Saturday, March 7, 2009

A new sink!

One of the things that stinks about owning a house is that things break and the happy homeowner gets to fix them.

Yes, back in the old days, I could always pick up the phone and call the landlord when things went wrong. They magically got fixed and I didn't have to spend a dime or lift a finger.

Those were the days, but things have changed. Just yesterday, tragedy struck at Casa de Hawg -- the faucet in the kitchen sink started leaking and needed to be replaced.

Now, my kitchen sink is evil. Yes, I've fought with it before and I'm sure it has more nastiness in store for your old friend, The Hawg. But, that's beside the point.

The problem with my sink -- other than it being evil -- was that it had a leaky faucet (as I've said) and leaky faucets lead to mold, mildew and rotten walls (which I'm just now saying). Yes, the evil sink had caused the faucet to leak all over the place into the below cabinet.

Now, I could have done the smart thing and called a plumber to take care of the faucet. But I'm too cheap to do something like that, so I decided to replace the faucet myself.

Surprisingly, I was able to replace the faucet with little trouble. My wife, when shopping for faucets, started looking at double-basin sinks to replace the evil one we have. One of these days I might feel adventurous enough to replace the sink and remove that evil from my house.

For today, however, I'm proud to have replaced the faucet with no trouble. I learned how a basin wrench works, that it's not much fun to have water dripping in your face while messing around with a faucet and I may have developed a couple of new cuss words, besides.

Still, I do feel a sense of accomplishment. I'm reminded of when a bunch of us went camping back when I was 22-years-old. For some reason, all of us men took it upon ourselves to run out and find wood to burn while the women stayed back at the campsite.

So we came back with a bunch of firewood declaring, "Look! Look what the men have done! The men have brought wood!"

We didn't impress anyone but ourselves. Sad but true.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Is another revolution on the horizon?

Back in the early days of home computing, hardware was the thing that determined what software someone could run.

I well remember the fierce competition between the likes of Apple, Atari, Commodore, Radio Shack and Texas Instruments. If you bought an Apple 2, the hardware was extremely proprietary -- you could only use software that worked with that specific brand of computer.

Even back in those old eight-bit days, we saw the emergence of something that was subtle yet extremely revolutionary. Companies started to pop up that made computers specifically designed to work with the CP/M operating system. It didn't matter who made the hardware -- the CP/M operating system was sold by Digital Research and any computer that met a certain hardware profile could run that OS. People didn't care if their computers were made by Zenith or Bob's House of Techy Stuff -- they just wanted the operating system in order to take advantage of the software available for it.

Bill Gates over at Microsoft was sharp enough to see what was going on and he took advantage of it. Remember the old IBM-PC? The folks at IBM entered the personal computer market with the old notions that the hardware was what mattered. IBM contracted with Microsoft to provide an operating system, but Microsoft got very lucky in the deal. Why? Because IBM didn't retain the rights to the operating system.

We all know what happened next, right? Clone PCs showed up all over the place. The IBM-PC quickly became the industry standard, but a lot of non-IBM computers were manufactured that could run Microsoft's DOS, thus turning IBM into just one more competitor in an industry it created. You'll notice that IBM has all but vanished from the personal computer industry while Microsoft has just grown.

Frankly, I believe we're seeing another revolution in the works. For years, we've seen operating systems compete for users. The clear winner in that fight has been Microsoft for years because just about everything works with Windows and that's the OS people want. The Apple Macintosh has had some success, of course, and even Linux has attracted a loyal group of users.

However, I'd argue that even what operating system a person uses won't matter much in a few years. Here's what I mean. For the past few years, the Arkansas Realtors Association (ARA) has sold a program through which Realtors can prepare all forms necessary to a real estate transaction. That program has always run under Windows. Got a Macintosh or a Linux machine? Well, that was just too bad -- get Windows or the software just won't run.

This year, the ARA has rolled out an Internet-based program for form preparation, meaning that anyone with an Internet connection can buy a subscription to that service and generate their real estate forms all day long. It doesn't matter if someone has a Windows box, a Macintosh or prefers Linux.

We're seeing the same thing happening with office suites. Go take a look at Google Docs, for example. Want to put together a word processing document, spreadsheet or presentation? If you've got an Internet connection and a modern computer, you can do all of that through Google Docs. You'll find the same wonderful platform independence through one of my favorite services, Evernote. I can take notes all day long at work on my Windows machine and can access them at home on my computer here or through the Internet browser on my wife's iPod Touch.

That, folks, is convenience. When you combine that platform independence with the ability to access your work from any computer or (in some cases) device with an Internet connection, you've got something that could result in a day where we don't automatically run out and buy Windows because it's the only thing that will run the software we want.

That's certainly good news, huh?

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Rat terrier? More like 'brat' terrier.

Here's a picture of my miniature rat terrier, Cobb.

He's a 13-pound menace.

Why is Cobb a menace? Over the past week, he has twice used a new, pesky way to wake me up -- by sticking his damned nose in my ear at about 5 a.m.

Here's the thing. Cobb knows to wake me up when he needs to get outside in the morning and go to the bathroom. So I can't exactly yell at him when he does as he's supposed to do, can I?

So the dog has learned two things. First of all, there's no quicker way to get me out of bed by sticking a cold, wet nose straight in my ear. Second, he won't get in trouble for waking me up in such a brutal manner.

I figure the little rascal is doing it all out of spite. He's never exactly warmed up to being trained and often figures out a way to obey but do something obnoxious in the process.

Perhaps I should have gotten a nice, lethargic dog who is both dumber and less devious than Cobb. I do adore the little pest in spite of his scheming ways, however. We got that dog back in September 2006 and since then I've chased him through the neighborhood more than once after he's found a way out of our fence and I've had to put up with him figuring out how to unlatch our back gate and escape. I've bailed him out of the pound, he's peed in my car, Cobb behaves on a leash about as well as a squirrel would, he's managed to lose at least four collars and his shrill, yipping bark has caused one neighbor to hate my guts.

Ah, but it's all part of the joy of owning a dog, isn't it?

Monday, March 2, 2009

Musical Monday -- The Beatles!

The Beatles playing "I Feel Fine" at Shea Stadium back in 1965. Great stuff. Enjoy!

Come join Music Monday and share your songs with us. One simple rule, leave ONLY the actual post link here. You can grab this code at LJL Please note these links are STRICTLY for Music Monday participants only. All others will be deleted without prejudice.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Arkansas Legislature is full of idiots

I urge everyone to take a look at Arkansas House Bill 1339.

Why? Because it's part of a misguided national effort to do away with the Electoral College and replace it with a system through which the president is elected (sort of) by popular vote (in a sense). In other words, your state may have passed such nonsense or may be in the midst of doing just that.

So, what's wrong with the bill? Quite simply, it would deny those of us in smaller states like Arkansas the ability to matter on whit in the presidential election. Why would a candidate campaign here when money would be better spent convincing voters in New York or California to vote one way or another? Under the terms of this mess, Arkansas would simply cast all of her votes in the electoral college to the candidate who won a plurality of votes regardless of how we actually voted. If you can convince the larger states to vote for you, why bother with people in more rural areas like Arkansas that would just be carried along with the majority?

In 2008, for example, Arkansas would have cast her votes for Barack Obama in spite of the fact that John McCain carried this state. In 2000, Arkansas would have cast her votes for Al Gore regardless of the fact that George W. Bush whipped him like a dog in this state. Our six little votes in Arkansas would have been enough to put Gore in the White House, by the way.

Oh, and back in 1960, Richard Nixon would have been named president rather than John F. Kennedy under this scheme. Interestingly enough, Democrats seem to have forgotten that the Electoral College has played to their advantage before -- apparently, that was dandy fine, just as it was OK the mafia delivered Chicago to the Kennedy camp. Turnabout, however, is not fair play as far as those folks are concerned.

The Constitutional problems with this bill -- and others like it across the country -- are obvious. It's also obvious that this effort goes back to a bunch of people who are still upset that Al Gore lost his Supreme Court challenge back in 2000 and Bush was named president. Yes, that's right -- it was Gore who ran to the Supreme Court, asked it to essentially decide the election and then threw a fit when things didn't go his way.

Whether the Electoral College is right or wrong, simply rendering votes worthless across the nation is not the solution to fixing it. Want to get rid of the Electoral College? Join an effort to amend the Constitution rather than going through this sneaky crap and seeking to subvert the process through which presidents are elected. It seems amazing that the Arkansas House has chosen to dilute the limited power we have in selecting a president, but that's exactly what's going on here.

Frankly, I like the Electoral College. Why? Because the "winner takes all" provisions of us give those of us in smaller states at least some voice in a system which could easily be dominated in larger, urban areas. Under the Electoral College, a candidate has to have a message compelling enough to carry the majority of electoral votes rather than just a plurality. In other words, that system gives those of us in Arkansas at least some voice in a government that could easily be pushed along by the whims of people in larger states like California, New York and Texas.

Under this bill that the Arkansas House likes, we're looking at something that's just as bad as the Electoral College is supposed to be, really. It's still a "winner take all" system, but the difference is that a plurality of voters across the nation decides who gets all of our votes rather than Arkansas residents.

As well intentioned as the drive to push the popular vote is, I have a major problem with skirting the Constitution and essentially rendering my vote meaningless. This state didn't support Obama and her votes should not have been cast for Obama.

It's no surprise, of course, that the Arkansas House voted for this mess. After all, the Speaker of the House is a subliterate fool who keeps us updated with his shenanigans through Twitter and prattles on like a petulant, 12-year-old girl.

Fortunately, HB 1339 hasn't passed the Arkansas Senate. With any luck, the Senate will realize the folly of putting something into law which is questionable under the U.S. Constitution and could disenfranchise a lot of voters.