Monday, December 13, 2010

Music Monday - Horatio Lee Jenkins

A beautiful, beautiful Christmas song.

Come join Music Monday and share your songs with us. Rules are simple. Leave ONLY the actual post link here and grab the code below and place it at your blog entry. You can grab this code at LadyJava's Lounge Please note these links are STRICTLY for Music Monday participants only. All others will be deleted without prejudice.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Music Monday – King Uszniewicz and his Uszniewicztones!

Come join Music Monday and share your songs with us. Rules are simple. Leave ONLY the actual post link here and grab the code below and place it at your blog entry. You can grab this code at LadyJava's Lounge Please note these links are STRICTLY for Music Monday participants only. All others will be deleted without prejudice.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Good news for Lum and Abner fans...

Ah, the good old Lum and Abner show.

I used to listen to reruns of that brilliant bit of old time radio on a station that broadcast out of Hot Springs. Specifically, I listened to those with my dad in the 1970s and 1980s.

There are still a good number of us Lum and Abner fans left. A good number of them have taken up residence at the National Lum and Abner Society. That group exists, in part, to preserve the history of the aforementioned radio program and God bless them for it.

The Society, for years, published newsletters dedicated to the program and has some script books available, too. You can buy some back issues of the newsletters and some of those script books while the Society has some in inventory -- click here to figure out how to do that.

Get 'em while they're hot, kids.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Music Monday - The Marsist

For a friend who left us too soon...

Come join Music Monday and share your songs with us. Rules are simple. Leave ONLY the actual post link here and grab the code below and place it at your blog entry. You can grab this code at LadyJava's Lounge Please note these links are STRICTLY for Music Monday participants only. All others will be deleted without prejudice.

PS: Because of spamming purposes, the linky will be closed on Thursday of each week at midnight, Malaysian Time. Thank you!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Tell Me Thursday – Brenda and the truck

Tell Me Thursday is a pretty dandy idea, indeed.

The idea, see, is to come back after the famed Wordless Wednesday event and add some words (so to speak) to your post.

Yesterday, I posted a photo of my daughter, young Brenda SueCarol, behind the wheel of my new truck.

What’s the point? In addition to taking advantage of an opportunity to show off my new vehicle, I can admit that the Dodge Ram has converted me from a Toyota fan to someone who’s happy with an American vehicle. No, I never thought I’d see that happen, but there it is (you’ll find more about my renewed admiration of American auto manufacturers right here).

Oh, and this is the first brand new vehicle I’ve ever purchased. Yes, I overdid it. The truck is heavy (5,064 pounds), I can’t manage more than 22 MPG on the Interstate due to a thirsty V-8 and the thing cost too much money. Ah, but screw gas mileage – that truck is more fun than a barrel full of Brass Monkey, I can carry four adults in comfort in it and and I’m sick of four-cylinder engines, anyway (there’s no substitute for a V-8, kids).

Enjoy some more pics of my kid and my new Ram:

Ram2 Ram1

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: ‘I can almost touch the pedals!”


More Wordless Wednesday participants here.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Hawg becomes a new media mogul

FirstArkNewsYeah, that's right – my fiendish plan to take over the Internet has been launched.

Want to see the future of them Internets? Just point that browser over to and gaze at the site in wonder.

I feel just like Sheriff Buford T. Justice on Smokey and the Bandit when he complained of “decorating up the whole town at a cost of $40.” I went and spent around $60 to reserve a couple of domains and host the aforementioned site for a year. I’m amazed at how cheap things are on the Internet – if that project fails, I’m out $60 and that’s not a bad deal.

So, what is that site? It’s something I came up with after watching online publications like Fort Smith’s The City Wire thrive. I visited with some other public relations guys, some freelance reporters and a newspaper (we need a content partner, right?) as I figured a bunch of us “professional” writers from around Arkansas could have a lot of fun and offer people a statewide source of news.

I told the writers I mentioned that my newest blog wouldn’t make money for at least a year so I wasn’t going to pay anyone who worked on the blog until we have some, like, revenue to share. Amazingly, a lot of those talented folks still accepted my invitation to help by submitting articles and photos.

The site is barely a day old and I’ve already learned that, well, I’ve got a lot to learn. Maintaining your own site can be a chore. Still, I figure I’m not too far away from modifying my template to my liking. After that work is done, the fun begins.

Stay tuned…

Friday, April 16, 2010

A professional kite flyer?

Jonah Hormel, 7, (left) and his cousin, Emilee Sebesta, 5, fly a kite together Wednesday at Rainier Vista Community Park. Sunny skies brought the two children to the park for a fun Spring outing with their family.
(Toni L. Bailey/Lacey Today)

My wife was reading the Thursday edition of the Benton Courier when she noticed the first Benton Kite Festival had been scheduled for Saturday at the old airport.

You can read all about the festival here, by the way.

One thing that struck me about the event is that a special guest, Robert Lassond, will be there. The Courier identified him as a professional kite flyer and reported that he goes all over the country to events such as, well, the Benton Kite Festival.

I can’t help but feel more than a bit jealous. How do I get that gig? How does one turn the enjoyable pursuit of flying a kite into a career? Why did I spend all those years in school to sit in a dull, drab office day after day when I could be getting paid to fly kites?

Seriously – what could be better than that? Earning a living by skipping rocks across a pond? Getting paid to drink beer or drive expensive muscle cars? Making cash money by taste-testing cotton candy or traveling throughout the nation watching major league baseball games?

My hat’s off to that Lassond fellow. Anyone who can turn kite flying into a profession has to be living right.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Playing guitar in church? You’d better get a capo, bub.

KyserCapoA few weeks ago, I was invited to play my guitar regularly in my church.

I was thrilled to do so, but I learned something in a hurry – piano players just love playing in keys that are completely unnatural for guitarists.

As odd as it may seem, piano players tend to love playing in odd-ball keys such as B-flat, F-sharp and, well, just strange stuff. Guitarists, meanwhile, tend to stick to conventional keys such as A, C, D, E and G. Why? Because it’s a lot easier to grab the chords in those keys than it is in say, B-flat (unless you’re playing barre chords, but those tend to not come out real well on a 12-string guitar like the one I bring to church on Sundays).

The solution to this problem is to get a capo. Yes, they’ve been slapped with the derogatory term of “cheater” over the years, but that’s not exactly fair. A capo allows a guitarist to easily shift to those wacky keys with ease. It’s the very device that allows pianists and guitarists to get along and I use mine extensively.

Here’s an example. Yesterday, we played “The Old Rugged Cross,” which is in the key of B-flat. Rather than throwing a fit about the key, I simply slapped my capo on the guitar on the third fret and played the chords for the key of G. The pianist didn’t have to bother with transposing chords and I was able to get through the song with ease. Everyone was happy.

In case anyone's interested, I've used Kyser capos for years and have had a lot of luck with them. They last forever (the one I've got for my electric guitar is over 20 years old and still working) and are very easy to use (one-handed operation for everyone but weaklings). If you've got a 12-string guitar, you want to buy a capo specifically for one of those. A standard, common capo for a six-string is too short for that wide fretboard on a 12-string and you'll have a lot of nasty buzzing on the high "E" strings (and perhaps the "B" string, too).

By the way, I got my 12-string back in February. My wife came home with a beautiful Fender acoustic 12-string guitar that I had my eye on for a few months.

Sure, she bought that because she got tired of hearing me make racket on my electric guitar. Still, that was a pretty cool move on her part.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

If you’re going to criticize Obama, get your facts straight


Here’s a scenario to ponder.

A talking head on a television network reports that there’s some language buried in the new health care legislation that will impose a 3.8 percent national tax on the sale of all new homes.

Since I’m a public relations guy in the real estate industry, I start getting calls from people who correctly point out that will absolutely kill the still recovering real estate industry. While such a move would certainly be devastating, there’s a problem here – the aforementioned talking head got her facts wrong.

What is actually buried in the healthcare legislation is a 3.8 percent tax on capital gains from the sale of homes. For individuals, that means that gains of over $250,000 (and $500,000 for couples) will be taxed 3.8 percent. In other words, most people won’t have to worry about the tax at all.

While I’m fundamentally opposed to new taxes (particularly at a time when the economy is garbage), there’s a huge difference between the tax as it was wrongly reported and the actual tax at hand. If you’re going to criticize Barack Obama, get your facts straight.

There are plenty of things coming out of Washington to get mad about these days. Why, then, do people seem to be going out of their way to make up things to criticize?

Griping about proposals that don’t exist is counterproductive – it makes Obama’s detractors look less than credible. That’s not the kind of thing we need going on now as we’ve got an opportunity to put a lot of Republicans in Congress.

What’s the best way to spoil the Republicans chances in November? Running around frightening people based on false information would do it – a dumb tactic when there are so many legitimate issues to discuss.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Hangin’ with the CEOs


My, but it’s been a long time since I updated this blog.

I’m sure that one person – heck, maybe even two – has asked, “What’s that The Hawg been up to lately?”

Well, quite a bit, actually. I’ll get into some of that later, but I figure simply pointing out that I’ve been ridiculously busy lately reveals enough details for now.

One thing that has been going on in the past few months is the my wife (the beloved Marci Kay!) and I have found a church that we really enjoy. That would be Parkview United Methodist here in Benton, Ark.

The reason I mention this right now is that I had the rare opportunity to stand up in church and give the sunrise devotional this morning. The church has a tradition of picking a layperson to give the devotional and this year, for some reason, the pastor decided to pick on me.

Oddly enough, I’m used to public speaking but I was as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs while I was standing up there at 7 a.m. To see the devotional I came up with, just click here and give it a read.

What’s odd to me is that I’m due to speak to just about all the county tax collectors and a few people running for office on Tuesday about how to put together an effective media relations plan. That doesn’t bother me. Standing up in front of my church and talking about faith and spirituality, however, bothered me quite a bit.


At any rate, the crowd was fairly small at 7 a.m. What was funny to me is that a slew of people showed up for the 11 a.m. service. A lady who’s in church just about every Sunday identified the crop of unfamiliar attendees as CEOs – people who show up in church on Christmas and Easter only.

That’s absolutely brilliant.

I hope everyone had a great Easter.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Music Monday - Cracker

Come join Music Monday and share your songs with us. Rules are simple. Leave ONLY the actual post link here and grab the code below and place it at your blog entry. You can grab this code at LadyJava's Lounge Please note these links are STRICTLY for Music Monday participants only. All others will be deleted without prejudice.

PS: Because of spamming purposes, the linky will be closed on Thursday of each week at midnight, Malaysian Time. Thank you!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Finding reliable game reviews online…


Yes, your old friend The Hawg has wasted many, many hours playing video games.

I started off with an Atari 2600 back when I was 12-years-old and I’ve gotten worse sense then. I’ve still got over 200 Atari games around here and, over the years, have added almost more systems to my collection than I can count.

Ah, but I’ll try. Let’s see – I’ve also got a Nintendo Entertainment System (top loader, no less!), Super Nintendo Entertainment System, Sega Genesis (with the Sega CD attachment), Nintendo Gameboy SP, Sega Game Gear, PlayStation 1, Nintendo GameCube, Sega Dreamcast, Atari Lynx, Atari 7800, Nintendo Wii, a Microsoft Xbox 360 and a couple of hardwired Pong clones.

I used to have a ColecoVision but it blew up one day (there was literally some smoke when that one gave up the ghost). I also had a Magnavox Odyssey 2 but I got rid of it because I never used and I dumped my Atari Jaguar because it was such a horrible system that looking at it literally made me angry.

Is there a point here? Well, yes. Most video games are garbage. Let’s face it – there are a few gems associated with any system but the bulk of the slop inflicted on the public sucks. Where can you go to find reliable information about games? A lot of the junk out there is pure marketing. Atari may have pioneered the practice of pretending that marketing material is actually news, but Nintendo, Sega, Sony and Microsoft have perfected the system so that most of those “official” sites on the Internet and magazine describe even the worst waste of programming on the planet as if it’s the greatest games made.

Running searches on the Internet for good reviews is often frustrating because some clever SEO techniques often route you to “official” reviews, bought-and-paid-for junk from publishers trying to act like they’re independent or junk.

Ah, but I’ve found at least three sites that offer up great, independent game reviews that can steer you away from the junk and to the good stuff. Of course, all these sites are free and feature quality content. So here’s the convenient, can’t miss list:

1. The Video Game Critic. Whenever I want to know if a game is good or not, this is the first place I visit. Why? That cat knows what he’s talking about and features bite-sized reviews that spare no punches. You can find games and hardware reviews on everything from the Atari 2600 to the Nintendo Wii over there. If you’re looking for both quality and quantity, this is the place to go.

What’s more, you’ll find some great advice for collectors. Which systems are great to collect for and which ones are not? Systems are graded along those lines and you’ll find more than a bit of history, too.

I don’t know if The Critic gets paid a dime for the great work he’s done over there, but I do hope he’s found a way to make running that site for years worthwhile. I honestly can’t say enough good things about the site.

2. Atari Age. Here’s another site worthy of a few superlatives. In addition to the sheer amount of history over there (Atari cartridge rarity, screenshots, etc.), you can also buy brand new games for a lot of classic systems there. And when I say new, I don’t mean games from 1980 that were never opened – I’m talking about games that were programmed by enthusiasts over the past few years. A lot of those games simply push the old Atari, ColecoVision, etc. to the limit and are nothing short of phenomenal.

Oh, and the forums are a blessing for those of us who love both classic and modern games. Ask a question about a game or system and you’ll likely receive an answer from someone with some expertise. The forums are very active and filled with people who are as enthusiastic about their old systems as I was about my Atari when I first got it for Christmas all those years ago.

Is that new handheld that plays Super NES carts any good? Where can I find some people to play with on Xbox Live? What are the latest Atari homebrew projects? All those questions and more can be answered through the forums.

Ah, and then there’s the news section. Find out about classic gaming conventions in your area, new publications and a whole lot more. It’s an impressive site, for sure and certain. Here’s a word of advice – don’t bash the Atari Jaguar in the forums or you’ll get jumped.

3. allgame. Yes, you do have too many press releases and there is a clear shortage of information on games for 8-bit computers, but you’ll also find a lot of screenshots, some instructions from time to time and some very in-depth reviews.

The reviews for more obscure classic games are hard to come by, but the more current ones are certainly covered. One thing I do appreciate is that looking up one game will result in suggestions for similar ones you might like. That’s a great touch and I find myself looking for reviews at allgame quite a bit.

So, there’s the list. Have fun!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Evernote – more free goodness…


Being a proud cheapskate, I love free stuff.

For that reason, I’ve hunted around for some of the best free applications available. Fortunately, things have changed a bit over the past couple of decades – truly useful applications don’t always cost money and the free stuff is often comparable to the commercial, “send me money” ones.

At any rate, I’ve been an attorney, a journalist and now I make my living as a public relations guy. Since I first started working, then, I’ve taken a lot of notes.

There’s a problem with notes – what happens if you leave your notebook at the office and need it at home? Wouldn’t it be great to be able to simply take notes on a computer and then open them wherever you’ve got Internet access?

Well, you can do that through a brilliant little application called Evernote. In addition to entering text, Evernote lets you clip images and such right off of Internet pages and paste them to the application – handy stuff if you run across some information or an image you want to save and refer back to later.

I’ve got Evernote set up on my computer at work and my two systems at home. Whenever I need a note, I just fire up the Evernote application on any of those computers and I can pull it up – Evernote syncs with automatically with all the systems running the application, so keeping up with that virtual notebook is a snap.

Furthermore, I can access my notes through the Evernote Internet site, meaning I can grab my notes wherever I have an Internet connection. How handy is that? I generally don’t bother with a notebook unless I’m out somewhere and lugging a computer around wouldn’t be practical.

Evernote has a solution for that problem, too, by the way. It runs on Android, Blackberry, iPhone, Palm and Windows Mobile (as well as on Mac and Windows computers), so it’s a portable application, too.

And, yes, it’s free. You can pay to upgrade Evernote for more storage space and such, but I haven’t come close to needing to pay for that upgrade and I’ve been using Evernote for close to a year.

It’s another great, free program that makes life easier. Give it a try.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Opera 10 – essential for netbooks


One of the great things my wife got me for Christmas is a Compaq Mini – the little system that’s made me a believer in netbooks.

I love my Compaq (a.k.a. the MicroLappy). The battery lasts four to six hours (depending on how hard I’m pushing it), the 10.2” screen is nice and clear, it’s light enough to drag anywhere and makes that laptop I use at work seem hot, heavy and almost impractical.

There is one major drawback to the netbook – that CPU is a bit slow, so I’m always interested in applications that don’t bog it down too much. I’ve been a Firefox fan for years and still am, but I’ve noticed a problem that is particularly bad when I’m surfing blogs – pages with a lot of graphics, weird scripts and etc. just slow the browser down to a crawl.

So I gave the new version of Opera a try. That’s always been a fast browser, but Opera 10 came with a feature that feels like it was just made for netbooks – turbo browsing. What is Opera Turbo? Simply put, it’s a concept that has been around for a long time – graphics are compressed significantly and that results in less CPU time and memory spent on rendering images.

Opera Turbo can be switched on and off with ease and that’s handy as there are times when those compressed graphics look terrible. Still, that feature doesn’t leave my Intel Atom processor puffing like a fat man running up a hill and I’m very glad of it.

Yes, there are some other things that are nifty about Opera. The ability to easily share files, stream music and such with friends through the Opera Unite application is very convenient. I also like the “speed dial” that allows fast access to frequently visited sites, but Google Chrome has something very similar to that so that’s not a terribly unique feature. Another feature that’s useful is visual tabs – something that allows the user to view tabs as thumbnails instead of just text.

Still, what sets Opera apart is really Opera Turbo. Opera is all about speed and the browser simply excels in that area. I still prefer Mozilla Firefox to any browser out there, but Opera is simply outstanding for use on netbooks.

And, of course, Opera 10 is absolutely free.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The best Nigeria scam yet?


Looking through that good old junk mail folder from time to time can be a hoot.

I wandered over to my junk mail folder and guess what I found? Yes, I discovered what my well be the best Nigeria scam on the planet. Click here to have a look and judge for yourself.

The brilliant thing about that particular email is that the scammer represents himself as someone who is part of an anti-fraud unit wanting to offer (get this) money to people who have fallen victims to Nigeria scams. That’s a sleazy, ballsy move, but I can’t help but admire the gumption.

Yes, the recipient of the email is identified as a victim of an implied Nigerian scam and, as compensation, there’s an ATM card with $950,000 on it just waiting to be delivered. All the victim has to do is send along $60 (and, of course, some personal information to be abused later) and the card will be sent right along.

Hey, that’s not a bad deal, right? Send in $60 and get $950,000? You just know there are some people in this world willing to take that gamble.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

My latest project…


As I’ve mentioned on here a time or two, my wife and I are renegade, ne’er-do-well Baptists.

In other words, we were raised up Baptist and turned Methodist. We’re members of Parkview United Methodist Church in Benton, Ark., and have discovered that place will gladly utilize whatever skills we bring to the table.

Since I like blogging so darned much, I’ve been called on to help that church with its own blog. So I’ve started working on that and you can find it here. I’ll warn you – it’s brand new and a bit rough, but I’m sure I’ll overdo it before long.

What’s in store in the future? How about a nifty audio player where people can listen to the latest sermons from the fabulous Pastor Dee, the requisite Facebook badge, a calendar of events, a signup form for a bi-weekly digest, the church newsletter and all sorts of bells and whistles. Truth be told, I’ll probably model it a bit after the blog I put up for my employer (hey, that thing is getting 2,000 unique visitors per week and I hope the one for the church does that well).

It’s a fun project and I’m thrilled to be involved in it. Hopefully, it will help the church do some good in the world (and that’s kind of the point, isn’t it?)

We don’t make anything anymore and that’s a problem? Really?


I was watching the CBS News national report tonight and saw a story suggesting it might be bad that we don’t make anything in the United States anymore.

When such an obvious state of affairs becomes news, it’s pretty clear why – exactly – our economy is in the toilet. Everything’s made in China these days and even allegedly American companies like Ford are still waving the flag while manufacturing cars in Canada.

That’s an ironic thing about Ford. There are few more cars more distinctly American than the Mercury Grand Marquis, but that’s made in the St. Thomas Assembly plant in Canada (a plant that’s supposed to shut down at the end of 2011, by the way). It’s a messed up world, indeed, when my Toyota was made in Indiana while your Ford might have come from Canada.

It seems we’ve come to a point in time where we design and program things – do all the “high level” stuff that pays well – and rely on cheap labor in places like China to actually build what we need. The sheer irony that the largest communist nation on the planet is also home to the largest, exploited workforce in the world is something to be reserved for another time.

At any rate, the problem with the “design it here and build it there” concept is that that’s simply not sustainable. Want proof? Look at China. That country has become an economic powerhouse for the simple reason that the industrial base there is huge. That economic might and industrial based used to belong to the United States and we let it get away.

Besides, at what point will those countries that are manufacturing everything want to get in on the design end of the process, too? We’re already at a point where we don’t make much, but what happens when we’re not designing anything, either?

While it might take a few years to get to this point, one thing that is undeniable is that our economy is a mess. I was visiting with an economist a few months ago after Obama was going on about job creation this and job creation that in his State of the Union address. My question to her was something that Obama didn’t answer directly – where will these jobs come from? What segment of our economy is strong enough to pull us out of our mess and turn things around in the U.S.?

Her response was a very chilling “I don’t know.”

Sadly, that’s about what I expected. I grew up in a town that prospered in the shadow of two major aluminum plants – Alcoa and Reynolds. This county was a wealthy one, indeed, as long as those plants were running and most everyone thought Alcoa and Reynolds would always be here. However, declining profits, increasing tensions between management and labor and a host of other issues caused those plants to start sending jobs to bauxite fields in Jamaica in the early 1980s. After a couple of decades, those plants were all but shut down and now must of us in Saline County, Ark., climb in our cars and go to work in Little Rock every day.

Saline County never has quite recovered from those job losses and I can’t help but wonder if we’re not looking at the same scenario playing out on a national scale. If manufacturing is handled overseas, agricultural imports are on the rise, tech support jobs are sent to India, and companies like Anheuser-Busch are bought (and “streamlined”) by investors in other nations, where are all those new jobs going to be created?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Dropbox – one of my favorite, free things


A few days ago, I decided to post about some of my favorite, free applications.

You know, the ones I simply can’t live without – those things that make working, playing and whatever else just that much easier.

I’ve already talked about Windows Live Writer, so today I’ll focus on a great, free application called Dropbox.

What is Dropbox? Simply put, it’s a great way to share files between computers. I have Dropbox installed on my computer at work and my two at home, making it a breeze to access all my files regardless of which computer I’m using at the time.

Drop box, essentially, puts a folder on your system that can be used just like any normal folder on your computer. Let’s say, for example, I write a column at the office and want to post it on a blog later from home. Since I saved my column in the Dropbox folder, I can access it from any of my systems that have the application installed.

Better yet, let’s say I get home and remember an error that I put in that column. I can change it on one of my computers at home and it will sync up with the other system – the new file will overwrite the old one on all computers where I’ve installed the Dropbox application.

Oh, and here’s one more thing. Dropbox also sets up a “Public” folder where I can save documents I want to share with (you guessed it) the public. Should I want to share a file from that folder, I simply right click it, copy the URL and post it just like a normal Internet link.

Now, there is a cost associated with Dropbox. You get two gigabytes of storage for free and have to pay if you want more than that. I’ve been running fine off the two gigabyte limit for some time now and can’t imagine having to go beyond that.

I simply can’t put into words how much easier Dropbox has made my life. Having access to my documents at home and at work is amazingly useful, as is the ability to alter documents and sync the changes with my other systems. If Dropbox was to vanish tomorrow, I’d be in a heck of a mess.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Cool, free stuff


Not so long ago, there were about four ways to get useful applications for a computer – buy a book and key in a program (usually in BASIC) from it, write something yourself, buy commercial software or engage in piracy and steal what you need.

We’re a long way from those days. Books and magazines listing out computer programs are long gone and most computer owners aren’t hobbyists who have an interest in learning to program. Fortunately, another thing has changed – there’s a lot of great things out there for free.

So I figure on spending some time mentioning my favorite free applications out there. The programs I’ll mention are always top notch and quite often compete favorably against commercial applications.

The first one I’ll mention is Windows Live Writer. That little application is surprising for at least three reasons – it was developed by Microsoft and it actually works, it was developed by Microsoft and it’s free and, finally, it was made by Microsoft and it doesn’t feel like a pale copy of a better piece of software.

What is Live Writer? A content management system that makes the ones bundled in with most blogging software look downright pitiful. Windows Live Writer is, in essence, a front end that works well with Blogger, Wordpress and most blog services.

Live Writer makes it a snap to link to sites, post photos, slap nifty effects on those photos, put videos on your blog and a whole lot more. It’s easy to set up, integrates easily with your favorite blogging service and acts more like a decent word processor than those often feature-depraved content management systems that are built into the likes of Blogger.

One of the best things about Live Writer is that content is saved locally – that means making changes is a heck of a lot easier than using a blog service to wander through a few screens, edit or update posts, etc. Creating new categories is a breeze, too.

Ah, and then there are the plug-ins. Yes, you’ll find things that will let you easily share your posts on Twitter, put Digg buttons with copy and such.

If you’re blogging and using Windows Live Writer, you should give it a try. It’s simple to use, flexible and there are a wealth of plug-ins out there so you can customize it to your particular needs. This free application is so great that I’m still surprised that Microsoft made it.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Yes, Toyota will be fine


Yes, the news has been full of reports about Toyota’s woes these days.

As we’ve been reminded time and time again, Toyota has recalled a slew of cars because of accelerator pedals that might stick. The Prius suffers from rotten brakes and those have been recalled, too. Oh, and the steering could be faulty for those owning a late model Camry.

The press has been breathlessly speculating about the downfall of Toyota as of late, too. Phooey on that. Toyota will be fine.

Let’s not forget that Ford once knowingly sold a car that killed people, Chrysler was so poorly managed that it had to be bailed out by the federal government and then had to be bailed out again 30 years later. At the same time Chrysler was getting survival money from the feds for the second time, GM had its hand out for a bailout, too.

So what happened? Ford recovered and is now the only viable U.S. car company left standing and Chrysler was applauded for turning around things so quickly after the Carter administration bailed it. Meanwhile, Chrysler and GM took their lumps after the feds had to zip and and save them – the public and press seem to have given both companies a second chance.

Did Toyota mess up a bit? Sure it did. However, the company is taking steps to correct those problem and – if history is any guide – all will be forgiven in time and Toyota will be just fine.

Of course, I’m highly biased. I’ve almost driven the wheels off of my 2003 Toyota Matrix and love the thing. It’s cheap, reliable and gets great gas mileage. My wife has a 2009 Toyota Siena which is expensive, reliable and gets almost tolerable gas mileage and we haul the kids around in style in that thing. Will we buy another Toyota? You’d better believe it. My 13-year-old son will get the Matrix in a couple of years and then I’ll probably be down at the Toyota lot picking out something new.

Why? I’ve driven Oldsmobiles, Fords, a Mitsubishi, a Subaru and a Chevrolet before I got my Toyota and I’ve not owned a car that lasts longer or stands up better to the sheer neglect and abuse which I inflict on all my vehicles.

Toyota will make things right and the company will be just fine.

One thing that annoys the hell out of me about Toyota’s troubles is that a bunch of lawyers have started filing class action suits against Toyota. Most of these things are from angry Toyota owners who are mad that recent reports of the company’s troubles have caused their vehicles to decline in resale value.

Seriously? I should have filed suit against Ford for the last few of those vehicles I owned that started losing value as soon as I took possession of them and drove them home. Only in America could a bunch of attorneys file a slew of ridiculous lawsuits and face no consequences.

You’ve also got some families that have been legitimately injured by faulty Toyotas who are suing for legitimate reasons. Good for them. Hopefully they’ll file product liability suits as individuals because class action suits are for suckers – the plaintiffs win a few bucks and lawyers get fat off of contingency fees in those things.

Meanwhile, Toyota will come out of this fine. If not, my mother has been extolling the virtues of Hondas for years and that new Ford Mustang GT looks great. Maybe I’ll look at one of those next…

Monday, February 8, 2010

Music Monday - ‘Do the Bear’

Kind of reminds me of Vic Snyder – a Democrat representing the 2nd District of Arkansas – in Congress, what with the mumbling and all…

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 LadyJava's Lounge Please note these links are STRICTLY for Music Monday participants only. All others will be deleted without prejudice.

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Wordless Wednesday – moon ring


This submission is part of all that wacky, wacky Wordless Wednesday fun.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The greatest thing ever


One of the greatest things on the planet showed up in my mailbox today – the Retro-Bit RetroGen.

What is a RetroGen? Only a portable Sega Genesis. That puts it solidly in the running for “The Greatest Thing Ever” award.

The pitiful photo above is one I tried to take of the RetroBit running Sonic The Hedgehog 3. I took about a dozen photos and they all came out fuzzy and horrible. So I got frustrated, scaled one down to nothing, wrote “suck” on it and then posted the photo here.

Fortunately, the system is a heck of a lot better than the photo. I bought the RetroGen for about $50 (with shipping) from Video Game Central. That’s cheap considering what a great system this is.

I had originally set out to buy a Sega Genesis Nomad but was deterred by the expense of the things (around $100 easy) and the fact those things simply suck down batteries – 6 “AA” batteries last less than two hours in that thing.

The RetroGen is a lot cheaper, it’s licensed by Sega and has a built-in battery that lasts up to six hours and is recharged through a USB port. The 2.8” screen on the unit is more than adequate and I’m even getting used to the control pad (it doesn’t feel a thing like the one on my Sega Genesis). The only two complaints I have about this unit is that the absolutely huge cartridge slot does get in the way (leading to a bit of discomfort) and the tiny speaker in this system is terrible.

Still, those slight negatives don’t detract much from this fine unit. The ability to take classic Genesis games on the road is too great for words and the unit is pretty solid. The emulation has been very good so far. It takes both Genesis and Mega Drive carts and can be switched between NTSC and PAL display formats.

And this unit is built on the Firecore emulation engine. All that means is this – there are still Genesis games being developed on the Firecore platform and this unit can run them with a special cartridge and mini SD card (apparently). I’m not too excited about this as this unit comes with 20 built in games and they all stink.

The exciting thing, of course, is that I can take that beloved Sega Genesis library of mine on the road. And for $50? That’s a steal. Want one? Get it by clicking here.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Casinos – just what we need in Arkansas


Michael Wasserman needs to stay in Texas and keep the hell out of my state.

Who is Michael Wasserman? He’s this fellow who keeps trying to get the voters of my beloved Arkansas to grant him a monopoly so he can build casinos all over the damned place.

He tried to get proposals on ballots back in 2006 and 2009 that would allow his company – and only his company – to set up casinos in Arkansas. Neither proposal made it to the ballot.

Now he’s back with a new proposal that would allow him to put up his sleazy little casinos in Boone, Crittenden, Garland, Jefferson, Miller, Pulaski and Sebastian counties. In other words, he wants voters to allow him to set up some mini Pottersvilles and lining his Longhorn pockets with our cash.

To hell with Wasserman and greedy little gnats like him.

I’ll admit up front that I hate casinos. In my mind, the only good casino is one that is empty, on fire and not covered by insurance. I don’t want them in Arkansas any more than I want the two current state-sanctioned gambling dens in Arkansas – Oaklawn (horse racing and a bunch of things that look like casino games but aren’t classified as such) in Hot Springs and Southland Greyhound Park (which has more of those casino lookalike games) in West Memphis. If you want to throw your money away, go blow it at one of those two filthy eyesores or (better yet) send it to me.

Yes, I’m simply opposed to casinos as I don’t want to live within 200 miles of one of the nasty things. However, my objection to Wasserman goes beyond moral concerns – as much as I detest casinos, the idea of giving someone a state-sanctioned monopoly so he can run one is simply ludicrous.

Why should Wasserman have the right to operate a profitable business when no one else can? If we’re going to let him show up in Arkansas and open one, how can we exclude the next guy or the one after that? How can we – as Arkansans – possibly allow a situation to exist where a guy can build a business that is absolutely free of competition?

If the people of this state won’t casinos, then let’s allow the things. Don’t just allow one guy to come in, build seven of them and not let anyone else compete. The way I see it, we either allow casinos or we don’t – monopolies are nasty and we ought not have them sanctioned by state law.

And, yes, that means that Oaklawn and Southland ought to be forced out of existence or forced to deal with the prospect of (gasp!) having to deal with competitors for a change.

Wasserman will, apparently, start his “Let Me Rape You, Arkansas” tour soon by trying to get enough signatures on petitions to put his self-serving proposal on the ballot. I do hope Wasserman and his flunkies get a chilly reception from my fellow Arkansans.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Looking for real estate news?


No, I’m not out trying to sell anything.


I don’t talk about my “day job” a whole lot around here, but I make my living as a public relations guy for the Arkansas Realtors Association. One of the things I do there is maintain our blog, The Arkansas Realtor.

So consider this an invitation to head over for a visit and sign up for our free digesting service by filling out the light blue subscription form in the right sidebar on that blog. You’ll get the latest in Arkansas real estate news as well as discussion of national trends, issues that impact consumers, etc.

The digests come out every two weeks and I do hope a good number of people subscribe. At the very least, I hope some of you folks will pay The Arkansas Realtor a visit and find something useful over there.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Music Monday – U2’s ‘Pride (In the name of Love)’

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.

PS: Because of spamming purposes, the linky will be closed on Thursday of each week at midnight, Malaysian Time. Thank you!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Pervert alert!


Now, folks, there’s a photo that demands attention, isn’t it?

It makes you curious – makes you wonder what it’s all about.

Just admit it – you want to find out all about the pervert. You want to know about what identified the particular individual as a pervert and what right minded people are doing about it.

Well, you can read all about the pervert (and his weird, trick sweatpants) by clicking here and heading over to the blog I maintain for my employer. The story is well worth reading. I promise.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Ding f’in dong!


Well, it’s official – U.S. Rep. Vic Snyder (D-Ark.) has called it quits.

That’s right, after virtually ignoring a heck of a lot of voters in his district for years, Snyder won’t seek reelection this year. Perhaps his voters in Little Rock will miss his rambling, mustache-mumbling speeches and “what the hell is he thinking?” voting record, but I feel relatively certain that some of us in the more “unsophisticated” parts of his district won’t miss the man one bit.

Yes, the Second District does include Pulaski County, which touts the highest population in the state as it includes Little Rock, our capitol city – but the man rarely showed signs there were some voters rushing around in other parts of his district. While Snyder may have been a darling with the alleged elite in Little Rock (well, as elite as a group can be in Arkansas, at least), I’ve wondered one thing since the man lurched his way into Congress in 1996 – what does he have to offer us yokels in Saline, Conway, Faulkner, Perry, Van Buren, White and Yell counties?

Not a whole lot, apparently. A poll released Thursday showed that Snyder was trailing Republican challenger Tim Griffin by quite a bit and was headed for trouble after carrying water for the Democrats in the health care reform debate.

So Snyder is out of the race and I can’t say I’m stunned. He was about to face some angry voters in this year’s election cycle and he knew it.

Oddly, this can’t come as great news to Griffin as he’s got money and public outrage on his side while Snyder had, well, some well-connected friends in Little Rock. If the Democrats come up with a strong candidate then we might be looking at a horserace in the 2nd District instead of the butt whipping we hoped to see Griffin (or anyone, for that matter) inflict on Snyder.

Whatever the result, at least Snyder will be gone and that’s good news. We’ll be better represented by just about any Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Green or Constitutionalist who can manage to get enough support to actually win the office. Hell, we’d be better represented by a rat terrier, a Folger’s coffee can or a sock monkey when you get down to it.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Music Monday – The Last Men

A great band that gigged around New York for awhile, recorded a single and then vanished. What? What happened? Were the Last Men too far ahead of the times, too cool or too disturbing? Who knows? The band did release “The Word” and “Jimmy Igo,” so 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.

PS: Because of spamming purposes, the linky will be closed on Thursday of each week at midnight, Malaysian Time. Thank you!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Tell me Thursday – Brenda spends a day at the office


Yesterday, I posted the photo over to the left as my “Wordless Wednesday” entry.

My nine-year-old daughter, Brenda SueCarol, wrote that last week when she spent the day at my office. Why? She wanted to spend the day at work with me (for some reason) and I didn’t object. I’m glad of that – she rather livened up the place.

I learned a few things from my daughter last week. For one thing, the kid can have fun anywhere. I’ve never thought of the office as much fun, frankly, but she found some ways to pass the time. She played on the Internet for awhile (of course), but got bored with that in a hurry.

What did she do to pass the time? Made snowflakes, drew a heck of a lot of pictures, spun around in a chair, ran in circles, ran around visiting with everyone who had some time to spare and sang to us over the intercom system.BrendaAtWork

She also told us one of the rooms in the building was haunted and wrote a two-page story about it. She took her place at the podium in the allegedly haunted room and read her story to a couple of us.

“How long has that ghost been here?” I asked her.

“For 250 years!”

“Brenda, the building is only a year old.”

“Y’all built around the ghost.”

Yeah, that’s my girl. She’s got an answer for everything.

HeadSideburn And so it went. She had a great time going to lunch with my friend Dave and me, telling everyone that I was growing a head sideburn (which, evidently, is that strip of hair that circles a large bald spot) and generally having more fun than anyone’s had in that office (or probably ever will).

Another thing I learned about my daughter is that she has a weird energy reserve. She chattered and ran all over the place from the minute she woke up until we stepped in my car to make that 25 minute commute back home. Before we were even 10 minutes into that drive, she fell asleep in the car.

To be able to run all over the place like a wild child for about 10 hours and then fall straight to sleep when the fun is over must be a great thing. I’m looking forward to my daughter’s next visit and I hope everyone else in the office feels the same way.

This entry is part of the soon-to-be-famous “Tell Me Thursday” event.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Shanahan heads to Washington


Well, coaching mastermind Mike Shanahan went and found himself a new job.

Shanahan, of course, was tossed out of his job as the head coach of the Broncos before the season began. The ungrateful bastards in Denver who threw him out on his ear added insult to injury by replacing him with Josh McDaniels – a snot-nosed little punk who didn’t do a thing to earn the job but know the right people.

It didn’t take Shanahan long to find a job – he’s heading to the Washington Redskins. In other words, Denver is stuck with a head coach that’s barely old enough to shave, a no-name quarterback who would probably be panhandling for a living if he wasn't playing football and an angry fan base (you can count me among those irate fans) while Washington stands to benefit from the Broncos’ stupidity. There’s some justice there.

The news of Shanahan’s job was just the icing on the cake during a couple of months that had to be terrible for McDaniels. His team started out 6-0 (based largely on freakish, circus-like plays at the end of games -- who knew that wouldn't last?) then promptly lost 8 of its last 10 games. Two of those losses were to Kansas City (a terrible team this year) and Oakland (even worse) and Denver is out of the playoffs.

After that disastrous end, McDaniels was certainly sent off to his room without dinner. Fortunately, he quit sulking long enough to pull out his “business crayon” and write a statement congratulating Shanahan (you can see his fine penmanship (crayonmanship?) above). Good for him. The young whippersnapper showed a bit of maturity there. McDaniels might yet become a man.

The frustrating thing about all of this is that I pointed out months ago that the Broncos couldn’t have done much worse than McDaniels. He was obviously a terrible hire, so why on earth am I reading articles like this one in which people claim that the Broncos are worse off than they were a year ago? It was obvious that bringing in McDaniels and replacing quarterback Jay Cutler with an anonymous bum like Kyle Orton would result in disaster, so why is anyone surprised? Why in the hell was McDaniels hired in the first place? It makes absolutely no sense.

What is truly hysterical about this article is that the author points out that McDaniels lacks maturity and is too emotional. What did anyone expect? Denver hired a kid to coach its team, so it’s no shock that he’s prone to throwing tantrums and making terrible decisions. Good grief.

Good luck to Shanahan in Washington. It’s absolutely preposterous that he was run out of Denver, so I can’t help but wish him well somewhere else.

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday -- my daughter writes a note...

This post is part of the famed Wordless Wednesday event.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The wise optometrist tackles the issue of health care


My little brother is an optometrist, so you’d better believe he’s got an interest in the healthcare debate that’s raging across the country right now.

Now, my brother is the bright one in the family. Want proof? He’s an optometrist who makes a good living by contributing something to society (good eyesight) while I’m a public relations guy who doesn’t contribute one damned thing. When he comes up with a good idea it’s worth hearing.

In a nutshell, my brother has noticed that we’ve been spending a lot of time talking about health insurance reform rather than true health care reform. The whole issue boils down to dollars and cents – the goal appears to be to both make health care more affordable and get insurance to people who need it.

Those two expenses – the costs of health care and insurance – are rather intertwined. There’s a school of thought out there that suggests that dropping health care costs will make insurance more affordable.

With that in mind, here’s my brother’s idea – simply pass legislation that will allow medical providers the option of offering a discount to people who pay for services up front. That’s a simple suggestion, to be sure, but it could well achieve quite a bit.

Could doctors already do that? Well, not really. Just ask a medical provider who’s tried to get away with charging two separate prices for identical procedures when Medicare is involved. If a doctor wants to collect, say, $100 for an office visit, he might charge $300 in hopes of collecting that much from Medicare or Medicaid. And you’d better believe there will be hell to pay if that Medicare patient or someone carrying private insurance is charged $300 while someone who is paying at the time of service is charged $100.

What happens? Everyone gets charged $300 and health care costs have magically risen. My brother’s suggestion, then, is to break that cycle by allowing doctors the freedom to discount their fees if they so choose.

What follows from that? You’d better believe that health insurance providers – both public and private – start figuring out how to pay up front in order to avoid paying higher costs after services are rendered and insurance forms are filed. In theory, then, health care costs have just dropped and insurance rates ought to drop, too (if, of course, competition among them is allowed and encouraged – that’s another discussion for another time, however).

The question, of course, is would doctors choose to offer a discount. My brother seems to think so – he’d rather accept, say, $50 for an office visit rather than charge $200 and deal with the headaches of filing a bunch of insurance forms. Other doctors would, hopefully, feel the same way.

There’s a good reason to think they might. If doctors like my brother charged $50 up front for a visit, you’d better believe they’d see their businesses boom while others charging $200 for the same thing would watch their patients vanish. That’s called competition – something we used to value here in the United States.

While such market-based solutions may seem quaint in this day and age where the government is invited to poke around in our private affairs, such an idea may gain some traction with the public. Who do you trust more to do something about increasing medical costs? Insurance companies, the federal government or physicians?

Seeing how I detest both Congress and the medical insurance industry, I’d be inclined to listen to what physicians have to say about health care costs. Oddly, it appears that group is rarely consulted in the current debate.

Music Monday -- Sly Fox

Yeah -- missing the 1980s a lot these days...
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.

PS: Because of spamming purposes, the linky will be closed on Thursday of each week at midnight, Malaysian Time. Thank you!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

An achievable New Year’s resolution


Yes, it’s another year and we’ve got a slew of people running around making resolutions they’ll never keep.

Ah, but not me. No, The Hawg has made a New Year’s resolution that I am almost certain to keep. Am I going to exercise more, lose weight, give it my all at work or anything like that?

No. I’m going to take it easy on myself this year. I, then, hereby resolve to watch even more television that I did in 2009.

Now, there’s a resolution that will take some focus and dedication. I’m sure, however, that I will be able to watch more TV if I just put my mind to it. That won’t be overly easy, of course, as the television is generally own and I’m in front of it unless I’m at work or sleeping.

There are a couple of things I can do, however, to achieve my goal. For one thing, I could sleep in front of an active television set, couldn’t I? There’s one in the bedroom, after all, and I did fall into the habit of falling asleep in front of the television and waking up in time to watch a rerun of Gilligan’s Island back when I was in college.

I could certainly fall back into that habit with little effort. Sounds like a plan.

Also, I do have some vacation time coming. Why waste it on doing things that would get me out of the house? Heck, I could simply take a couple of weeks off and spend them in my living room in front of that huge, flat screen television set that we bought last year.

Yes, we’ll see people fall short of their resolutions right and left this year. I, however, will be a success story.

Go ahead an enjoy the Boogie Boys video I’ve posted below. Not only does it have some dandy television references, it is also a song that could have only been recorded in the 1980s – my favorite decade.

Arkansas wins Liberty Bowl in overtime, stuns The Hawg


Well, it’s official – the Arkansas Razorbacks beat the East Carolina Pirates 20-17 to win the Liberty Bowl in overtime.

Yes, there have been a slew of bowls over the past few days. Rumor has it you’ve even got a national championship game in a few days.

We in the Natural State only gave a damn about one game and that was the Liberty Bowl (I know that’s true of a lot of us, at least). We’re just happy that Arkansas managed to win.

Frankly, I’m more than a bit amazed.

“But, The Hawg,” you might say. “Why are you amazed? Arkansas should have won that game.”

The only answer I can say is that Arkansas, historically, has been terrible in bowl games. Sure, the Hogs had some success in the old Southwest Conference, but the Razorbacks have found all sorts of odd ways to lose bowl games since joining the Southeastern Conference.

Hell, the Razorbacks lost to UNLV in the Las Vegas Bowl back in 2000, of all things. That was the worst bowl game loss in recent memory, but the Hogs have been decidedly underwhelming in a lot of bowls over the years.

Besides, East Carolina is a very good team. The Pirates won the Conference USA title and has offensive and defensive linemen that are both quick and ridiculously large.

At any rate, Arkansas’ win in the Liberty Bowl boiled down to one thing – the Pirates’ kicker was worse than the Razorbacks’. Arkansas tried to give the game away quite a few times, in fact, and the Hogs’ offense was terrible (you can credit the solid defense for at least 10 points due to grabbing a couple of interceptions).

Neither team could brag much about their kicking games. The Pirates missed four field goals and Alex Tejada – the kicker for the Razorbacks – managed to mess one up, too.

That’s the thing about Tejada – that kid folds faster than Superman on laundry day when he’s under any pressure at all. He’s been underwhelming in a number of games over the past three years, in fact.

Fortunately, he came through when he was needed the most when he kicked the game winning field goal in the Liberty Bowl. Good for him.

So congratulations to the Razorbacks. They didn’t look great tonight, but at least that got that victory and they managed to beat a good team, to boot.