Year-End Snow

We had a pleasant surprise this afternoon – a beautiful hour-long deluge of fat, wet and heavy snowflakes.

All told, we only got about an inch, but I did manage to run outside and shoot some pictures, playing with different flash settings and speeds to see if anything captured the mood best.

Yes, that’s our house.  And yes, our Christmas lights are exclusively Orange and Blue. You got a problem with that?



Best Photos

I’m becoming increasingly fascinated with photography, especially digital photography.  I don’t know much about Flickr, a photo-sharing website, but their users have selected and shared their single best photo of 2005.

They all much better than mine, but if I had to choose one of mine, it would be this one, which is of a stunning view down the front of dam into a canyon in Wyoming.  We had stopped to shoot some pictures and look around on a cold, rainy August morning during our long road trip to Washington, and I thought the view was breathtaking.

And, in a further indication of my desperate need for a hobby (like two jobs isn’t enough!), I’ve asked for a nice SLR digital camera for my birthday.  My Dad has a Nikon D50 and seems pretty happy with it, but right now I’m leaning towards a Canon Digital Rebel XT, partially because Pam has had a regular Rebel for some time, and I loved using it, partially because 8 megapixels is a lot more than 6.1, and partially because it seems to be getting better reviews.  I’m going to keep researching, so if anyone has recommendations or thoughts, please don’t be shy.  .

One Red Paperclip

When I’ve actually got time to read the couple-of-hundred blogs to which I’ve subscribed, I stumble across sweet little nuggets like this one:

My name is Kyle MacDonald and I am making a series of up-trades for bigger or better things up to my goal of a house.

I started with one red paperclip on July 12th, 2005.

Currently, after starting with that one red paperclip, he’s traded all the way up to a ski trip to someplace in British Columbia.

People and their ideas; they just amaze me.


Everybody Else Is Getting Rich

Of course, then I stumble across something like this and get depressed.

Because chances are, Alex Tew, a 21-year-old student from a small town in England, is cleverer than you. And he is proving it by earning a cool million dollars in four months on the Internet.

Selling porn? Dealing prescription drugs? Nope. All he sells are pixels, the tiny dots on the screen that appear when you call up his home page.

He had the brainstorm for his million dollar home page, called, logically enough,, while lying in bed thinking out how he would pay for university.

The idea: turn his home page into a billboard made up of a million dots, and sell them for a dollar a dot to anyone who wants to put up their logo. A 10 by 10 dot square, roughly the size of a letter of type, costs $100.

He sold a few to his brothers and some friends, and when he had made $1,000, he issued a press release.

That was picked up by the news media, spread around the Internet, and soon advertisers for everything from dating sites to casinos to real estate agents to The Times of London were putting up real cash for pixels, with links to their own sites.

So far they have bought up 911,800 pixels. Tew’s home page now looks like an online Times Square, festooned with a multi-colored confetti of ads.

“All the money’s kind of sitting in a bank account,” Tew told Reuters from his home in Wiltshire, southwest England. “I’ve treated myself to a car. I’ve only just passed my driving test so I’ve bought myself a little black mini.”

Here’s a link directly to the page.

Statewide Voter Lists

Better voter registration coordination between the state and counties would be reassuring to many of us concerned about voter fraud in Illinois, but it looks like our great state will miss a Federally-imposed deadline by more than two years.

Despite a Jan. 1 federal deadline, however, the state is poised to be among the last in the nation to create an electronic system that allows local election officials to search for fraud and errors by comparing their voter registration lists with those of other jurisdictions.

Illinois officials say they do not expect to have such a network running until the middle of 2008, more than two years after the federal deadline and six years after the requirement was approved by Congress.

To illustrate the problem, Pam and I both recently received forms from the Madison County Clerk asking us to confirm our voter registration information – even though we moved out of Madison County in 1999, we’ve repeatedly requested they cancel our registration, and we haven’t voted in Madison County since we graduated from college.
Our local County Clerk nails it:

Some local election officials, meanwhile, say they have grown weary of the state’s delays in getting the new system running.

"They screwed around, and we are having a major delay," said Champaign County Clerk Mark Shelden, a Republican. "It could have been avoided."

The Illinois State Board of Elections is among the least-efficient, most-impotent government agencies I’ve ever encountered.  There’s no excuse for such a delay. . .

Tollway Oases Subpoenas for Blagojevich

Remember Governor Rod Blagojevich’s 2002 campaign theme of “Reform and Renewal?”  It’s not working out so well

Federal prosecutors are examining exactly how fast-food chains with links to one of Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s top fundraisers landed lucrative leases at the newly opened tollway oases.

A federal grand jury recently subpoenaed an array of information from the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority regarding contracts with Subway, Panda Express and other oasis vendors, documents obtained by the Daily Herald show.

This latest subpoena expands U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald’s already wide-ranging probe of state hiring and contracting practices that has tarnished the reform mantra Blagojevich used to win election in 2002.

In addition to the tollway, the state’s transportation department, prison system, child welfare agency and even the governor’s office have been hit with federal subpoenas. Added to the mix are late-summer allegations contained in a federal plea agreement that Blagojevich and two top fundraisers devised a scheme to reward campaign donors with consulting fees and investment deals at the suburban and downstate teachers pension fund, a charge the administration steadfastly denies.

And this all comes as Blagojevich heads into an election year after promising voters he’d change “business as usual.”

Weight Loss Challenge

Our wonderful group of friends has decided to place a challenge for all of us to lose a little weight in the New Year and the challenge includes a cash $$ prize to boot!   We have all of the details outlined for you here.  Please email Pam if you would like to join our challenge.  The challenge goes through the end of March with the winner announced on April 1st.  Depending on how many enter the challenge is how we determine the cash prize ($20 per entry).  It’s all based on the honor system so please keep this in mind before entering (no cheaters please!).  In order to assist everyone with tracking their weightloss, I have provided my tracking personal spreadsheet:  here

If you need additonal information on setting your weightloss goals and reveiewing national averages of ideal weights, please review these charts:  here 

Thanks and we look forward to keeping you posted on the number of entries so we know who will be racing to the end of the challenge to win the cash $$ prize!

secure web browsing . .

National Veterans’ Gravesite Locator

For the historically- or geneologically-inclined, there is an online National Gravesite Locator.

Government Computer News has noted that the Veterans Administration has added almost two million veterans’ records to its grave locator — mostly veterans buried in private cemeteries. That brings the number of names in the grave site locator up to about five million.

Hat tip:  Disarranging MIne .