the nation's school-children to mindlessly worship an elected official, you should at least do it with some style! Make an effort to maintain a balanced meter. (In other words, don't cram too many syllables in one line, if the others are shorter. It's basic poet know-how. It's gotta flow, man!) Try to work in a nice "mm mm mm", at the bare minimum.
Monday, October 5, 2009
Donald finished and hung the swing last week-- well, finished except for one more slat across the top that's more for decoration than function. We were short one board (or at least one deemed straight enough to use on this project), so one of these days we'll get one, paint it, and attach it. It works just fine as it is, though, and we've been enjoying it. I find sitting outside so much more pleasant when I'm in a swing than in a plain chair-- or even a rocker or glider. Swinging is just better-- a more soothing motion.
We recently noticed a hummingbird checking out our flowers, so we dug out our feeders, filled them, hung them from the patio arbor (or whatever the proper name for that structure is), and have been enjoying hours of entertainment. There are usually at least three of the birds in the area, hovering in mid-air, perching in a nearby cypress (or on the fence or a shepherd's hook), fighting fiercely for use of the feeders, weaving around obstacles at break-neck speeds, and making their funny squeaky noises. They definitely earn their sugar-water with the amusement and sense of wonder they provide! (We even saw one eating a mosquito the other day. Now that's the way to my heart-- rid our yard of those horrid mosquitoes!)
Thursday, we had a little outing to a few local spots we'd never visited before.
First, we tried the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge-- particularly, the Jeff Friend Trail and the refuge's portion of beach on the Gulf. The trail was nice enough, but the mosquitoes were positively awful. We spotted them almost immediately and sprayed ourselves with repellent, but I guess that wasn't enough, because they were still landing on and biting us-- sometimes right through our clothes.
(I cannot express how much I hate mosquitoes. I mean, I know no-one likes them, but I have a special loathing for them, because I'm one of those unfortunate people who seem to have a special attraction for flying blood-suckers. I don't know why, and I probably don't want to know why-- as I suspect it's nothing good-- but the nasty little monsters find me every time.)
The mosquitoes cut down on the pleasure of the trail. Maybe it'd be nicer later in the year... Fortunately, the second half of the trail seemed less of a mosquito haunt than the first half had been. I managed to take a few photos, instead of giving (more of) my crazy lady impression (swatting at seemingly invisible assailants).
The beach was... the beach. We didn't stay long because it was hot and we hadn't planned (or packed) for a day on the beach. It might be a good spot to go if you want to avoid crowds at the more familiar (more popular) stretches of beach, but the trade-off is that there's no public restroom.
Later, we checked out the Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail, which is actually a whole system of trails through the wilderness just north of the busy beaches of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach. We only walked a small portion of the trails available, but I was very impressed. Apparently this is a fairly new project. I think the trails (at least one of which follows what was once an old, disused road-- Highway 182) were christened just a couple of years ago, and there is still more work planned. The trails we walked (Twin Bridges and part of Catman Road) were very nicely paved-- ideal for biking or rollerblading-- and of course for walking, too. I find that it's so much easier to not worry about stepping on snakes when you're on a wide, paved path. ;o)
The only possible complaint I can see is that some of the trails (or combinations of them) would be pretty long walks-- especially considering that they're not loops. That's probably not an issue for cyclists, but casual hikers might find some of them a bit much. I guess you just have to walk until you're approximately half-way exhausted, so that you'll have enough stamina to make it back to the car. ;o)
Anyway, I was pleasantly surprised, and I'm glad to know of another local spot for hiking and photography.
(For those interested, there are more photos of the trails and the new swing on my Flickr photostream.)