Ah, here I sit on a Tuesday night, sipping from a tall glass of club soda with a splash of Lewisville's locally distilled DeLos Vodka and a twist of lime. I just got out of a nice hot bath to take the chill off. Mamask8z is sitting at her computer laughing her head off at the peopleofwalmart.com photos.
Earlier tonight we tried to light a fire in the fireplace, but I couldn't get a good draft up the chimney, and the smoke kept blowing back in, so I gave up and quenched it. I cooked spaghetti tonight and we sat and ate while President Obama began to deliver his speech about Afghanistan.
Afghanistan I thought the President's rationale for his decision to send an additional 30,000 troops, followed by a drawdown in July of 2011 was sound. My oldest son Seth decided to write a letter to President Obama during the speech, while his younger brother was trying unsuccessfully to stoke the fireplace. He brought me his word-processed letter to proof-read for him and tell him how to address it. After a few spelling fixes, he was ready to print, sign, address and seal. I didn't ask him whether he minded if I published it or not, so I won't quote it here, but I'll tell you that the jist of it was "please stop the war".
Snow and sleet this week? I heard earlier on the weather station that we may have some frozen precipitation this week. Good Lord, I hope we can all remember to drive safely if that happens.
It has been so cold this week already though. My office is apparently not well insulated, the ceiling above me basically being open to the building's garage area. Luckily though, instead of a space heater - which I think are fairly dangerous, I have an electric blanket which is draped over my chair, and which I sit on. Oh, it feels heavenly on a cold day to have toasty buns in the morning.
Quicken Online OK, so I have a confession to make. For YEARS, I used Microsoft Money to manage my personal finances. In years past, I accounted for every single penny I spent, and saved every receipt. Some time in the past couple of years, my give-a-damn got busted and then a hard drive failed in my laptop, and the next thing you know, I'm just "winging it". I mean, literally not balancing my checkbook at all - just relying on memory to know how much was available to spend or pay bills. Totally crazy, and I've got the overdraft fees to prove it.
Anyhow, I finally broke down and went hunting for a fresh copy of Microsoft Money, only to discover that it had been basically discontinued by Microsoft. What I did find was a FREE - yes FREE service called Quicken Online. (Now they're calling it mint.com - apparently I got in before it switched.)
Basically the service logs in to your bank accounts using information that you provide, and it figures up what bills you have that are recurring, and very quickly starts giving accurate projections about how much money you'll have on a given day. It also has reports to tell you where your money is going, and whether you're living within your means. As you classify and correct each expense, it learns from you, and will automatically fix them as it imports them from your bank in the future.
If you're not using any money management software, give it a try. I'll be interested to hear how mint.com might differ from the Quicken Online version.
New Masthead Logo After our special Thanksgiving logo expired, I updated it with this:
It's stock art that I purchased and modified, so don't be too impressed, but I think it's our best one to date, if I do say so myself.
Oops Oh crap, I just remembered that I forgot to post the weekly blog roundup. I'll do that soon.
Quality Assurance Time So, I may have mentioned that we're just about to release a major set of improvements to our software at work. Normally I'm a programmer, but this week I'm doing double-duty as a QA person. It's a thankless job, but it has to be done. As I was entering my 27th bug today, I got to thinking: 1) I feel like a real a-hole, sitting here poking holes in my coworkers work product, but 2) This is kinda fun.
Thursday before last, during the evening rush hour, Lewisville Police dispatcher Jose Ronquillo took a call from a driver following a suspected DWI vehicle. Ronquillo kept the caller on the phone for more than 10 minutes as he tried to locate an officer who could intercept. Eventually the call was transferred to the Flower Mound Dispatch Center. When Flower Mound Police stopped the vehicle, the driver had a 9mm handgun and told the arresting officers he was on his way to kill his girlfriend's ex-husband.
As someone who has called in and followed several suspected drunk drivers over the years, I always hate to think that maybe I'm causing someone some grief if I've guessed it wrong. But I'm glad to hear that this call turned out well, and a terrible crime was prevented. Great job, LPD, FMPD, and the caller!
This December, the UN is holding a Climate Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark where the world's leaders will decide whether there will be any framework at all on limiting carbon emissions.
The Huffington Post is sending one lucky citizen journalist to Copenhagen in what they are calling the Hopenhagen contest.
Texas' own "Citizen Sarah", a fellow blogger in the Texas Progressive Allance, who normally writes for Texas VOX, the Texas voice of Public Citizen has been nominated, and has submitted her pitch on video here:
We Endorse Citizen Sarah WhosPlayin thinks it would be FANTASTIC to have a fellow Texas blogger, who is down here fighting the battle on a daily basis here in Texas where we are not only the largest polluting state, but also have the most to gain from switching to renewable energy sources. WE WHOLEHEARTEDLY ENDORSE CITIZEN SARAH.
How You Can Help All you have to do is go to THIS LINK, and rate her video as a 10. While you are there, read a bit about the Hopenhagen project.
I'm sitting here on a chilly Sunday night in November in my darkened living room with a roaring fire in our fireplace. I know it's probably not really cold enough yet, but I knew it would cheer up my oldest son, who is really, really bored.
Ron, the Bearded Dragon is sitting on the arm of my chair watching the fire.. nope, wait, he changed his mind. Just scampered off across my keyboard to go sit with my youngest son. Hank, the gay cowdog has just come in and is looking for a place to lie.
The Nutcracker Mamask8z and the kids and I just got back from an outing to go see the Lake Cities Ballet's production of "The Nutcracker". The performance of the holiday classic was held at Lewisville High School's auditorium, which is actually a very nice modern facility with great acoustics.
Let me be clear that I am no connoisseur of ballet, so take what I'm about to tell you for what it's worth. The dancers were so beautiful and graceful. The costumes were gorgeous. The music, played live by the Lewisville Lake Symphony Orchestra sounded awesome. The sets were very visually appealing. There were so many amazing performances within the two acts of the piece. There were even some comedic parts that had the audience laughing out loud. The mice were hilarious.
I don't know how many seats there are in the auditorium there, but I'd guess that it was about 98% full.
Weird sleep My sleep schedule's gotten way out of whack over the holiday. Too many late nights reading. I got up at the crack of noon today. I had an awful night mare last night which I sincerely hope was not a premonition of any sort.
I'm going to have to take some Valerian root and melatonin tonight and try to get to bed at a decent hour.
Discussions on Global Warming Earlier in the week, I posted an appeal to our readers to help Citizen Sarah of TexasVox get to Copenhagen for the climate change summit. Unfortunately she had to withdraw from the event due to some sort of company rule of her employer.
Anyhow, it has led to some interesting discussion over on my Facebook account about whether what most of us accept to be fact about global climate change has met an acceptable standard of proof.
I have to be totally honest here: I've let some of my subscriptions to some of the scientific publications expire, and I've really not re-examined the current state of the debate for a couple of years.
I really see the issue as two almost distinct debates: One is entirely political, and the other is scientific. The political side of the debate just plain pisses me off, because it's counter-productive. You have people taking sides in it based on only a rudimentary understanding of science, and the opinions of those they trust on issues of political philosophy.
Accusations fly as one side accuses the other of using the issue as a way to "control" people, or to purposely ruin the economy. (As if that would be anyone's goal) The other side will say the opponents are bought off or gullible, believing the arguments of those who benefit from doing nothing. In the mix, you have all sorts of people setting bad examples, putting politics ahead of science, sometimes manipulating data or making up outright lies.
What I keep coming back to in this is that we (as laypeople) need to be able to trust science to do its job and provide us with answers on this. We need them to find consensus, but we need that consensus to be based on the scientific method, without politics involved.
For our part, when science delivers, we need to listen, and set aside our preconceived notions as well as what we feel like we want to believe. We need to be able to divorce ego from the equation and take the appropriate action.
Looking at the issue, there is a lot to absorb, and a lot to have to rely on science to tell us: - Average global temperatures are increasing by a small amount. - This average temperature increase can cause much larger and more noticeable localized climate changes - These changes are bad for humanity because they interrupt biological processes that we rely on for survival - The warming is anthropogenic, meaning that it's caused by the activities of mankind, though our release of "greenhouse" gases like CO2.
And, if you find the above to be true, the next logical question is whether mankind can slow or reverse the process, and at what cost.
I've heard a lot of simplistic claims that I tend to think are just asinine. Here's one: "The Sun is responsible for heating our planet". Oh, well, isn't that simple - why didn't we just realize that? Sun hot! Case closed. Oh wait, that wasn't really the question now, was it? No, we're looking at a long term tendency to retain the heat that we all know the sun provides. We're not talking about seasonal changes or even sunspot cycles.
But there are many other aspects of it where multiple arguments are feasible, and in the end, it all depends on quantification, which is extremely difficult to do with something so extremely complex as the global climate patterns. The easiest things to quantify are the CO2 levels in the atmosphere (rising) and the change in sea level. (indicating ice melt at the poles). But even with these two measurements in hand, all we have is a correlation. Causation is much more difficult to determine.
At any rate, I guess my point is that it's extremely difficult for any lay-person to know what arguments are good, what the value of consensus is, and so forth. But given the choice between listening to what the scientists are saying, or listening to a bunch of pork-fed politicians, I'll take the scientists any day. I want to hear the arguments and try to understand them. I want to be able to trust the peer review process. And yet, as my friend Jeff pointed out, even science is sometimes wrong:
The value of consensus: eat crap - 80 trillion flies cannot be wrong! On a more serious note, the following were the consensus of the scientific community: *phrenology *eugenics *DDT is safe *refusal to accept plate tectonics for 40 years *refusal to accept quantum mechanics for 30 years *refusal to accept hypnosis for 200 years
Again, I reiterate that I trust science WAAAAY more than I trust politicians. If you think the above list is bad, you don't even want to see a list of dumbass things that politicians have believed.
So, what I'm going to do sometime soon is force myself to study this anew, and with an open mind. The issue is much too important for us to dig in our heels and ignorantly stand our ground.
H1N1 Influenza Vaccinations Available The Denton County Health Department is now reporting it has sufficient doses on hand to begin offering the H1N1 vaccine to members of the following groups:
- Pregnant Women - People who live with or care for children younger than 6 months of age - Healthcare and emergency medical service personnel - Anyone 6 months to 24 years of age - People ages 25 to 64 years who are at high risk because of chronic health disorders or compromised immune system
Upcoming clinics are: - Wednesday, December 2, 2009 from 2:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at Rosemeade Recreation Center. Rosemeade Recreation Center is located at 1330 E. Rosemeade Parkway in Carrollton. - Saturday, December 5, 2009 from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. at the University of North Texas Discovery Park. UNT Discovery Park is located at 3940 N. Elm St. in Denton.
Keep Lewisville Beautiful is looking for Holiday Yard of the Month nominations. Nominees should be identified by address only. The person’s name and phone number making the nomination is optional. All nominations must be in by Dec. 15.
November 27th - Black Friday I promise you will not see me lined up outside a store at 4 AM.
November 28th - Marines Collecting Toys for Tots Marines will be collecting Toys for Tots at the Toys R Us located in the Grapevine Mills Mall on Saturday, November 28th from 10-4.
Toys can also be dropped off at the Family Care Chiropractic office in Lewisville until December 23. For every toy donation brought to their office, they are offering a gift certificate for a free exam, consultation, and x-rays in their office.
November 28th - Democrats Meet for Breakfast Discuss issues and get to know fellow Democrats at the monthly breakfast of the Denton County Democratic Club. November's meeting will be held in The Colony, venues change each month.
November 28, 2010 - 8 a.m. - 10 a.m. The Golden Corral 4625 Hwy. 121 The Colony, TX 75056
November 28th, 29th - LakeCities Ballet - The Nutcracker LakeCities Ballet Theatre’s “The Nutcracker” at Stuver Auditorium Nov. 28-29
LakeCities Ballet Theatre will present the holiday classic, “The Nutcracker,” with performances held on Nov. 28 and 29, at Lewisville High School’s Stuver Auditorium, 1098 W. Main Street. The Saturday performance will be held at 7:30 p.m., and the Sunday performance at 2 p.m.
LakeCities Ballet Theatre’s 19th production will feature professional guest dancers to offer their mentoring to the company and community dancers. Julie Kent from American Ballet Theatre and hit movie “Center Stage” will fill the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy, with Sascha Radetsky from American Ballet Theatre and “Center Stage” as her Cavalier. Michael Eaton from Kansas City Ballet and an LBT alumnus returns to guest as the Snow King.
All other performers are members of LakeCities Ballet Theatre and 180 local children from Lewisville, Highland Village, Flower Mound, Corinth, Carrollton, Coppell, The Colony, Lantana, Colleyville, Southlake and Denton.
Tickets are $17, $32 and $42 and are available by calling 1.800.585.3737 or En L’Air Dancewear at 972.966.8006.
November 30th - SoDeCo Democrats Monthly Meeting Join Democrats in Southern Denton County (SoDeCo) as they try to move our towns, county, state and country in a more progressive direction. Meeting at 7:00 pm Location : Flower Mound Police and Courts Building Community Room on Monday at 7:00. We'll go for drinks / sushi at Oishi afterward. http://www.sodeco.org/
December 1st - Free Snow Cone at Bahama Bucks Free stuff is always newsworthy, right? Bahama Bucks is at the corner of FM 3040 and Valley Parkway. Bahama Buck's Lewisville 2320 S. Valley Parkway Lewisville, Texas 75067
Front-paged by WhosPlayin. Eight more years and 34,000 troops the Huffington post reported today on President Obama’s Afghanistan Decision. For the last year, our president has been talking about an exit strategy from Afghanistan.
DISH TX Calls For Five Natural Gas Compression Stations to Halt Operations
Based on results of recent air study, local officials in the town of DISH, TX has asked operators for a safety stand down
DISH, TX -- The results of a DISH, Texas municipal Ambient Air Quality Study recently revealed high concentrations of toxic air emissions, including neurotoxins and carcinogens, near and on residential properties in the small town of DISH, Texas, in Western Denton County. In a letter sent to company officials dated November 16, 2009, local officials from the Town of DISH have asked operators to cease and desist operations, until they can guarantee the safety of area citizens. This letter was sent to company officials from: - Texas Midstream Gas Services, LLC, - Enbridge Holdings, LLC, - Energy Transfer Partners, - Atmos Pipeline Texas, and - Crosstex Energy Services.
DISH is located in the epicenter of the Barnett Shale gas play and is home to a megacomplex of compressor stations, as well as pipelines, metering stations, gathering lines and gas wells. The Town of DISH's air study sampled air at seven locations from August 17 to 18, 2009. The results of this analysis revealed high concentrations of carcinogenic and neurotoxin compounds near and on residential properties. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) has performed subsequent studies that validated these concerns.
It's the Tuesday night before Thanksgiving, and I am off work tomorrow. Just sitting here in my bedroom while my kids run around out in the living room and make all sorts of noise. I think they were riding their razor scooter and running over Legos earlier. Our poor dog Hank looks traumatized. Too bad. He can't get up here on my bed. We have clean sheets and he stinks.
Black Friday Friday morning is sort of a make-or-break day for America's retailers. I do not see myself waiting in line outside of a store at 4 AM.
However, I have been looking at some sale ads and thinking that the $200 laptop computers being offered by Best Buy and Walmart might be worth it. Of course, they'll probably only have 5 per store at that price, with no rain checks.
Ever since we got my youngest son a netbook computer for his birthday this past July, my oldest son has been begging for his own notebook computer. And of course we've been telling him to wait until Christmas.
Of course my wife needs a new notebook computer too, hers having an inoperable screen and having to use an external monitor.
Other than that, I have no clue what to get people for Christmas. I really hate how extravagant and consumption-focused that the holiday has become.
Having been raised in the Christian tradition, and having become a Baptist at the age of 14, only to sort of flush most of the religious aspects of my faith in my early 30s, I don't quite know what to make of the holiday, but I do hope I can find some way to make it meaningful for the family.
The new athletic field house slated for Lewisville High School may or may not include a fire sprinkler retro-fit for the main classroom building, but will cost a total of $4.8 million, according to documents obtained from Lewisville ISD today.
On November 12th, WhosPlayin requested backup information for an item that was to be approved at the November 16th meeting of the LISD Trustees.
We had previously reported that LISD would be approving fire sprinklers for Lewisville High School, based on conversations with Lewisville City staff and our interpretation of the cryptic agenda item "Contract to SHW Group for Mechanical Changes and Upgrades at Lewisville High School."
Prior to the board meeting we contacted Cherry Carter, secretary to the Superintendant of LISD to request clarification on the agenda item and whether it included sprinklers or not, but Carter claimed that the information was secret and for board members only. (The Texas Open Meetings Act does not allow secret documents for this type of agenda item).
District spokeswoman Karen Permetti responded to our request for clarification simply with "please submit an open records request".
According to the documents obtained, which do not mention sprinklers specifically, school board members may not have known whether they were voting on sprinklers for the facility. The document mentions a price of $4.5 million for the total construction cost, with an additional $308,250 for construction management fees to SHW group, which will assume the risk if the project goes over budget.
Since the original estimated cost of the project was $4 million, and the district has been saving money on construction costs due to a depressed construction market, we are left to speculate that the additional $500,000 in construction costs go towards sprinkler installation, HVAC replacements, and possible asbestos remediation.
In an email from Permetti on Friday, she stated "I do know that mechanical improvements include, lighting, HVAC, tiles and sprinkler systems.". What was not clear though was whether she was referring to these specific mechanical improvements, or the meaning of "mechanical improvements" in general.