Friday, April 29, 2011

We Have Butterflies

The butterflies that my daughter and I raised inside the Live Butterfly Garden that we purchased have finally come out of their chrysalises. Out of five caterpillars, five formed chrysalises and three emerged successfully from them. In a previous post, I explained how we received the caterpillars in the mail and that they stayed for a few days within their little habitat before climbing to the top and spinning chrysalises.

Moving the chrysalises from the caterpillar habitat to the main container that came with the Live Butterfly Garden was very tricky. The instruction manual isn't very clear on how to position the chrysalises within the container. I did understand that it's very important that the chrysalises hang down so that the butterflies can use gravity to help them emerge. I took the paper that the chrysalises were attached to, folded a quarter of it over and taped it to the bottom of the butterfly container so that it would be anchored down and the chrysalises could hang down naturally.

It took about 8 days for the butterflies to emerge from their chrysalises as painted lady butterflies. At that point, we put some diluted sugar water into the container for them so that they could have something to eat. Sadly, painted lady butterflies only have a life span of about a month, so we won't be able to enjoy them for too long. They are beautiful, though, and I think this experience was successful enough to encourage us to try it again soon.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Oil And Gas Stocks

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Andrew Johns. All opinions are 100% mine.

I just came back from the gas station where I paid $4 a gallon for gas. With $5 per gallon gas on the horizon and $6 per gallon a distinct possibility, some relief is definitely necessary. In an attempt to alleviate the pressure at the pump, legislators are looking at repealing tax breaks given to oil and gas companies. Some other proposals involve eliminating manufacturing tax deductions, reducing a tax credit for royalties paid to other governments and imposing an excise tax on certain Gulf leases. The recovered revenue from oil and gas producers would be used to promote clean-energy development.

Would repealing these subsidies lower gas prices? The industry insists that such plans would not help consumers and released a study showing that oil and gas stocks outperformed other stocks in public pension funds in four states: Michigan, Missouri, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Essentially, oil and gas stocks are not owned by faceless corporations, they're owned by millions of regular people. Oil and gas stocks have been performing quite well lately. For example, Exxon Mobil, the world’s largest company by market value, recently reported its net income jumped 69 percent to $10.7 billion in the first quarter.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Jesus Action Figure

I remember when He first arrived in a plain beige envelope in my mailbox nearly 10 years ago. I was due to get married soon and gifts from out-of-towners had begun to arrive. This particular parcel did not contain a return address and, for a moment, I wondered if I was about to become a victim of an anthrax-via-mail attack. Throwing caution to the wind, I ripped open the parcel and out fell a shrink wrapped package along with a post-it note. I picked up the package and my eyes met the most mysterious action figure I had ever encountered. It was Jesus. In action figure form. Complete with kung-fu grip.

Obviously someone knew of my love of toys in general and action figures in particular. But, who had sent Him to me? What purpose was He supposed to serve? Was this a joke? A subtle push towards religion? Some kind of obscure social commentary? What was I supposed to do with Him? Surely the post-it note would reveal some clues. I reached down to pick it up. I turned it over to reveal three words scrawled upon it in perfect script: You are WORTHY.

For weeks, I delighted in taking my Jesus action figure along with me everywhere I went. He accompanied me to work where tech support issues would suddenly resolve themselves upon my arrival. When asked by clients how I had solved the problem, I would smile and say "Jesus works in mysterious ways". I brought him along to my bachelor party which involved a tour of several gentleman's clubs. Action figure Jesus was nestled in my left front pocket. As the entertainer performed her routine on my lap, I asked her if she could feel Jesus. On my wedding day, when asked by friends and family if I was nervous, I calmly replied that I was fine because Jesus was with me. And He was. He was secretly nestled in the inside pocket of my tuxedo jacket. My (now ex) wife was actually amused.

As the years rolled by, the novelty of having a Jesus action figure slowly wore off. I relegated Him to the curiosity shelf of my home office along with several Buddha, a Ganesha and my collection of Spider-Man action figures. While searching for a place to keep the caterpillars from the Live Butterfly Garden, I struck upon the curiosity shelf. I could swear that He looked back at me as I set the caterpillars beside him. "Hello, Jesus", I said. "It has been a long time".

So, in celebration of Holy Thursday, I took action figure Jesus out with me for old time's sake. Jason met up with us to celebrate the upcoming Easter holiday. Jesus once turned water into wine and bread into fish, but I, I explained to my action figure friend, had the power to turn money into beer and french fries into poop. "Your move, Jesus", I said.

At the end of the night, feeling no pain, but still in full control of my faculties, I exited the pub. I was tired. It had been a long day. I really didn't want to drive. So, with a smile and a wink, I looked over at Him and said "Jesus, take the wheel!".

Monday, April 25, 2011

A Call From Florida Institute of Technology

Florida Institute of Technology called recently looking for Deeksmash Mikironkok. I answered and tried to sound as much like an elderly Hindu as possible. The rep was a very good sport and seemed to enjoy hearing Deeksmash spin tales about being the only male at a private women's university, spending his childhood working in a Nike sweatshop and beating up random Irishmen.

At fifteen minutes, this call runs a little long, but it's filled with great stuff. Have a listen.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Friday and Rebecca Black

I haven't been able to look at Friday the same way ever since I heard that awful song by Rebecca Black. Now, every Friday I get a piece of that damn song in my head without fail. It's like my brain is actively trolling me. It's a terrible song mainly because it was written as a rap and is being talk-sung by a thirteen year old girl whose voice has been autotuned into oblivion.

Despite the fact that "Friday" is turning out to be the current generation's version of "We Built This City On Rock And Roll", I have a modicum of respect for Rebecca Black as a person. She has been taking all the criticism and the death threats very well. It has to be tough. Personally, I don't blame Rebecca Black for that bland yet surprisingly catchy song. What 13-year-old wouldn't jump at the chance to be a pop star? No, I blame Ark Music Factory for writing the damn song, directing the music video and not taking responsibility for the whole craptacular mess when it was released.

If you think about, despite all the negative press, "Friday" is actually going to
be a net gain for Rebecca Black. Good, bad or indifferent, people are talking about her and that is going to translate into more money. Meanwhile, she's focusing on showing the world that she's a good kid. All the proceeds from "Friday" are going to relief efforts in Japan. That follows the old saying, "Earn your money like a dog, but spend it like a gentleman".

In the end, as bad as "Friday" is, the guy in the video below is much worse than Rebecca Black:

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Do Not Hump


A friend of mine sent me this picture while stopped by a train. If you look to your right, you'll see a sign that says DO NOT HUMP on the freight car. Odd, right? Is this some sort of subversive, neo-viral Abstinence platform advertising? Perhaps it's a plea to rail-jumpers to keep them from doing the hibbity-dibbity? Maybe some people REALLY like trains and need a reminder that freight cars can't consent to being humped?

Actually, in train-speak, "humping" refers to a method used to sort freight cars. A track heads up a man-made hill called a "hump" and branches into numerous parallel tracks on its way down the other side. In order to attach cars to trains, a switch engine pushes a string of cars to the top of the hump, where the cars are uncoupled one at a time. Once it's determined which track the car needs to roll onto, a worker in a the control tower throws the appropriate levers to get the track switches lined up properly. The car is then pushed down the hump and onto the right track.

One of the advantages to humping is that it's a lot faster than using switch engines to drag each car up to it appropriate train. The disadvantage is that humping can be a rough on the freight cars and the freight they contain. Freight cars with especially delicate contents are marked DO NOT HUMP, which tells the yard crew to set that particular car aside for special handling.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Droid Doesn't

It appears that my Motorola Droid is on its last legs. The touch screen is wearing out quickly, which first became an issue about a month ago when I couldn't slide the unlock bar across the screen to answer calls. It seemed like an mere glitch at the time and I chalked it up to Verizon's latest botched Android update. Since then, however, the deterioration has progressed and it has become difficult to access anything on the perimeter of the touch screen.

I'm eligible for an early upgrade from Verizon and my rep is pushing the HTC Thunderbolt. The Thunderbolt is a slick phone and is currently the only Verizon Android phone with a front facing camera. I'm considering waiting for the Droid Bionic which, to me, seems like a much better phone than the Thunderbolt. I'd have to replace my Moto Droid in the meantime, though, which will cost me around $90 depending on how I choose to replace it.

Meanwhile, I'm currently using an LG Envy 2. It makes calls and it can txt which covers most of what I need a phone to do. However, this past weekend while I was driving across the state through a nasty rainstorm to meet up with an old college friend, I truly missed Android's Google Maps Navigation app and Weather app. I've railed against being cut off before, likening it to feeling alone in the world. In this particular situation, while I was still able to make calls and send txts, I was unable to get my email, check Facebook, update Twitter or check in to Foursqure. I didn't feel alone, but I felt crippled.

Not two years ago, I wouldn't have cared about this sort of thing. I would have been happy to just be able to make calls. It seems that I've become accustomed to being able to do so much more with my phone. I've become part of the hive mind.

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Live Butterfly Garden

I bought one of those "As Seen On TV" Live Butterfly Garden sets for my daughter recently. I had been leery about ordering it over the phone, so, when I noticed that the Live Butterfly Garden was available at Wal-Mart (and probably Target, Walgreens and other fine retailers) I decided to take a chance and purchase it. The Live Butterfly Garden doesn't come with caterpillars. You have to enter a redemption code into a website form and fork over $5 for shipping and you'll get five caterpillars in the mail. My daughter took care of naming them: Carly, Sam, Fred, Phineas and Ferb.

The caterpillar package that comes in the mail includes everything you need to house and feed them for a few days. The one thing my daughter and I learned very quickly is that caterpillars poop a lot. It took a little over a week, but eventually the caterpillars got tired of wallowing in their own filth and climbed to the top of their little shelter and began to spin chrysalises. Looks like we're ready to move them to the butterfly habitat and wait for them to emerge.

My Jesus Action Figure Watches Over The Caterpillars.  Those Little Round Thingies Are Caterpillar Poop Chunks

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

I'd Make Glen A. Larson My Bitch

With the current Hollywood trend to resurrect familiar television properties from the early 80's, I think I've hit upon a winning idea. Glenn A. Larson was responsible for a number of great TV shows back in the 80's, and some of his work (Battlestar Galactica and V) has already been mined successfully by Hollywood execs. All but ignored, however, are two other successful Larson shows: B.J and the Bear and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. B.J. and the Bear was the story of freelance trucker B.J. McKay, who traveled the country's highways in a red and white semi truck with his pet chimpanzee, Bear. Along the way, they got into hilarious misadventures involving zany sheriffs and beautiful women. Buck Rogers in the 25th Century told the story of Captain William "Buck" Rogers who was frozen in 1987 and awoken in 2491 to find that Earth needs his help to survive.

They're great concepts, right? The sad thing is, we probably won't see an adaptation of the Buck Rogers that Glen A. Larson envisioned because the character of Buck Rogers has had a number of different incarnations over the last 80 years and the rights to that character are tied up by a lot of different issues. That's not a problem, however, because we don't need Buck Rogers himself, we just need some charismatic male from the 1980's to transport to the 25th Century in order to have the proper fish-out-of-water story. With this in mind, I give you B.J. and the Bear in the 25th Century:

The year is 1987, and Kenworth manufacturers the last of its cab-over-semi trucks. Aboard this K-100, Billy Joe "B.J." McKay was to travel America, delivering parcels with his chimp sidekick, Bear. In a freak mishap, his climate control functions were frozen by temperatures beyond imagination. B.J and the Bear were blown out of their planned itinerary into an orbit millions of times more vast. An orbit which was to return B.J. and the Bear to Earth.....500 YEARS LATER! 

Mr. Larson, I await your call.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Ashford University Calls Me

I was woken up this morning by a call from a rep at Ashford University. In my barely coherent state, I had thought she was looking for Mitchua Kahn, but it turns out she was calling for Deeksmash Mikironkok, the elderly Hindu. Deeksmash was very excited at having the opportunity to expand his education at Ashford University, but, unfortunately, he was unable to remember the exact name of the college he got his Bachelor's degree from. The Ashford University rep realized early on that she was being had and terminated the call about 5 minutes into it.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Some Haircut Karma

My barber is an interesting guy. He's located just down the street from me and he gives a damn fine haircut, so I'm always willing to overlook his idiosyncrasies. He tells bad jokes, has crappy magazines in the waiting area and is only open from 4pm to 6pm on the weekdays. Being in dire need of a haircut, I went in at 4:30 and found the place backed to the gills with people who apparently had the same idea. No problem. I had expected to wait in line. I took out my Nook Color and caught up on some reading. A good thirty minutes later, two gentlemen came in, both apprehensive about having to wait, as they had to get to work by 5:30. I looked up from my reading and told the gentlemen that they could both go in front of me, as I had nowhere that I needed to be that evening.

My new friends were able to get their hair cut and get out the door in time to make it to work on time. I sat down for my customary haircut and hot towel shave. When I got up to pay, the barber informed me that the gentlemen I had let go before me had already paid for my haircut and shave.

So, the moral here is to do good things without expectation of reward and you just might be surprised by the outcome.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

I Rooted My Nook

One of the coolest things about the Nook Color is its ability to handle having custom ROMs loaded onto it. Loading a custom ROM onto the Nook Color can add functionality or totally change how the device behaves. There are a number of popular ROMs out there that you can use in place of the standard Nook Color operating system. I went with Autonooter because all it essentially does is add the Android Market app to the Nook Color which then allows me to download and install Android Market apps. I did look into a number of other options. Here's what I think of the other custom ROMs out there.

  • CM7 - It's not a stable release and updated ROMs are published nightly. It has issues with its sleep mode which is detrimental to battery life.
  • Phiremod - It's essentially CM7 for the lazy as there are no separate Google Apps to install.
  • Honeycomb v4 - It looks great and feels smooth but you have to install the Android Market onto your Nook Color separately and that's a very difficult process.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Niaspan Intervention Parody

This is a spoof on those Niaspan ads from Abbott Labs. In the actual commercials, a family member speaks to an off-camera sibling in such a way as to suggest an intervention. Abbott Labs is implying that the refusal to take their medication is behavior that is as bad as drug addiction or alcohol abuse. Niaspan is really just a high dosage of time released Vitamin B-3 (Niacin) with a fancy pharmaceutical label slapped on it. And, while it may indeed have some benefits in reducing arterial plaque, comparing someone's refusal to take it to some kind of addictive complex is stupid and irresponsible. But, we've come to expect that sort of thing from the drug companies.

I have a small personal involvement with Niaspan. I was on Niaspan a number of years ago and would often wake up in the middle of the night with my skin burning, glowing red like a lobster and itching like a heroin addict. I began to believe that the side effects were being outweighed by any benefits I was getting from Niaspan. In the end, I just changed my diet and exercised more and was able to achieve the same results as I had gotten when I was taking Niaspan.