Archives: November 2004

Mon 29 Nov 2004

Found by CrazyBrave

A while ago I made a post about various people using my pictures. Well, one of them found that post through their own referral tracker and posted about me:

The dying whimper of Pandagate ...
(Zoe, CrazyBrave)

My sister told me, after seeing her compost bin on the internet, that I needed a new hobby. Not as badly as this guy does.
She was refering to my Email Contest which she linked to in her post. Now, now, I know I am behind a bit on the count at the moment due to having to reconstruct September in the way I am, but no need to toss that out completely as a hobby!

But perhaps a couple new hobbies too wouldn't be bad. :-)

Abulsme - Mon, 29 Nov 2004, 11:42:30 PST
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Sun 28 Nov 2004

The Happy Haunting Red Thing

Well, it is now Monday, and the nice four day weekend is over. In just over six hours I need to be getting up to get ready for work. Which means I need to head to sleep shortly. But as I am returning to work, I thought I would share something about work.

At work there is a painting. It is above the copy machine. Near the printers. I walk by it many times. It haunts me throughout the working day and it follows me home and torments me in my dreams! This is it:


OK. Naked girl in a funny pose. I'm perfectly OK with that.

But what the hell is the red face thing floating above her and taunting her??? It looks like it is happy and celebrating in her obvious agony. What kind of sadistic pokemon sort of thing is it?? I have visions of it bouncing up and down in glee as thousands writhe in pain and torment. And probably singing some sort of song in a voice somewhat reminicent of Barney, but higher.. and perkier... and more insistant! A cross between a happy gurgling baby and a floating disembodied demon head spawned from the depths of hell. And she can do nothing but slap her head in disbelief and pain as it tortures her through all eternity!

Um, or something like that.

It is signed "B. Zong". But I could not find any reference to such an artist googling on the name. If anybody knows more, feel free to let me know.

B. Zong, whoever you are, your painting is slowly driving me insane!!!

Um, or something like that.

Abulsme - Sun, 28 Nov 2004, 20:57:33 PST
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Sat 27 Nov 2004

School Dragon

imageI got an email recently from PhotoSig asking why I haven't submitted anything in a long time. So I looked through the last year of pictures, and nope, there really wasn't anything worthy of submitting either there or to the Nikon Challenge, both of which a couple years back I was putting things up on a couple times a month. I've got a bunch of snapshots, but no "Photographs" of the frame and put on a wall sort. Oops. That stuff was fun. I have to do that again sometime. I should try to get into it again in the new year.

In the meantime though, when I looked through the pictures, I did find one I meant to blog about at the time but for whatever reason never did.

Last year they had an oil spill at Amy's elementary school in Pennsylvania. They had to move the kids to another school for a month or so while the cleaned it up. When they moved back into the school, they put up some decorations that reflected what they just gone through. Their mascot was a dragon. There had been an oil spill. So an oil well of course. And they should be together. Thus, this modified version of their dragon was on the wall of the elementary school gym for the rest of the year. Um... I just thought there was something not quite right about that. Oh well!

Abulsme - Sat, 27 Nov 2004, 09:53:06 PST
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Thu 25 Nov 2004

August 2004 Top Ten!!

Back near the end of September I notified the winners, but it is now posted here. Yea!

August 2004

No time to write very much for this top ten. I am writing by battery power while Hurricane Jeanne is roaring overhead. So no really exciting analysis. Kelly decided to win and did. Ivan and Ron are back after being gone awhile. Marilyn fell off the list.
Of course, the sad thing is, the web is now completely caught up with the actual count. Because of the hard drive explosion in October, the September count is still not complete. I have all the raw material needed at this point to recreate the count as best I can (although not perfectly). And I have done some of that work, but not all. I need to get back to that. I am way behind. Then after that I have to do October, which will be similarly labor intensive!

Without October's results, I won't know who has to get Christmas presents! Now that August's results are posted, I can buy presents for people with October birthdays who have made the top 5 in the previous year. Once September is posted I can do November birthdays. The finally once October results are posted, I can do December birthdays and Christmas.

There may not be Christmas presents until February folks! Sorry about that! I may be running a bit late this year! :-)

Abulsme - Thu, 25 Nov 2004, 20:59:38 PST
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Thanksgiving Family Pictures

No, not pictures from this Thanksgiving. We're not that organized, and we're delaying the whole Thanksgiving dinner thing since neither of us have been feeling well this last week. And it is hard to get everybody together into one picture since some of us live in cages.

But I figured it was a good time to put up a new bunch of pictures to show the expanded family since I put up the Pets and People page awhile ago.

So, being it is the whole Thanksgiving thing (well, it was yesterday, I missed the end of the day by a few minutes UTC) I figured I'd be thankful for the household here full of people and animals. We make a good bunch and I am glad we are together.

So, in the order they came into my life full time...













Cheese and Skittles:


Brandy's Fish:




Amy's Fish:




Thank you to all of you above for being a wonderful family here in Florida.

And thanks also to all of the rest of my family and friends who are scattered all over the country for putting up with me all these years. I know how difficult it is sometimes!

Abulsme - Thu, 25 Nov 2004, 16:03:46 PST
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Kidney Stone O Rama

image Randy, in his great wisdom, asked me for a picture, so of course I shall provide. Here is a picture of the kidney stone I passed around 01:00 UTC on November 24th. It is pictured here at the bottom of a pill bottle the drug store gave us free when Brandy asked for one for me. That was nice of them. I'd say the stone is about two millimeters in diameter or so. Maybe 3. Dunno. But not any bigger than that. This is of course zoomed in a little, and is likely larger than life on your screens.

I was rushing to take the picture before I went to the Doctor yesterday for my followup, in case he wanted to keep it. So I didn't have time to really worry about the lighting and background and such to take a really good picture. In the end though, I could have waited and taken my time. The Doctor said to keep it to give to the urologist as a follow up later. So I still have it. Um, if I can remember where I put it...

Abulsme - Thu, 25 Nov 2004, 13:49:18 PST
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Wed 24 Nov 2004

Place the States Quiz

Saw this Drag and Drop State Thing. (via TivoCommunity)

I got:

Score 98%
Average Error 1 Mile
Time 352 seconds

I messed up Tennessee. Right general location, just a few miles off E/W from where it should have been. (I had it slightly too far west.)

Anybody else want to try then report their scores?

(It randomizes the order of the states each time, and some orders are definately easier than others.)

Ooo... they have a bunch more!! The "expert geographer" ones for the various continents are really hard!

Abulsme - Wed, 24 Nov 2004, 07:11:20 PST
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Tue 23 Nov 2004

Backs, Emergency Rooms and Kidneys

Brandy's back has been acting up for awhile. Over the past few weeks three times she had to spend two or three days in bed to try to get to the point where she felt like she could walk again.

The most recent time started Sunday evening after we got back from a little shopping. Boom. Brandy was in pain and horizontal. The bed was too soft, so it was the couch, or the floor at times. It was just getting worse and worse.

When I came home for lunch Tueday, as I usually do, she was in pretty bad shape, and we collectively decided that a trip to the emergency room was in order.

We headed to the emergency room, and I called out of work for the rest of the day. Brandy had to lie down in the chairs in the waiting room because she was unable to sit. Walking to and from the car and too and from checking in was very slow and painful for her. Once signed in, over 5 hours of waiting ensued. (At one point I went and picked Amy up from school).

A little after 6 PM Brandy was finally seen by someone. Not a doctor, but a physician's assistant. He took a history. Ah, previous back injury from the military. There were no tests. He just ordered a shot and a few pills on the spot and gave out prescriptions for new pills. antinflamitories and pain killers. Stong pain killers.

Now, while we were waiting for Brandy to be given her pills, I started having pains in my lower abdomen. Familiar pains. Now, for the last several weeks I'd been off and on having that sort of symptom along with UTI type symptoms. I'd actually seen the doctor at a couple points. He had ordered some tests, then determined that at that particular day I wasn't bad enough for antibiotics... but by then I'd caught a bad cold, so he gave me stuff for that, plus one of my test results had shown an abnormal liver result, so he ordered follow up tests, and I was supposed to see him next week about that. But meanwhile, the pains had been off and on. But never TOO bad. I was taking some analgesic stuff to help me not mind as much, and was basically waiting to see him next week.

But as we were sitting there waiting for Brandy to get her meds, my pain was getting worse and worse very rapidly, accompanied by a very urgent need to go to the restroom every 3 minutes. But without much of any ability to do anything once there. Yup, I knew this feeling. Kidney Stones.

By the time Brandy's meds arrived... which included some percoset, I was joking that I wanted some too. But I wasn't crippled in pain, it was bad, but not yet disabling. And besides, we were there for Brandy and Brandy was hurting a lot and still could not move without excruciating pain. So I ran back and forth to the restroom in between holding Brandy's hand while she was on the stretcher.

They were completely overbooked and busy. All the rooms were full. After our five hours in the waiting room, we had finally been given an exam room in the ER, but then someone with chest pains was rushed in, and we were moved to a hallway. So we were out in a hallway for a long time.

Finally Brandy got her meds. It took almost an hour for them to kick in. But then she was quite loopy. Plus we had a couple prescriptions to take to the drug store. But we were finally leaving. Over 8 hours after first going in.

As we left, I joked about checking myself in. Aside from the fact that we would have been waiting another six hours most likely, it might have been a good idea. My pain was increasing very very quickly. By now Brandy was actually able to walk, although still with pain. I just wanted to rush home as fast as I could to take some of my own supply of percocet and then crash.

We needed to stop on the way home at the drug store though to fill Brandy's prescriptions. I had forgotten about this and was hoping it would be mere minutes until we were home. Now it was likely to be half an hour.

And yes, sure enough (leving the yicky details out), there in the CVS restroom, in one of many trips I made in the time we were at the store, I passed a kidney stone. Not a huge one. Probably just a couple millimeters in diameter. But it hurt like hell. And I was sweaty and feaverish from the pain.

So we rush home. Brandy has her meds, and her pain killers are fully kicked in. I am in agony. I just passed a stone, but it was not improving yet. First of all the damn things do a lot of damage as they pass, and second, there may be more... I can barely concentrate to drive, but I am better off than Brandy who is now drugged to the hilt. By the time we get home Brandy is good enough to walk on her own, and I literally run in to drug myself with a couple percocets. (And to get back to a bathroom.)

So now, as I write, Brandy is still in pain and not as mobile as she should be, but is in a nice painkiller haze.... (And of course the painkillers don't actually fix her back problem... that may not be fixable, it is a degenerate disease... but to feel normal again she'll still have to be on bedrest the rest of the week probably.) My painkillers have still not fully kicked in. I feel better than I did an hour ago, but am still in a lot of pain. I hurt constantly and am trying to distract myself by writing, and I can't spend more than about 3 minutes away from the bathroom at a stretch. And the percs are starting to make me dizzy and nauseous. Hopefully they will kick in before I upchuck, or we may be heading back to the ER.

Don't we make a wonderful healthy couple?

We are both a complete mess tonight.

I really hope tomorrow is better for both of us.

Abulsme - Tue, 23 Nov 2004, 18:18:49 PST
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Mon 22 Nov 2004

Darkflash: Big Easy

Just a few more of these to go. Things that would have been blog posts had I had a blog at the time they happened. This one was sent to friends and family September 6, 2004 02:31:27 UTC.

So, we left Apalachicola and then within the hour on the radio we heard that the forecasts had changed, and they now definitely thought Frances would be a hurricane again when it hit the panhandle after strengthening in the gulf. And the predicted landfall location was... Apalachicola. Right on the nose. And the panhandle coast, including Apalachicola was announcing evacuations for coastal areas. Including where our motel was. Well, that was that. We'd apparently made the right decision.

Anyway, we main roads were not bad at all along our route, so we did the "fastest" route instead of a back road way. And we indeed made it all the way to New Orleans. We are now in a Motel 6 in New Orleans. (Brandy remembered that ALL Motel 6's are "pet friendly" so we didn't even have to search or ask.)

So, we're in New Orleans. Which is out of the "cone" of possible movement for the center of Frances. Well away from the cone. We probably could have stopped earlier, but we felt like continuing. And neither of us had ever been to New Orleans. Don't know how much sightseeing we'll be able to do anyway. We'll probably mostly be at the motel. But we shall see.

The local New Orleans news is saying that we shouldn't even get any rain from Frances unless it shifts way further west than expected. So looks like we won't see any of the fun weather. :-)

Currently we have booked two nights here. That should be enough for Frances to get out of the way. Then depending on what the news is saying about if people should return home we'll either head home or stay here a little while longer.

And then as soon as we get there, we'll probably have to leave again for Hurricane Ivan, which seems to be heading right at Florida too. Although perhaps Ivan will go visit Ivan in Miami instead of going to Melbourne like Frances. :-) [Although Ivan is far enough away still that it could pretty much go anywhere from Mexico to the Carolinas.]

Anyway, fun fun fun. The news shows a lot of damage in Melbourne / Palm Bay, but keeps saying it is much less there than a little further south, and it could have been much worse, and most of the damage is not catastrophic. Which is good. But we won't really have any idea how things are until we get back, or we contact folks we know there who stayed to have them look at the house. We'll see.

In the mean time, time to go eat, then I think Amy wants to use the pool here. This time we stopped and got suits for all of us. Then to bed. It has been another long day.

Abulsme - Mon, 22 Nov 2004, 15:36:25 PST
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Ibengdo Athar Orwamro

My good friend Rebecca just announced to the world what the name of her and Chris's baby would be. You can see the full post here. This is after Rebecca and Chris went through a lengthy process for deciding on a name. No, it isn't Ibengdo, although that is what it would be in the same way that my name (Samuel) turns into Abulsme. Perhaps I will call him Ibengdo. But that is not it. See her post for the real name.

I'll be honest, my first reaction was much the same as the one Rebecca got at her shower. Yes, I think the only thing that will save the youngster from getting beaten at school over his name is the fact that he will be six feet tall by the time he is seven years old. :-)

However, as I started to think about it, I remembered the many emails Rebecca had sent me talking about how "proper" children should behave. You know... Being quiet and well mannered at restaurants. Not running around and making noise at grocery stores. Not having to be told more than once to do something. Not talking back to their parents. You know, that sort of thing. And then, when I pictured in my head a kid that behaves that way all the time, yes, yes... I could see that name. It fits perfectly! :-)

In any case, I am looking forward to meeting the young man in a few months. Congrats Reb and Chris on the name choice. Sorry I couldn't make either of the two baby showers. I sent something along, you should have it in a few days. Hope Ibengdo likes it!

Abulsme - Mon, 22 Nov 2004, 07:19:04 PST
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Frump Watch

A few weeks ago Bob Frump, one of the many bosses I had at my previous employer, emailed with this note:

The History Channel will run a documentary on the sinking of the Marine Electric on Nov. 22, 9 PM EST as a part of its Deepsea Detectives series. The producers seemed to know what they were doing and I have high hopes for it.
I had been waiting to blog this until right before the broadcast. Because I waited, I can augment the above with this additional detail Jon sent me a few days ago:
When the History Channel airs its TV documentary "Ship of Doom" on November 22, [...] employees at the corporate campus in Princeton, New Jersey, will see a familiar face.

That's because the show is based on a book written by their colleague, Bob Frump, the editor in chief for GPC Marketing Brand Communications, and he is interviewed by the TV network's historians during the show.

Frump's book, Until the Sea Shall Free Them, is the nonfiction narrative of how an old ship, the S.S. Marine Electric, sank with most of her crew off the Virginia coast during a winter storm in 1983. Frump said Disney/Buena Vista has optioned film rights for the book, which was published in 2002, and has budgeted production for a feature film.

The History Channel airs the show on Monday, November 22, at 9 pm Eastern time as part of its Deepsea Detectives series, whose episodes feature the attempts by divers and technical experts to discover the reasons behind famous shipwrecks over the centuries.

For the "Ship of Doom" episode, divers searched the rusted hulk of the Marine Electric 134 feet beneath the Atlantic to discover what caused the merchant ship to sink. The History Channel's website synopsizes the theme this way: "Survivors blamed the owners for sending an unsafe boat to sea. But the owners charged that one of the survivors caused his crewmates' deaths by failing to observe basic safety procedures. In the shadow of these allegations, the wreck is a potential crime scene."
That is from an announcement sent out to employees back there at the old job.

In any case, congratulaions to Bob, this is great! Now everybody go set your Tivos!

Uh, and Brandy, I forgot to set our Tivo to get this. Can you set it so I won't forget later? Thanks! :-)

Abulsme - Mon, 22 Nov 2004, 05:54:00 PST
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Sun 21 Nov 2004

House Cleaning

Last night after dinner we drove by the house we are trying to buy. It looked like they may have begun the repairs. Or at least some cleanup. It was dark and we did not get out of the car to go look in more detail like we have other times, but it seemed like some of the debris from the front of the house had finally been removed or piled up to go. So it looks like they may have started.

A bunch of things still have to go right for this to happen. They have to finish the repairs, and the inspections have to confirm that it is indeed as good as it was before the hurricanes and there are no other major problems. And I have to get the last of my relocation payments from work. And we otherwise have to have no major unexpected costs between now and whenever closing happens. (Probably January, but maybe December... depends on how long the repairs take.) We shall see. Any one of a number of things could yet derail it. But it looks good at the moment.

But since it now looks like this may happen (as opposed to a month ago when it looked like it the odds were slim) here are a couple pictures.

First, this is the house we are renting from Ivan's family right now:


And then this is the one we are trying to buy:


(Both images are from the Brevard County Property Appraiser. They are at the same scale. North is up in both pictures.)

Crossing our fingers for everything to work out!

Abulsme - Sun, 21 Nov 2004, 12:05:01 PST
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Fri 19 Nov 2004

July 2004 Top Ten!!

Catching up some more on the email top ten postings. Here come the July results!

July 2004

Not a huge amount of action again this month. But healthy amounts of email from the usual suspects. Matt drops off the list to be replaced by Kelly. Otherwise, people floated up and down a little, but not much change. Chris added a little volume, and took the lead from Matt, who essentially disappeared for July. And that was that. Go Chris.

Abulsme - Fri, 19 Nov 2004, 18:17:36 PST
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Sat 13 Nov 2004

One Year

Brandy and I were thinking about something that had happened and were trying to figure out if it had been more or less than a year ago. (I think it turned out to be more.) But anyway, that led Brandy to check something on my blog.

She was looking for this entry. That post announced the death of my parakeet Brain. It was a sad day. But when she rushed back to my house from her house to help me bury Brain and to grieve with me, it kinda marked the start of when we started "dating". Well, that can be counted in many different ways. We first met back in February 2003. I think. Our first "date" was in March 2003. And we talked and saw each other fairly regularly from that point onward as "just friends". And certain other (cough) milestones (cough) would actually be later on down the road than this date. And I didn't actually say publicly to anyone that we were a couple until this post almost a month later.

But the transition into being a couple, or at least calling it that kinda happened that day. In retrospect, we had been acting like a couple for months before that. But this was when we sort of started realizing it ourselves.

I put that posting up at:

12 Nov 2003 01:44:39 UTC

Exactly one year later (given the true length of a year and the oddities of the calendar) would be:

11 Nov 2004 07:33:25 UTC

Um, it's now a little bit more than two and a half days since then. So I guess we missed it. Oops.

But, better late than never I suppose.

Happy one year of being a couple Brandy. It has been a great year. It is hard to believe it has actually ONLY been a year. Thank you. I love you. And here is to the next year being as fun as the first, but perhaps not quite as chaotic!

Abulsme - Sat, 13 Nov 2004, 12:43:48 PST
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June 2004 Top Ten!!

OK, I know I am many months behind. First the website was down, and then there were other things. But I'm trying to catch up a little bit. Before long everything will be back to normal! In any case, while the winners found out back in July, now the results can be made public! Here is the top ten for June 2004!

June 2004

Well, June was a bit odd, because between me moving, and me not having a computer for half the month while it was in for repairs, I basically answered almost no email at all. So with a few exceptions, most of the email in this month's contest was essentially people talking amongst themselves while copying me, or them just talking to themselves valiantly waiting for replies from me which didn't come until many weeks later if at all. Yeah, I know, I suck. What can I say, I've been busy, and my computer was broken!

Abulsme - Sat, 13 Nov 2004, 12:32:17 PST
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Fri 12 Nov 2004

Safer Once Again

The world is continuing to get safer. Grenada and Cuba have both had their travel warnings lifted. Presumably because the hurricane damage has pretty much been taken care of. This brings us back to a level of 26 countries with State Department travel warnings... which in the little more than a year I've been doing this seems to be the "normal" level.

State Department Travel Warnings Over Time

A chart of how many countries world wide have US State Department Travel Warnings as that number varies over time.  Serves as a proxy to chart roughly how dangerous the world is as the world situation changes over time.  Perhaps not the best measure of that, but an interesting one perhaps.
So anyway, start planning those trips to Grenada and Cuba! They are OK now!

Abulsme - Fri, 12 Nov 2004, 04:27:27 PST
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Thu 11 Nov 2004

Sam's Pictures in Odd Places

OK. So for the last year or so, when I've looked at stats or logs from my site, I've actually looked at filtered logs, with just the hits to actual PAGES. Yesterday I decided, for the first time in ages, to look at the FULL logs. I found some fun things.

Just like the picture of Sara was in the email going around, several other of my pictures are in use on other websites. For now, I'll highlight the ones I found from looking at the full logs for my website for 11 Nov 2004 (UTC of course). These are fun! (Listed in order by the first time each appeared in the log during the day.)

#1) 00:10:55 UTC CrazyBrave: They use my picture of a sad panda to illustrate a point about "PandaGate".  PandaGate is apperantly some sort of scandal going on in Australia. The sad panda is very sad. I found it on the ground by the dumpster in the rain one day. I almost saved it from its fate, but in the end I just took pictures. And now it is immortal!

#2) 00:23:49 UTC The Condominium: Someone on this discussion group thing uses this picture of Spaghetti from my site, but the discussion board is members only, so I can't see the context. My context was that I picked up the box of spaghetti not knowing that the bottom of the box was open, and it spilled all over the floor. I wish I could see what they were saying about it! (But not enough to try to join their little exclusive club or whatever it is.)

#3) 02:37:44 UTC Kelliee's LiveJournal: A user named "heartsofarmor" posts a picture I once took of a daddy longlegs type spider thing with a caption "that's what they look like here in Georgia".  Actually, I took the picture in New Jersey. South Brunswick, New Jersey to be specific. But to be fair, they probably do look pretty much the same in Georgia. They were trying to show someone on the West Coast what East Coast daddy long legs look like, because apperantly they are different. I did not know that.

#4) 02:37:48 UTC Quick Impulses' Live Journal: Uses a picture I took of a Fuzzy Road in some sort of angst ridden passage about fear:  "I'm experiencing a third level of fear - not that I desire to fit in and fear I can't; not that I fear directly what other people think of me; not that I think the standards of appropriate behavior as observed by the rest of the world should necessarily be mine - but that one day by something I do not fear now, I will learn to fear all these things, that I will learn to hate myself when a stuffy establisment doesn't accept me, and to change for it so that they do." That is what he says right before my picture.  OK.

All four of those got repeated hits all through the day. Very interesting. A little odd, but fun. (And no Rebecca, I don't mind at all that they are using my pictures without permission, I think it is cool, although it would be cooler if they dropped me a note telling me!)

There are even more places like this that I've found by googling myself that just didn't lead to any hits yesterday, but I'll save those for another day. Some of them are pretty funny. I'll post about those sometime before too long.

I'll do one as well sometimes on just all searches that lead people here and similar things. But not today.

Abulsme - Thu, 11 Nov 2004, 16:10:36 PST
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House News: Progress at Last!

Got this from our agent a few hours ago:

The listing realtor will have the extension signed by the sellers. She has told me that the roof is scheduled for the end of the month. Hopefully, it will get done on time so the other repairs can also get done. There is nothing we can do at this time but wait and see. I will keep you informed as progress is made.
For those of you following along, after the sellers had told us they would not be able to make repairs in time for the closing that had been scheduled, we agreed to give them more time after we got our mortgage rate lock extended. But they still had no actual date scheduled for the repairs to start. Now they do!

So soon all of the wreckage resulting from two direct hits by hurricanes will be gone and the place will be back to the state we originally saw it in!

At one point in this process, I put the odds of this thing working out at like 25%. That was when they still had no date for the repairs, they told us they would not be able to meet the deadline, and we didn't yet know if we could get the rate lock extended. Now, with a rate lock going through late January, and them startiung repairs in a couple weeks... I'd say it looks pretty good again.

There are still a few things that have to fall into place to make this happen. So it isn't 100% yet. But much higher. I dunno. Maybe 80%? So here's crossing fingers that they do the repairs quickly, but with quality and that all the money stuff on my side falls into place in time, and everything else goes smoothly!

And then, if all goes well, we can enjoy being house poor for awhile... cause with the additional monthly cost, plus moving expenses, plus new things we'll need for the house... we'll be scraping by for at least some transitional time. So a bunch of those "optional expenses" like new gadgets and such will have to wait at least six months, maybe more. And we'll have to cut back a little bit on our usual spending too. Hopefully not for VERY long, but for at least awhile while we transition and adjust...

Very exciting. But stressful too!

Abulsme - Thu, 11 Nov 2004, 15:21:28 PST
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My World Now

The view of the world right now, centered on me, as it should be.


Up on the image is oriented toward the current location of galactic north.

(OK, this is actually what it looked like about half an hour ago, it took me a little bit to get it online... since then galactic north has moved a little bit relative to the planet, and of course the sun has too, and the cloud patterns may be a few hours old... but basically this is what it looks like.)

It is pretty. I like it.

Abulsme - Thu, 11 Nov 2004, 13:21:53 PST
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I've noticed over the past few days that I seem to have fake people registering here. Not that many yet. So far there are 8 registered users. 1 is me. 2 are people I know. 1 more is a person who might be real. Then four are from russian domains with random letters in their emails and names who appear never to have logged on, read any posts, or posted any comments. I am guessing these are not real. And some have website links in their profiles like people trying to increase google page count. Anyway... I've turned on the feature to require "activation" of new accounts, hopefully that will stop these fake people. (Of course, only 4 of them over the course of over a year isn't THAT bad... but there are now as many of them as real people, so time for action!)

I'm still leaving comments wide open, but if I start getting any comment spamming (which is getting more prevelant) then I'll start requireing registration for that too.

Anyway, I'm late for work. Gotta run!

Oh, and if you are one of those Russians, and you are actually real, let me know. :-)

Abulsme - Thu, 11 Nov 2004, 04:45:08 PST
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Wed 10 Nov 2004

Treo Number Four

So today at lunch I went with Brandy and exchanged my Treo 600 for a new one under warrentee. Right now it just finished resyncing with my laptop to restore all my contacts and programs and such. This is now my FOURTH Treo 600!!!

#1) Ordered right after the things first came out. Got it all set up. Loved it. Used it a lot. One day, the screen just was blank. Backlight on, nothing there. It was a decent flashlight, but no longer a phone. I paniced and was all upset, ready to buy a new one. Brandy made me go to the Sprint store though. They said "looks like you killed it" and then went into the back and got me a brand new one in the box. This was while we were still in PA.

#2) While I was going back and forth between FL and PA (March through June) I was doing conference calls a lot, so I bought a headset for the phone. I proceeded one day to wrap the headset around the phone, stick it in my pocket, and then sit on it. The headset had a remote control volume and microphone thingy that would normally hand down and you talk near it. Well, it is a kind of bulky thing, and when I sat on it, it pressed into the screen, because the way I had wrapped it, the bulky part was on the screen side this time, and not on the hard back of the Treo. The screen was smashed to smithereens. This time the Sprint store told me that this was NOT covered under warentee, cause, well, I had smashed it. I had to buy a brand new one full price. Bastards.

#3) When I get calls on my cell at work... or when I have to make a call, I go outside. Two reasons: One, reception in this building sucks because it is basically a metal box. Two, my office has tall walls and a door, but the walls do not go all the way to the ceiling, and are pretty thin anyway. There is no privacy. So I go talk on the phone in the parking lot. Well... in the summer in Florida when you go stand in a parking lot it is HOT. And when it is hot I, well, um, tend to sweat just a tad. After a 15 minute phone call, my face is soaking wet. And, since I am holding the phone next to my head, so is the phone. And I have discovered that Treos don't like being soaking wet. The phone would start to flip out and do all sorts of random things. The keyboard would become unresponsive. The screen would sometimes work and sometimes not. After a few hours it would all dry out and work OK again. Well... the first few times anyway. Eventually some of the buttons stopped working completely. Namely the "Alt" button that lets you type symbols like @ when you are doing email. And the shift key, that lets you do capitals. And the space bar, which, well, does spaces. Finally the zero key started to be erratic. And while I used the touch screen to actually dial phone numbers, you have to use the zero on the keyboard when you go through those menus and stuff for customer service. I kind of needed the zero. Anyway, I'm not really sure if it was the sweat or not, but this time Sprint gave me a warentee replacement. (And even if they hadn't, after #2 I signed up for the $4 per month phone insurance to replace the phone for a small deductible if I destroy it.)

#4) The one I picked up today. This time instead of a brand new one in the box with all the accessories I got a "factory refurbished" one. Oh well. I was hoping for a new one again, but given the situation I won't complain too much. This one looks like new anyway. I also bought a new case for it that completely encases the Treo, with a clear plastic front that you can actually use the touch screen and all the buttons through. So I never have to take it out of the case. Ever. So I should be able to sweat on it if I have to. And I got a new headset, but one big enough and oddly shaped enough I will not be tempted to put it in my pocket. It stays in the car use for hands free driving only, not for normal use when I'm not driving. So hopefully this one will be OK. And if I do destroy it by mistake, I have that insurance now.

Of course, now there is a Treo 650. I of course want one. Next time I kill the 600, maybe I'll be able to upgrade. But as usual, there are a BUNCH of things on the "to buy" list ahead of that...

So for now, I'll see how long I can make Treo #4 last. They seem to be averaging about 3 to 4 months each.

Abulsme - Wed, 10 Nov 2004, 13:04:51 PST
Permalink and Comments [4 comments]

Tue 09 Nov 2004

Comment Notification

OK, one feature that is provided by this blog software that for one reason or other I never had activated and functioning properly is comment notification. I had it visible on the blog when I first launched it, but it never worked, so I eventually removed it.

Well, tonight I got it all up and running and working.

So now, if you add a comment to a post, you will have an option to check a box to be notified if anybody else responds to that post. Woo!

(I also get an email when someone responds to any of my posts, so now I'll catch comments being added to old posts, which I sometimes miss these days.)

For now I am continuing to leave commenting wide open to anybody, but at some point in the future I may start requiring registration for posting.

This thing has other mailing list features to let me send emails to registered members and such, but I haven't explored them yet.

One thing I may look into next time I have is to provide automatic notification of new posts to people who register for the mailing list on here or something. Right now I email the monthly top ten list whenever I make a post, but that is manual. It would be nice to automate that for the top ten. And then I guess letting any non-top-ten people that want to sign up for such a list be notified as well would be fine too.

But that's require some more research into the tool and probably a little bit of custom modification of the code. So that will wait awhile. Maybe days. Maybe months. Next time I get inspired.

For now, I should have gone to sleep about 3.5 hours ago, and have to be up in 5 hours, so even though I'd like to look into this more right now, I will not.

So for now, content yourself with the fun new feature of being told if other people respond to posts you respond to... if you want that. :-)

Abulsme - Tue, 9 Nov 2004, 22:23:19 PST
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Maps, Maps, We Got Maps!

I know I'd basically decided to switch off commentary on elections and politics and such for now cause I kind of overdosed in the weeks leading up to the election, but this is about MAPS. And I love MAPS!

I'd seen most of these in other places in the last week, but this page nicely puts them all in one place:

Election result maps
(via Andrew Sullivan)

This starts with the tradtional red/blue state by state map and shows the county by county one too. But then also shows the cartograms for each (with the states distorted so their sizes represent population instead of land area). And then it ends up with the "purple maps" that show various color shades between red and blue to show the how the percentage vote really broke down rather than just straight red or blue depending on the winner.

The red and blue ones make one wonder if another civil war is something we should worry about since the differences seem so stark and to align so neatly with geographic divisions. But looking at the purple map you see that most places are indeed a healthy mix ideologically, with some places leaning a bit more one direction or another, but basically most places being basically "purple".

Well, OK, if you look at the last map he gives, where anything over 70% in one direction is solid red or blue, it looks bleaker and more divided again, but lets concentrate on the purple map in the middle!

Also, I note he has left out both Alaska and Hawaii, as many people often do. Perhaps we should just shove both of them back out of the nest and let them go their own ways. :-)

But hey, funky cartograms!

Abulsme - Tue, 9 Nov 2004, 13:34:54 PST
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Sun 07 Nov 2004

Where I Have Been

Just saw a link on Fark to a cool little Tool from World 66 that lets you easily plot a map of where all you have been in your travels. So of course I did so... I used my memory and also looked through the Visa's in all my old passports going back to childhood. Here is what I came up with:

Note: On the world level they count Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands as countries, and on the Europe level they break the United Kingdom up into its parts... I wouldn't have done either of those, but I'll stick with how they set it up.

Countries of the World: Canada, United States, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, Angola, Mozambique, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, France, Germany, Netherlands, Portugal, Switzerland, United Kingdom

Countries of Europe: France, Germany, Netherlands, Portugal, Switzerland, England

States of the USA: Alabama, Arizona, California, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachussetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin [Edit: See my comment in the comments section for revised map based on new information.]

Provinces of Canada: Manitoba, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Quebec

And that's it! I need to get back into the grove of the random trips so as to fill in some more! Like I'm not sure how I missed Kentucky and Michigan! I have a call in to my mom to see if I visited either of them as a child and don't remember. Those are the only two east of the Mississippi that I haven't been in. And the next random trip will fill out Mexico, whenever we are actually able to get to it...

Anybody else want to share those? After you do it, they give a chunk of HTML which I think (although I am not sure) will work if you just cut and paste it into the comments here. [Edit: Looks like the site might be farked now... if it doesn't work, try again later...] [Edit again: Farking has subsided, and pasting the HTML it gives you works fine except for a little extra code that shows up, but that is fine, it works.]

Of the regular readers here, I bet Ivan can do best on contries worldwide. Not sure if he is also who would do the best on states.

Abulsme - Sun, 7 Nov 2004, 12:05:58 PST
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Fri 05 Nov 2004

Marcus Beat Me

And beat me by five months too! I'll have to get that HDTivo sometime! But new house and computer and maybe car will call come first. Darn Marcus! Well, at least it is broken. :-)

HD Tivo becoming unusable over the last few days
(Marcus Alzona, TivoCommunity)

Over the past few days, my HD Tivo (unmodified, working fine for 5 months) has becoming unusable. Its the same occasional problem I used to have with an SD DirecTivo or an SA Tivo - sometimes, you'd press something on the remote, and it either wouldn't respond, or respond in a few minutes to all your presses (not a remote issue - you'd see one of the Tivo's LEDs flicker as it receives the command). The problem would go away on its own most of the time, and a reboot would always fix this problem.
Oh, and hi to Marcus and congratulations on the new baby. :-)

Abulsme - Fri, 5 Nov 2004, 13:29:29 PST
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The Rat Bird

Our birds haven't done this... yet.

'Rat bird' feels at home
(Katrien Smit, News 24)

Rottie the rat thinks he is a bird... But it comes as no surprise when one realises that Madam and Tokkelos, two lovebirds, are raising this rodent. ... "One day we realised the birds were carrying on as if they were breeding but there were no eggs. That's when we discovered the small pink rat in a nest."
(via Fark)

Abulsme - Fri, 5 Nov 2004, 07:51:40 PST
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For the New House

I'm all electioned out after the avalance of posts leading up to the big day. So time for some other stuff.

Brandy, in the new house, can we get some of these?

The Hidden Door Company

The Hidden Door is a masterfully crafted door made to replace any existing standard size swing-style door with a fully functional built in bookcase that comes equipped with concealed hinges.

When accessed, the bookshelf opens just like a regular door and can be made to open in or out and swing to the left or right. When closed the Hidden Door conceals the opening thus creating a unique "secret space" in the home or office.
(via BoingBoing)

There are pictrues here. I think it would be prefect to hide the lab in which I do my evil experiments in my labcoat.

Speaking of the house, an update for those who are interested:

Starting with the background: We put an offer in on a place and got a contract on it just before the first of the hurricanes hit this year. Then the house was significantly damaged by those hurricanes. We agreed to delay the closing date from October to December to give them time to do the needed repairs.

Current update: They told us this weekend that they would not be able to complete the repairs in time. Not because the repairs are taking a huge amount of time, but simply because SO MANY houses in this area need similar repairs (new roofs and water damage to some walls and ceilings) that there is a huge backlog for such work to be done. It hasn't even started yet, and no roofing companies will even commit to a date yet. So anyway, since they are not going to make it, we get another chance to decide if we want to extend again, or to just ditch it.

So... we got the mortgage company to extend the rate lock we have for another month and a half. So we're probably going to go ahead and give them more time. For one thing, financially the longer we wait, the easier it will be. For another, while we might poke around at some other available houses, we've kind of decided that we like this one and are willing to wait for it, as long as we CAN based on what the mortgage people will or will not allow. I have a few quibbles with the master bathroom, but otherwise we like it. The dollar per square foot ratio is better than most other things we looked at in our price range. And we like the layout. Like the neighborhood. Etc.

The key is of course that it actually get fixed. Roof repairs will have to be up to current standards, which will be better than the roof it had. They are required to put it back how it was when we looked at it before we signed the contract basically. If they can do that, then we want it. If they can't... well, that is another story.

But from what we understand, the repairs are very doable, and they already have the insurance payments and all that... it is just a matter of contractor availability to get it done.

Although there is a chance that they could get a call tomorrow and the repairs would be done in a couple weeks, chances are we are talking about January at this point. Or perhaps later... We shall see.

Abulsme - Fri, 5 Nov 2004, 06:58:07 PST
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Tue 02 Nov 2004

Liberal Whiners

OK. I voted for Kerry. I think Kerry would have been a better choice. I think Bush has made wrong decision after wrong decision and has generally made things worse. I think if things play out as expected and he gets his 270 electoral votes, those trends will continue for the next few years.

However... it is not the end of the world. He will do his thing for 4 years, and then there will be someone else. He will do upsetting things. He will do stupid things. But it isn't going to bring the end of civilization as we know it. The fact that he won is not a huge miscarriage of justice. The people who voted for him are NOT stupid or evil. They just have different opinions of the right way to approach the issues of the day.

The whining is already starting. Hey, people, if Bush wins, he wins. Get over it. He will have won fair and square. The process will have done its job and a president will have been selected, and he will do his job for the next few years.

I think Kerry would have been better than Bush. But the truth is that in the end Presidents come and go. They do have a huge effect on the direction of the country, but there are a lot of other things that effect what happens as well, and there are instituional constraints on just how far a president can take things. Sure, damage can be done, but in the grand scheme of things, not THAT much.

Anyway, if Bush wins and you were a Kerry person... just move on and start worring about next time. And please, try to remember... he's not insane, he's not evil, he just disagrees with you (and me) and has a different approach to things. Thinking that way is completely counter productive... and annoying.

Both sides just need to start learning again how to respect and understand the other side instead of villifing them. The deep divides in the country are unhealthy. And the "hate" that is seen on both sides toward the other is a big part of the problem. Come on, just be rational and calm and move on.

One network just called Ohio for Bush. This should be over now.

Don't worry Kerry folks, it will suck a little bit, but it won't be THAT bad. :-)

Abulsme - Tue, 2 Nov 2004, 21:41:25 PST
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Divided Government

Well, looks like another thing that I think is important probably won't happen this time around, which is divided government... A democrat in the white house and a republican congress is OK. A republican in the white house and a democratic congress is OK. But have the same party in charge of both branches... no matter which party it is, and you have bad news. Basically because the government can actually DO something. When government is divided, government can be deadlocked, and it raises the bar for action from things that have a slight majority of support, to things that have a LARGE majority of support... much better. The less government can actually get done the better.

But, while it isn't all over yet, looks like we'll be all red again...

Abulsme - Tue, 2 Nov 2004, 21:34:50 PST
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So Gunshy

The networks are being SO timid. I understand why given how they screwed up in 2000... but back in 2000 they would have already called Florida for Bush and would be thinking about calling Ohio... and the election... for Bush. The margins are thin, but are there. It is possible they will change, but getting increasingly unlikely by the hour. We shall see.

But come on news networks. I know you want to be conservative, but this is a little too wussy. Go out on a limb a little!

Abulsme - Tue, 2 Nov 2004, 20:46:11 PST
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On Our Roof

When I got home from voting (which only took about 20 minutes by the way) and then collected Amy to go to her lesson, we looked up and saw this on our roof. It was huge! Gigantic owl. It looked straight at us. Sat there on the peak of the house for several minutes. Then decided it had enough of us and flew away. It was a wonderful bird. Is it an omen? :-)

After the music lesson came home to watch the results trickle in. I'm switching channels every time a commercial comes on. No swing states have been called yet. Almost all of the precincts in Brevard have reported their results. 219 out of 223. Four are apperantly very slow. :-) Looks like lots of my candidates lost. Big surprise. :-) I'll wait to tablulate my won/loss ratio until all the results on all the races are done though.

But it was a very cool owl!

Meanwhile, I am very tired and feel sick. Dunno if I'll actually manage to stay up through all the results. We shall see.

Abulsme - Tue, 2 Nov 2004, 17:56:44 PST
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Just a reminder that in every presidential election since the 1904 election except 1976, the taller candidate has won the popular vote. Kerry is taller. So I am going out on a limb now and will predict that Kerry will win the popular vote.

I am not yet willing to make a prediction on the electoral vote. Although the "height factor" has only failed twice in the last 100 years, even on electoral vote.

Abulsme - Tue, 2 Nov 2004, 17:00:32 PST
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US President / Vice President

OK. The biggie. President. And Vice President. First the candidates:

* George W. Bush / Dick Cheney (Republican)
* John F. Kerry / John Edwards (Democrat)
* Michael A. Peroutka / Chuck Baldwin (Constitution)
* Michael Badnarik / Richard V. Campagna (Libertarian)
* David Cobb / Patricia LaMarche (Green)
* James Jarris / Margaret Trowe (Socialist Workers)
* Walter F. Brown / Mary Alice Herbert (Socialist)
* Ralph Nader / Peter Miguel Camejo (Reform)
OK. It is 21:57 UTC. I promised myself I would leave and go vote at 22:00 UTC. So I have no time to write anything. So just a quick summary, then I am out of here...

Peroutka... right wing nut. No way.

Cobb... left wing nut. No way.

Harris... completely off the spectrum. No way.

Brown... Ditto.

Nader... He did a lot of good things on consumer safery, but the complete anti-corporate, anti-capitalist and absolutest nature of his campaign is a complete turn off. Every time I see him on TV I just shake my head. He has turned into a bit of a nutcase and Don Quixote. No, he is not a possibility.

Badnarik... Oh why oh why did the Libertarians let me down. Normally I would vote for them. If they had nominated anyone even vaguely competant this year, they would have my vote. Someone with libertarian principles, but a sense of reality and knowledge of when to be practical instead of idealistic. But no. They go and nominate someone who is on some other planet. So they deprived me of what would have been my vote.

Bush... On a fer issues I agree with him. But very few. He has mismanaged domestic policy in many ways. His justice department tramples on civil liberties. And of course he has completely mismanaged foreign policy. There is no way I could ever vote for W.

Kerry... I don't really like him. I disagree with him on many things. I disagree with him on more than I agree with him. I do not WANT to vote for him. Florida has no write in option for President. I am unsure of how much I will like a Kerry presidency. But all the other options are eliminated. And although I disagree with him more than I agree... I still agree with him more than anybody else on the ballot... at least the ones that are sane. So, as much as it pains me to do it...

My vote: John F. Kerry / John Edwards (Democrat)

Abulsme - Tue, 2 Nov 2004, 13:46:07 PST
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US Senate, Florida

Only two more to go, but I am rapidly running out of time. Just under 3 hours until the polls close, but only just under 2 hours until I have to take Amy to her music lessons. Brandy got through in 15 minutes. But that was during a morning lull. I'll be going when bunches of people are getting off work. So my lines will be longer. So I have to hurry... Damn them at work for making me actually do work during the work day... OK, Senate:

* Mel Martinez (Republican)
* Betty Castor (Democrat)
* Dennis F. Bradley (Veterans)
* (Write In)
OK. I had hoped to listen to both of their debates off of I missed them when they were on TV. But there is no time. So a quick glance at the sites.

First Bradley... He has a few interesting ideas, and a few bizzare scary ones... basically he is a kook. Next...

Betty Castor... OK, I'm pissed that I am running out of time. This senate race deserves a few hours of analysis. But I'll skim quickly though her positions. I didn't really see anything that grabbed me either pro or con in what I saw.

Mel Martinez... His website was hard to navigate and to get to the real policy stuff. And again, I am running out of time. But he's got stuff about protecting family values, and backing W's approach on the war on terror, and has closely aligned himself with the W campaign.

I don't feel I know enough about either of these gusy to make a truely informed opinion. And that is my fault. Should have called in sick from work today to finish my research properly, watch the debates, etc. But my gut reactions are fairly neutral to what I saw on Castor's site, but some things on Martinez I react to negatively.

So, I'll make a snap decision.

My vote: Betty Castor (Democrat)

Abulsme - Tue, 2 Nov 2004, 13:14:11 PST
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US House, Florida 15th District

Oh my, we're finally at the national races!!! These are the ones that will actually determine the direction of the country and the world for the next few years. The house doesn't look like it is extremly likely to switch this year, but where the balance is still matters somewhat. And you never know, there could be upsets. For my house district, the candidates are:

* Dave Weldon (Republican)
* Simon Pristoop (Democrat)
OK, first thing, Pristoop was a Physics major. Big points for Pristoop! Also, looking at his issues list at first glance it looks to me like I agree with him on 17 out of 22. That is 77%. For me, that isn't too bad. Of course, a large part of that is because a good number of the issues have to do with opposing the W foreign policy. If it was mroe heavily weighted toward domestic issues, my agreement level would surely drop.

Meanwhile, looking at Weldon's issues page the agreement level is 50 out of 111, or 45%. Much lower. And when you look at the specific items I disagree on, I feel more strongly about them.

I am running out of time, so I won't look around for more opinions and thoughts and editorials. My decision is made.

My vote: Simon Pristoop (Democrat)

Abulsme - Tue, 2 Nov 2004, 11:30:18 PST
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Florida State Representative, 31st House District

OK. Here we go. Getting into the home stretch. Only four more ballot items to decide on. This one is state level, then we have US House, US Senate, and President. I am running out of time too! There are a little under 5 hours until the polls close, and some of that time I have to be at meetings or taking Amy to music lessons, and other things like that. So... lets get to it. The candidates are:

* Mitch Needelman (Republican)
* Gerda Termitus (Democrat)
OK Termitus, you lose points for not having a website. At least not one I can find. Once again I say, PEOPLE, it is 2004! Get on the web!!

The Florida Today summary is useful as always. Just in this forum, Needelman shows a greater breadth and concern over a wider range of issues. Termitus defines herself as a narrow issue candidate (education and health care). But does not provide any information that really defines what she would do to any level of detail, even on those issues. One naturally can not speak too much in such a forum, but it could have been more. A website would have helped here too.

In addition, when you look at Needelman's site, he uses his incumbancy well. He has a long list of legilsative proposals he has sponsored, most of which look reasonable at first glance. He has the experience, he has the track record, I don't see anything as an overriding negative...

Florida today agrees in their endorsement. They say, "Needelman's opponent, Democrat Gerda Termitus, worked in the pharmaceutical industry and is a captain in the Army Reserve. Although she has a sincere desire to serve, she has little knowledge of the issues and is no match for Needelman's experience. " Yeah, that is what it looked like to me too.

My vote: Mitch Needelman (Republican)

Abulsme - Tue, 2 Nov 2004, 11:08:13 PST
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Brevard County Sheriff

This is the last county level office for me to figure out... The candidates are:

* Jack Parker (Republican)
* Bob Sarver (Democrat)
* (Write in)
This is the first of the races to allow for a write in candidate. but I don't particularly have anybody in mind that I want to write in, so I won't.

The Florida Today endorsement is for Parker. In reading both their sites, and the FT editorial, looks like both candidates are quite qualified. Sarver has been flipping back and forth between Republican and Democrat as it suited the time. Which is interesting. Sarver has been undersherriff under the outgoing sherriff, but it looks like Parker has more overall experience, and has the backing of many more police, firefighter, public safety type groups. He seems a bit harsh on some of his prison stands (put the inmates in tents!). But I don't see anything outrageous with either of these. I think I'll let the guy the police want to be in charge of the police be in charge of the police. (If there was evidence of major problems in the police force, I wouldn't, but I didn't see anything that indicated that...)

My vote: Jack Parker (Republican)

Abulsme - Tue, 2 Nov 2004, 10:16:13 PST
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Brevard County Property Appraiser

Which one will say my house is worth the least so I can pay as little tax as possible? (Once I buy a house anyway.) Um... the candidates are:

* Jim Ford (Republican)
* Penny Farrar (Democrat)
As usual there is an endoresment by Florida Today. But this time there is also a Letter to the Editor critizing that endorsement. According to Florida today, Farrar accuses Ford of "wasteful spending, top-heavy management and high error rates ". They say they see no evidence of that though, and point out she was fired from that office a number of years ago.

Hmm. I really don't know where the truth is here. But reading Farrar's website some of the charges have at least an air of plausibilty, as does her friend defending her in the letter to the editor.

Plus, I like her signs. Her name is Penny, and her signs have a big picture of a penny. And her slogan is "It Just Makes Cents". Ha! Can you beat that?

Anyway, I actually have no stong opinion here. But the incumbant has been in the office since 1988. That is a long time. I'm for shaking things up occationally. So...

My vote: Penny Farrar (Democrat)

Oh no. So far I'm 3 for 3 voting for Democrtats on the items that actually have parties. That can't be good! Usually I'm all over the place on local races! This one WAS close, I could have gone the other way... I almost did... I had written the last paragraph differently then went back to change it right before submitting the post... but in the end I picked Farrar.

Abulsme - Tue, 2 Nov 2004, 09:21:21 PST
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Brevard County Tax Collector

Tax Collector? Can we just not have one? Hmm, guess not. So we have to pick someone. The choices are:

* Joan Needelman (Republican)
* Rod Northcutt (Democrat)
Needelman's site spends most of its time sniping at incumbant Northcutt without giving too much of her own vision, other than she will be better than Northcut and manage things better. She implies that Northcut is a biut corrupt. But reading through the Florida Today Endorsement it lists a lot of positive things Northcut has done, primarily focused on technological improvements and efficency.

Plus, two of the guys here at work when talking about the election , when I said I was trying to figure out some of the local issies like Tax Collector were very positive about Northcutt. "My Man Rod!" said one. I have no idea why really, other than they write checks out to his office and recognize the name, but hey.

Overall it looks like while he has been there a long time, he is doing a decent job.

My vote: Rod Northcutt (Democrat)

Abulsme - Tue, 2 Nov 2004, 08:54:43 PST
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Brevard County Commissioner, District 5

OK, this is the first one with parties... the candidates:

* Jackie Colon (Republican)
* Margarita Ilecki (Democrat)
I could not find a website for Colon. Ilecki's is minimal and doesn't speak much about the issues, but it is there.

Once again, Florida Today has more information:

Brevard County Commission Endorsements
This contest pits Republican Jackie Colon, who is seeking a second term, against Democrat and political novice Margarita Ilecki.

We endorsed Colon four years ago and again recommend her to voters, but this time with reservations. Here's why:

Colon sold herself to voters in 2000 as a moderate Democrat. Then, last year, she pulled the ultimate flip-flop, switching parties and becoming a conservative Republican.

Colon says she did it because of her religious beliefs and opposition to abortion. She also said she felt uncomfortable with the Democratic Party's pro-choice stance. We have the utmost respect for her personal convictions, but her switch raises this question:

Just who is Colon, and what does she really believe in when it comes to the future of Brevard? Often, it's hard to tell.

She failed a major leadership test when -- saying the $4,445 figure was too high -- she voted against impact fees for new homes to help pay for more schools to meet the Florida Constitution's mandate for smaller classroom sizes.

In doing so, she offered no sound solution to a problem that must be immediately addressed. Her choice let down students, parents and teachers who needed her support.

She also backed the county's manatee protection plan while a Democrat, but now, as a Republican, opposes a small funding expansion of the county's Environmentally Endangered Lands program to save our resources from the bulldozer.

As a result, she's against what may be the last chance to preserve the best of what remains of our irreplaceable landscape.

If re-elected, Colon must understand that her job is to make hard decisions for the betterment of Brevard. She can't hide behind half-measures she knows won't work to give herself a safe political out.

Parts of her record suggest she has the experience, thoughtfulness and mettle to reach that point, making us hope she'll live up to the promise she once showed.

Eight years on the Palm Bay City Council gave her excellent insight into the needs of cities. She also spearheaded the first county-city-school summit -- a smart move that can result in better communication and planning among civic leaders.

And we don't question her dedication, care for constituents and involvement in valuable programs, such as working with local churches on youth drug-awareness programs.

Ilecki, a hearing specialist, is a quick study on the issues, but has never held elected office and has been in Brevard only a short time. We hope she seeks a municipal office to gain some experience and stays on the political scene.

But Colon, despite our reservations, is the better-qualified candidate.
I don't really understand. They spend many paragraphs (I excerpted the whole bit about her) slamming her on many fronts. But then say essentially, "Well, she sucks, but we'll still pick her." There is not much information about Ilecki, and she is a novice, but... it sounds like you can't count on Colon for much of anything. I'll take the novice Democrat over the not quite sure what she is doing Republican.

My vote: Margarita Ilecki (Democrat)

Abulsme - Tue, 2 Nov 2004, 08:26:04 PST
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Florida Supreme Court

The Supreme Court races work in the excat same way as the District Court. On each judge it is a vote on if they should get another six years. The Justices up this time:

* Raoul G. Cantero, III
* Kenneth B. Bell
All the same things I said about the District judges apply at this level as well. Not much info on their positions, because they are not allowed to talk about issues that may come before them. The laywers recommend retention by 80+% in the survey. No major campaigns against either of them or negative information I can find. So like the District Judges, OK, lets keep them.

My votes:

Raoul G. Cantero, III: YES
Kenneth B. Bell: YES

This is the last of the non-partisan positions on the ballot. As I make my way up the rest, there will be Republicans and Democrats (and some other parties). What a shame. I like it when it is just about the individuals. Oh well!

Abulsme - Tue, 2 Nov 2004, 06:52:39 PST
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Florida District Court Judges

OK, I feel like I am skimping, but I am also running out of time. I will roll the questions of the five district court judges into one post. In Florida judges are appointed by the Governor, but then every six years have to be voted for "Merit Retention". That means you get to vote yes or no on each one, to determine if they get another six years. If they are voted out, the Governor gets to appoint someone else. The District Judges up for retention at this time are:

* Vincent G. Torpy, Jr.
* Winifred J. Sharp
* Earle W. Peterson, Jr.
* David A. Monaco
* Jacqueline R. Griffin
OK, the websites just give basic resume stuff. And apperantly judges aren't allowed to have "real" campaigns where they talk about their views and stuff. And I don't have the time or resources to actually start going and looking up the case histories for these judges.

In several palces I was able to find summaries of these retention races, and they all looked very similar. Here is a typical one. Basically it gives info on each of the judges and how long they have been in their positions. It also gives a couple of one sentence summaries of a few proiminant cases. It notes that a survey of area lawers showed that all five candidates enjoyed a greater than 80% support rate for retention.

Another article that I found makes the point that since Florida has had this system, there has NEVER been a judge removed by this system. OK...

In thew absence of finding any serious move to remove any of these guys, and nothing I could find with any serious problems with them, I'm OK keeping them all.

My votes:

Vincent G. Torpy, Jr.: YES
Winifred J. Sharp: YES
Earle W. Peterson, Jr.: YES
David A. Monaco: YES
Jacqueline R. Griffin: YES

Abulsme - Tue, 2 Nov 2004, 06:11:38 PST
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Brevard County School Board, District 4

Three hours later, here I am again. Urgh. I am so tired. Lets see if I can do a couple before I have to get ready and go to work... For School board the candidates are:

* Larry E. Hughes
* Harold Parten
One of them with a website again. Good. And I found this PDFwith information on a lot of candidates, including these two. And of course, Florida Today. And an article about a debate for school board. And there were actually a few more. But this is enough...

Frankly, on their viewpoints on the various issues, there did not seem to be much difference. They agreed on more than they disagreed. A little more looking around and it seems that Parten is the one that has been endorsed by teacher's unions, which makes me a bit nervous. Based on previous experience, I don't usually trust the teacher's unions. But it looks like Parten has a lot more experience and has an educational background, which has pros and cons, but I think the pros outway the cons. It is good to be an expert in the field you are dealing with as a public official. I do not feel strongly about this one and could actually fall either way. But Parten also had the sense to have a website.

My vote: Harold Parten

Abulsme - Tue, 2 Nov 2004, 03:48:46 PST
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Must... Sleep...

OK, it is 08:30 UTC. I am exausted. Need to sleep. Have to work tomorrow as well as vote and then watch election results until an ungodly hour at night. I need to get to sleep. So far I have figured out how I will vote on 19 items on the ballot. There are 16 left to go. Arggh!

I really should have done more earlier! It always seems to end up this way at the last minute though. That's just how I am. I want to just push through with the rest, but I know I need at least some sleep too. I intend to vote in the early afternoon though. Not much time is left... This sucks.

OK. Time for a little break. I will get back to this as soon as I can.

Abulsme - Tue, 2 Nov 2004, 00:32:21 PST
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Melbourne Mayor

There is a mayoral race going on too! The candidates:

* Harry C. Goode, Jr.
* Ed Palmer
* William Perry
OK, to be fair, that is the website for Mr. Goode's family business, not his own site.

As usual, there is the helpful Florida Today summary. William Perry had no website that I could find, and did not bother to answer any of Florida Today's questions. So he is not even a consideration.

Palmer seems qualified and had a lot of experience on the council. But his issues and stated views do not seem substantially different from Goode. But Goode has been mayor before, as well as being a state representative for a number of years. His responses seem a bit more detailed and focused. Also, Mr. Palmer is 77 years old, while Goode is a spritely 66. Let's give the youngster another go. I also am interested by the depth of Goode's family history in Melborne mentioned at his store's site. (They were one of the founding families of Melbourne.) Anyway, I think Mr. Goode looks the best at this point.

My vote: Harry C. Goode, Jr.

Abulsme - Tue, 2 Nov 2004, 00:02:38 PST
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Mon 01 Nov 2004

Dixville Notch and Hart's Location

Taking a short break from the research... I am really tired... it is almost four hours past my normal bedtime!

Anyway, flipped on CNN. Dixville Notch, New Hampshire did it's usual thing and voted just after 05:00 UTC (the earliest they can legally vote). As in the last few elections Hart's Location, New Hammpshire also did. Since they are allowed to release the results before the statewide polls close if EVERY registered voter in the town has voted, the entire population of both towns gets together at midnight and votes and they count it right away. It has been a tradition for decades.

So, with these two towns, the election so far stands at:

Bush - 34 votes
Kerry - 22 votes
Nader - 1 vote

I drove by Dixville Notch with my mom once as part of the 1998 Q4 Random Trip. We didn't even notice.

Abulsme - Mon, 1 Nov 2004, 23:45:43 PST
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Melbourne Council, District 1

OK, last of the Melbourne districts... The candidates in District 1 are:

* Richard P. Contreras
* Mike Nowlin
Only one website this time, and an official (boring) one. But I guess I know he is the incumbant from that. The Florida Today summary comes to the rescue again... Well, it really didn't give much info. Contreras is in the office right now and wants more police and fire protection. Nowlin is concerned about growth.

I did find one more thing on Contreras. A blog called Noded had a mention that during the hurricanes Contreras was very active keeping people updated on the local situation via some of the online forums at The author of the blog says that he thinks people will remember Contreras come election time. Well, OK.

I didn't of course actually see any of his communication during the hurricane, but his experience shows in his answer to the Florida Today questions, and Nowlin doesn't provide a strong argument to give him a chance instead.

My vote: Richard P. Contreras

Abulsme - Mon, 1 Nov 2004, 23:21:35 PST
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Melbourne Council, District 2

OK, next district... in Melbourne District 2, the candidates are:

* Matthew Carroll
* Mark LaRusso
* William Lovin
Finally a couple with actual websites!

And once again, Florida Today has a summary of the candidates. Based on the info from the candidate sites and the summary, here is what I come up with:

LaRusso is pretty new to the county, and is very vague on what he wants to do. I don't see much there. Carroll seems to really have it out for Lovin, spending a good deal of his space countering an ad by Lovin, and pointing out that he has been in Melbourne much longer. Lovin... dunno, perhaps it is because I read Carroll's site first. But while both Carroll and Lovin seem to be fiscally conservative, about controlling growth while keeping taxes high and the standard of living up, but Lovin seems a bit more conceited. His "I am running because people asked me to" does nothing for me. Carroll seems more up front about things. Lovin is in tech, so of course his website is slicker, but it is almost too slick for a local race. And what is with the big-ass flag?

My vote: Matthew Carroll

Abulsme - Mon, 1 Nov 2004, 22:46:02 PST
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Melbourne Council, District 3

Each Council Member on the Melbourne City Council apperantly represents a specific district making up a part of the city... however they are elected by the whole city, not just those people in their district, but they have to live in the district. I think. It doesn't make sense to me. You should only be able to vote for the council person from your district... at least I think so. But that isn't how it is, so lets look at all of these...

For the record, I am in District 5, which is not on the ballot at all this year... apperantly there was only one candidate, Cheryl Palmer, who ran unopposed, and therefore automatically won and that seat is not appearing on the ballot. There is something wrong with that... I hate unopposed elections. Oh well!

Although that is apperantly better than one of the other districts, where Cliff Cook vacated the seat and NOBODY ran for the open seat... So they will be holding a special election in February to put someone in.

Anyway, the candidates for District 3 are:

* Lynne Flora
* Cleave Frink
* Kathy Meehan
* R. Richard Ott
* Merrill Robertson
* Manuel Rodriguez
Once again, I couldn't find anybody with a campaign website. People! Get with it!!!

I did however find a couple articles from Florida Today that are relevant. One on the large number of candidates running for Melbourne City council this year, and one specifically with profiles on all the candidates in the District 3 race. Since it is the most complete information I could find, this will be my main source of info for this race.

Ott is out. He didn't answer their basic questions. ("Why are you running? How are you qualified? What are your key issues?") Robertson is for VoTech schools. Rodriguez is for youth sports programs. Flora wants more flights to the Melbourne airport.

Frink and Meehan seem to address a broader range of issues, both seem to have a good deal of community involvement in their past. Looking at their pitches though, Frink seems to be a bit too self assured for my taste. Meehan seemed more reasoned and moderate.

My vote: Kathy Meehan

Abulsme - Mon, 1 Nov 2004, 22:10:13 PST
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Commissioner Sebastian Inlet District, District 1

Ok the second of the two Sebastian Inlet Districts I get to vote for. Here the candidates are:

* Jenny Lawton Seal
* David A. Pasley
I could not find websites for either of these candidates. Come on folks, I know it is a dinky local office, but this is 2004. Make yourselfs a freakin one page website saying why you want to be elected... Anyway, both Seal and Pasley were invited to the same debate I mentioned in the previous post about District 5. Only Pasley showed up. And I could not find anything on Seal on the web at all... except an article (again behind annoying registration) on saying that she... and Sherrie Quarrie... ahd gotten significant campaign donations from a lobbiest for a sand mining company. Apperantly Seal is also the granddaughter of a former commissioner who died recently. In any case, she was a no show and has provided no resources to find what she stands for or anything. Pasley shoed up at the debate, and seemed to do OK. The same editorial I quoted in the last post says of Pasley:
Pasley, an avid fisherman, boater and inlet volunteer, wants the district to reach out to more community organizations and environmental groups. He also believes it could benefit by collaborating with other districts around the state. ... Pasley and Culberson are knowledgeable, independent candidates who are committed to improving the inlet's management and effectiveness. As straight shooters, they deserve a shot at the job.
OK, not too much on him. But his competition didn't really shows up. And from what I read in the article about donations (it goes on quite a bit) both her and Quarrie look like they are part of a ploy by the sand people (you know, like in Star Wars) to influence how replenishing efforts in the county work and such.

My vote: David A. Pasley

Abulsme - Mon, 1 Nov 2004, 21:49:46 PST
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Commissioner Sebastian Inlet District, District 5

OK, the Sebastian Inlet apperantly is an "special area" that contains large parts of Brevard County as well as parts of Indian River County. It has commisioners that are elected at large from within there. But it is still divided into sub-districts. I don't fully understand, but we get to vote for it. There are three candidates:

* Jim Culberson
* Bob Hartman
* Sherri Quarrie
Of the three, Jim Culberson's site is the only one that actually mentions this campaign. Bob Hartman talks a lot about a run for Tax Collector, but he apperantly lost that in the primaries. It mentions that his WIFE is currently on the Sebastian Inlet Commission. What is this, a consolation prize after losing the other race? [EDIT: His wife WAS on the commission, she apperantly passed away earlier this year.] Sherri's is all about her as a real estate agent. Nothing about this.

In googling for more information on this race, the only place I could find covering this was which required a really annoying registration. I did it, because I wanted to find info on this race. But if anybody from tcpalm ever reads this, be assured that I won't be back to your site again for a long time. Anyway... I won't bother linking to them because of the registration issue, but they did have some info... Candidate profiles for Culberson and Quarrie... none for Bob Hartman... and a link to a low quality video with almost completely unintelligible audio where they talked to Culberson and Quarrie, along with a David Pasley, who is running in a different District for the same commission.

The Commision is all about maintaining the Sebastian Inlet waterway. OK. Got it. From the profiles on, and what little I could understand of the "debate" on there, Culberson and Quarrie don't seem to actually differ on too much.

On this, I will immediately discount Bob Hartman. He is a no show. He did not participate in the debate, nor give tcpalm a profile. Nor does he have anything at all on his own website about running for this office. (At least not that I can find.)

Amoung the other two, I will go for Jim Culberson. He actually has a website describing why he wants to be a commisioner and his expertese in the area. He's involved in the local historical commission and recreation committees, etc. From what I could hear of the debate (the sound got a bit better as it continued), he is the more articulate of the two on his beliefs on how to deal with the issues surrounding the inlet. His degree is in Marine Biology. He knows his stuff. The editorial on this race and the District 1 race said:
Culberson, who has written a detailed history of the Sebastian Inlet, says the district needs to be more responsive and open to the public. He knows whereof he speaks, as he regularly attends board meetings. ... Quarrie's interests appear more scattered. She talks about turtle nesting and national security, but offers few substantive insights or proposals. On technical matters, she seems out of her depth compared with Culberson.
This reinforced the opinion I had alread reached.

My vote: Jim Culberson

Abulsme - Mon, 1 Nov 2004, 20:50:20 PST
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Florida Proposed Amendment No. 1

OK, last of the proposed constitutional amendments. After this I have top start learning about people... Anyway...



Section 22. Parental notification of termination of a minor's pregnancy. The legislature shall not limit or deny the privacy right guaranteed to a minor under the United States Constitution as interpreted by the United States Supreme Court. Notwithstanding a minor's right of privacy provided in Section 23 of Article I, the Legislature is authorized to require by general law for notification to a parent or guardian of a minor before the termination of the minor's pregnancy. The Legislature shall provide exceptions to such requirement for notification and shall create a process for judicial waiver of the notification.
In this case the full text is exactly the same as the ballot summary. So, first, on the issue... I don't have super strong opinions here. But in general I am for giving more independance and autonomy to minors, as I generally feel what they are capable of doing and understanding on their own is underestimated. The specifics of the abortion issue notwithstanding, I think that if a minor is capable of seeing out and obtaining medical care independant of their parents, they should be allowed to make the decisions associated with that care independantly. So I'd probably vote against a notification rule on the merits, although I can see the other side as well and understand the arguments.

Of course though, once again, this is a policy issue, and policy issue specifics should not be addressed in a constitution. Even though, I know, it is done this way in many states because that is what the initiative process allows... but I still think it is wrong. There is a legislature for this kind of thing. So, on the last of these...

My vote: NO

Abulsme - Mon, 1 Nov 2004, 20:26:06 PST
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Florida Proposed Amendment No. 2

Chugging right along... next one...



Proposing amendments to the State Constitution to require the sponsor of a constitutional amendment proposed by citizen initiative to file the initiative petition with the Secretary of State by February 1 of the year of a general election in order to have the measure submitted to the electors for approval or rejection at the following November's general election, and to require the Florida Supreme Court to render an advisory opinion addressing the validity of an initiative petition by April 1 of the year in which the amendment is to be submitted to the electors.
And the full text... Um... OK, this one is best described by a before and after... It wishes to change Article IV Section 10 from:
Attorney General.--The attorney general shall, as directed by general law, request the opinion of the justices of the supreme court as to the validity of any initiative petition circulated pursuant to Section 3 of Article XI. The justices shall, subject to their rules of procedure, permit interested persons to be heard on the questions presented and shall render their written opinion expeditiously.
Attorney General.--The attorney general shall, as directed by general law, request the opinion of the justices of the supreme court as to the validity of any initiative petition circulated pursuant to Section 3 of Article XI. The justices shall, subject to their rules of procedure, permit interested persons to be heard on the questions presented and shall render their written opinion no later than April 1 of the year in which the initiative is to be submitted to the voters pursuant to Section 5 of Article XI
and it changes Article X Section 5 from
Amendment or revision election.--

(a)  A proposed amendment to or revision of this constitution, or any part of it, shall be submitted to the electors at the next general election held more than ninety days after the joint resolution, initiative petition or report of revision commission, constitutional convention or taxation and budget reform commission proposing it is filed with the custodian of state records, unless, pursuant to law enacted by the affirmative vote of three-fourths of the membership of each house of the legislature and limited to a single amendment or revision, it is submitted at an earlier special election held more than ninety days after such filing.

(b)  The legislature shall provide by general law, prior to the holding of an election pursuant to this section, for the provision of a statement to the public regarding the probable financial impact of any amendment proposed by initiative pursuant to section 3.

(c)  Once in the tenth week, and once in the sixth week immediately preceding the week in which the election is held, the proposed amendment or revision, with notice of the date of election at which it will be submitted to the electors, shall be published in one newspaper of general circulation in each county in which a newspaper is published.

(d)  If the proposed amendment or revision is approved by vote of the electors, it shall be effective as an amendment to or revision of the constitution of the state on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in January following the election, or on such other date as may be specified in the amendment or revision.
which they want to change to...
Amendment or revision election.--

(a) A proposed amendment to or revision of this constitution, or any part of it, shall be submitted to the electors at the next general election held more than ninety days after the joint resolution, or report of revision commission, constitutional convention or taxation and budget reform commission proposing it is filed with the custodian of state records, unless, pursuant to law enacted by the affirmative vote of three-fourths of the membership of each house of the legislature and limited to a single amendment or revision, it is submitted at an earlier special election held more than ninety days after such filing.

(b) A proposed amendment or revision of this constitution, or any part of it, by initiative shall be submitted to the electors at the general election provided the initiative petition is filed with the custodian of state records no later than February 1 of the year in which the general election is held.

(c) The legislature shall provide by general law, prior to the holding of an election pursuant to this section, for the provision of a statement to the public regarding the probable financial impact of any amendment proposed by initiative pursuant to section 3.

(d) Once in the tenth week, and once in the sixth week immediately preceding the week in which the election is held, the proposed amendment or revision, with notice of the date of election at which it will be submitted to the electors, shall be published in one newspaper of general circulation in each county in which a newspaper is published.

(e) If the proposed amendment or revision is approved by vote of the electors, it shall be effective as an amendment to or revision of the constitution of the state on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in January following the election, or on such other date as may be specified in the amendment or revision.
Finally! A proposed constitutional amendment that actually addresses structural questions!!!

On this one I actually spent a little time looking at the pro and con websites. Looks like this will place a specific date on when the petitions have to be submitted in order to get on the ballot (which is earlier than the current date) and will also put limits on when the courts must provide an opinion on those proposals.

According to the people against this, it will make it more difficult to get proposals on the ballot. According to the people for it, it will give more time to educate the people on the ballot issues and for public debate.

Given the nature of most of the proposals I have seen on this ballot, I think both of these things are good things. Thus...

My vote: YES

Abulsme - Mon, 1 Nov 2004, 19:56:00 PST
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Florida Proposed Amendment No. 3

OK, that last one finished up Page 2 of my sample ballot. Now time for Page 1! Still going backwards from the end of course. Next is:



Proposes to amend the State Constitution to provide that an injured claimant who enters into a contingency fee agreement with an attorney in a claim for medical liability is entitled to no less than 70% of the first $250,000.00 in all damages received by the claimant, and 90% of damages in excess of $250,000.00, exclusive of reasonable and customary costs and regardless of the number of defendants. This amendment is intended to be self-executing.
And the full text...
Section 1. Article I, Section 26 is created to read "Claimant's right to fair compensation." In any medical liability claim involving a contingency fee, the claimant is entitled to receive no less than 70% of the first $250,000.00 in all damages received by the claimant, exclusive of reasonable and customary costs, whether received by judgment, settlement, or otherwise, and regardless of the number of defendants. The claimant is entitled to 90% of all damages in excess of $250,000.00, exclusive of reasonable and customary costs and regardless of the number of defendants. This provision is self-executing and does not require implementing legislation.

Section 2. This Amendment shall take effect on the day following approval by the voters.
OK. First, the negotiation of how to split fees between a client and their lawyer should be between the client and laywer, and should be a point of negotiation between them, and a point of competition between lawyers attempting to get the client's business. Government has no business mandating who those arrangements should or should not be.

Second, of course, as could be easily guessed by my opinions on the other proposed amendments, something like this has no business in a constitution.

My vote: NO

Abulsme - Mon, 1 Nov 2004, 17:36:39 PST
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Florida Proposed Amendment No. 4

It is now election day (UTC). Less than 11 hours until polls open here in Florida. Time to really chug through the ballot. There are 26 more things left to decide on. Urgh! Well, better get at it. Here is the next one:



Authorizes Miami-Dade and Broward Counties to hold referenda on whether to authorize slot machines in existing, licensed parimutuel facilities (thoroughbred and harness racing, greyhound racing, and jai alai) that have conducted live racing or games in that county during each of the last two calendar years before effective date of this amendment. The Legislature may tax slot machine revenues, and any such taxes must supplement public education funding statewide. Requires implementing legislation.

This amendment alone has no fiscal impact on government. If slot machines are authorized in Miami-Dade or Broward counties, governmental costs associated with additional gambling will increase by an unknown amount and local sales tax-related revenues will be reduced by $5 million to $8 million annually. If the Legislature also chooses to tax slot machine revenues, state tax revenues from Miami-Dade and Broward counties combined would range from $200 million to $500 million annually.
And the full text...
Article X, Florida Constitution, is hereby amended to add the following as section 19:


(a) After voter approval of this constitutional amendment, the governing bodies of Miami-Dade and Broward Counties each may hold a county-wide referendum in their respective counties on whether to authorize slot machines within existing, licensed parimutuel facilities (thoroughbred and harness racing, greyhound racing, and jai-alai) that have conducted live racing or games in that county during each of the last two calendar years before the effective date of this amendment. If the voters of such county approve the referendum question by majority vote, slot machines shall be authorized in such parimutuel facilities. If the voters of such county by majority vote disapprove the referendum question, slot machines shall not be so authorized, and the question shall not be presented in another referendum in that county for at least two years.

(b) In the next regular Legislative session occurring after voter approval of this constitutional amendment, the Legislature shall adopt legislation implementing this section and having an effective date no later than July 1 of the year following voter approval of this amendment. Such legislation shall authorize agency rules for implementation, and may include provisions for the licensure and regulation of slot machines. The Legislature may tax slot machine revenues, and any such taxes must supplement public education funding statewide.

(c) If any part of this section is held invalid for any reason, the remaining portion or portions shall be severed from the invalid portion and given the fullest possible force and effect.

(d) This amendment shall become effective when approved by vote of the electors of the state.
OK, a state referendum to amend the state constitution to allow for a local referendum on a local issue that only affects a couple of counties??

The gambling should probably be legal. That's another thing government really has no business outlawing or placing too many regulations on. But that is not relevant here. (At least not to me.)

Now, if it was worded to allow all counties the option to decide gambling issues locally, rather than the narrowly tailored issue in those specific counties, then maybe... then it would at least be a structural issue moving some decision making power from the state to the counties.

But that is not what it is, not at all... As it is... the notion of a referendum to allow a referendum, all on an issue affecting only part of the state... as a perminant addition to the state constitution... is just silly.

My vote: NO

Abulsme - Mon, 1 Nov 2004, 17:09:51 PST
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How Not to Fight a Fire

So we're sitting at the table eating dinner, and Brandy is finishing up cooking the part of the meal she can eat. (Being a vegetarian she couldn't eat the chicken rice soup Amy and I were having.) I look over and ask Brandy "Is the oven supposed to have a flickering orange glow?". Brandy's response "It's on Fire!!".

I run past Brandy to grab the fire extinguisher from where we keep it. Then I stand in front of the overn for a few seconds trying to figure out how to use it. I've pulled the pin out, but then before squeezing the handle, I saw that the arrow was on the side instead of on top, so I was trying to twist the nozzle to put the arrow on top. (A completely unneeded and impossible step as it turns out.)

Meanwhile, Brandy has grabbed the baking soda, gets in front of me, and puts out the fire by sprikling the baking soda on it. I procees to get all flustered and upset because I didn't get to use the fire extinguisher and start pouting and jumping up and down. Then I say, well, the pin is out, so I have to use it, and I aim one brief puff at the wall. Everybody jumps back.

Then there is one little glow from inside the oven. Well, maybe. I'm not sure if I really saw it or not. I say "Hey, it still has a spark!!!" and aim the extinguisher at the oven and blast the rest of it.... um... and that entire side of the kitchen. The fire extinguisher crap billows all over the oven, all over the kitchen, and all the surfaces are covered with it, including the rest of dinner.


Brandy was not amused. And I was still all upset that she had jumped in front of me and put out the fire instead of letting me do it. (Even though she was quicker and had a better way.) And of course by the time I actually used the extinguisher, the fire was actually out. So heated words were exchanged.

Dinner was ruined. The whole kitchen and all of the stuff in it needed to be cleaned. It was really all my fault and I had no excuse. After a few minutes once Brandy was upset I realized of course that I was completely at fault and in the wrong. I apologized extensively, but she won't let me help clean the kitchen (cause I will do it wrong). And she is all sad... and hungry since I ruined her dinner. Which she had worked on for hours and was really looking forward to.

Oops. Sorry Brandy. :-(

Abulsme - Mon, 1 Nov 2004, 16:45:46 PST
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Process vs. Results

Just want to speak a little bit about my general principles. So far in a couple of the proposed amendments, I've said I am for the policy it represents, but will vote against it because it is a constitutional amendment, and I believe that is the wrong way to enact such a policy. But Sam, you say, if you are for the policy, shouldn't you vote for those items, because that will produce an end result you favor more?

Well, it would, but for one thing. One of the things that I have always based my decisions on, both in my personal life, and in public policy issues like this, is that making sure there is CORRECT PROCESS, is more important that making sure there are CORRECT RESULTS. To use the old cliche for this, "The ends do not justify the means".

In other words, even if the end state is a desireable one, if the way used to get there is an inappropriate one, then I do not believe one should go in that direction. Examples of how this applies to my views on some policy issues:

* Past discrimination should not be "corrected" by counter balancing it with current discrimination in the opposite direction.
* Using torture on suspected terrorists is not an appropriate way of preventing future attacks.
* The death penalty is not an appropriate way to punish or deter crime.
* Taking money from the rich to give to the poor is not a proper way to address proverty.
* Using "Eminent domain" to obtain land for public works or improvements is inappropriate.
* In most cases (not all), war is not an appropriate response to international disputes.
* There are many things which are "wrong" which should NOT be illegal.
* If someone does not follow the instructions properly and does something wrong when voting, their vote should NOT be counted (if that is what the law says), regardless of their intent.
* In most (but not all) cases, a properly passed law should be followed, even if it is stupid.
* Forcing a minimum wage on employers is not a proper way of addressing poverty.
* Consititutional Amendments are not a proper way to enact policy decisions.

I put the "(not all)" cavet explicitly in a couple of those, but in general the principle is NOT an absolute one. There are undoubitdly many cases where the ends DO justify the means... generally when the benefit of the "end" is much much much greater than the injustice done by the improper "means". So for instance, in the torture case, if it was KNOWN that via torture one could produce information that would prevent a nuclear attack and save the lives of millions, would it be appropriate? OK, maybe. Are there some cases where the danger or injustice happening is so great that war to correct whatever is wrong is appropriate? Yes, probably.

It is not that I believe that an improper method is an automatic veto of whatever is happening, it is just that I put the bar very high on how much better the results must be to justify using a process or method that is unfair or improper in any way. As an example, on the issue of the proposed constitutional amendments, I'm sure most people view the method (constitutional amendement via referendum or the normal legislative process) as almost irrelevant, and therefore will vote exclusively on the issue itself, and which vote they believe will produce a policy result they prefer.

I on the other hand, consider that the propriety of the process itself, and using a constitutional document as a vehicle for policy issues, to be just as important if not more important than the issues themselves. If I saw any of these issues as something that was vitally important, and I also felt it was for whatever reason an issue impossible to be solved by the normal legislative process, then I *might* consider this as a potential way of addressing the issue, since the seriousness of the issue would overcome my objection to using a constitution in this way... I don't see that situation in any of the proposed amendments I have looked at so far.

Anyway, I'm sure many will disagree with my logic here, and say the end result is more important than the process. But I believe in process, and following correct process, even in cases where it ends up screwing me over in the end and resulting in policies I don't approve of. So be it. :-)

Abulsme - Mon, 1 Nov 2004, 15:10:59 PST
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Florida Proposed Amendment No. 5

Time for another one. I sure will be busy tonight figuring out the rest of these!!! OK, you all know the drill by now. First, the ballot text:


This amendment creates a Florida minimum wage covering all employees in the state covered by the federal minimum wage. The state minimum wage will start at $6.15 per hour six months after enactment, and thereafter be indexed to inflation each year. It provides for enforcement, including double damages for unpaid wages, attorney's fees, and fines by the state. It forbids retaliation against employees for exercising this right.
Then the real text:
SECTION X. Florida Minimum Wage Amendment

(a) Public Policy. All working Floridians are entitled to be paid a minimum wage that is sufficient to provide a decent and healthy life for them and their families, that protects their employers from unfair low-wage competition, and that does not force them to rely on taxpayer-funded public services in order to avoid economic hardship.

(b) Definitions. As used in this amendment, the terms "Employer," "Employee" and "Wage" shall have the meanings established under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and its implementing regulations.

(c) Minimum Wage. Employerss shall pay Employees Wages no less than the Minimum Wage for all hours worked in Florida. Six months after enactment, the Minimum Wage shall be established at an hourly rate of $6.15. On September 30th of that year and on each following September 30th, the state Agency for Workforce Innovation shall calculate an adjusted Minimum Wage rate by increasing the current Minimum Wage rate by the rate of inflation during the twelve months prior to each September 1st using the consumer price index for urban wage earners and clerical workers, CPI-W, or a successor index as calculated by the United States Department of Labor. Each adjusted Minimum Wage rate calculated shall be published and take effect on the following January 1st. For tipped Employees meeting eligibility requirements for the tip credit under the FLSA, Employers may credit towards satisfaction of the Minimum Wage tips up to the amount of the allowable FLSA tip credit in 2003.

(d) Retaliation Prohibited. It shall be unlawful for an Employer or any other party to discriminate in any manner or take adverse action against any person in retaliation for exercising rights protected under this amendment. Rights protected under this amendment include, but are not limited to, the right to file a complaint or inform any person about any party's alleged noncompliance with this amendment, and the right to inform any person of his or her potential rights under this amendment and to assist him or her in asserting such rights.

(e) Enforcement. Persons aggrieved by a violation of this amendment may bring a civil action in a court of competent jurisdiction against an Employer or person violating this amendment and, upon prevailing, shall recover the full amount of any back wages unlawfully withheld plus the same amount as liquidated damages, and shall be awarded reasonable attorney's fees and costs. In addition, they shall be entitled to such legal or equitable relief as may be appropriate to remedy the violation including, without limitation, reinstatement in employment and/or injunctive relief. Any Employer or other person found liable for willfully violating this amendment shall also be subject to a fine payable to the state in the amount of $1000.00 for each violation. The state attorney general or other official designated by the state legislature may also bring a civil action to enforce this amendment. Actions to enforce this amendment shall be subject to a statute of limitations of four years or, in the case of willful violations, five years. Such actions may be brought as a class action pursuant to Rule 1.220 of the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure.

(f) Additional Legislation, Implementation & Construction. Implementing legislation is not required in order to enforce this amendment. The state legislature may by statute establish additional remedies or fines for violations of this amendment, raise the applicable Minimum Wage rate, reduce the tip credit, or extend coverage of the Minimum Wage to employers or employees not covered by this amendment. The state legislature may by statute or the state Agency for Workforce Innovation may by regulation adopt any measures appropriate for the implementation of this amendment. This amendment provides for payment of a minimum wage and shall not be construed to preempt or otherwise limit the authority of the state legislature or any other public body to adopt or enforce any other law, regulation, requirement, policy or standard that provides for payment of higher or supplemental wages or benefits, or that extends such protections to employers or employees not covered by this amendment. It is intended that case law, administrative interpretations, and other guiding standards developed under the federal FLSA shall guide the construction of this amendment and any implementing statutes or regulations.

(g) Severability. If any part of this amendment, or the application of this amendment to any person or circumstance, is held invalid, the remainder of this amendment, including the application of such part to other persons or circumstances, shall not be affected by such a holding and shall continue in full force and effect. To this end, the parts of this amendment are severable.
OK, as usual, the two parts. First, on the merits of this as a policy... Wages should be determined by supply and demand. Period. Government has no business intervening in basic economic transactions like what wages should be. The salary paid for a particular job will settle to a value based on how much employers are willing to pay, and how little employees are willing to work for given the tasks and skills involved. Setting arbitrary restrictions on this process by putting in a minimum wage (or raising it) will only have the effect of employers hiring less people if the positions are ones they can potentially do without, or if not, moving the jobs to states or countries without such a restriction. Sure, some people would end up making more with such a floor on salaries, but many other people would simply end up unemployed. And besides, even if it would "work" it is none of government's business. So on the merits of the policy, I am against it.

But again, regardless of the merits of the policy, this is indeed a POLICY question, not a question of basic governmental structure. It has no business in a constitution. So...

My vote is: NO

Abulsme - Mon, 1 Nov 2004, 14:16:14 PST
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Poll Closings - Handy Chart

Below is a link to a handy reference chart for tomorrow night. Shows what time which polls close where. First polls close at 23:00 UTC on Nov 2. Last polls close at 06:00 UTC on Nov 3.

2004 Poll Closing Times

This chart reflects the poll closing times used by the networks and other media outlets on Election Night. There is an "unenforced pledge" to not project a winner in a state until that state's polls have closed (which, to the media, means "most of the state's polls have closed").

Below the chart is an outline of potential difficulties which may occur where a state spans time zones. (Poll closing times are extended for voters still in line when the hour of poll closing has arrived.)
Anybody willing to place bets on what date and time we will actually have a known winner??? As someone who likes watching the chaos of the whole thing, I'm hoping it will last until December or maybe even January... but... the news gods can't possibly let me have that much fun. Just watch, the networks will be declaring a winner (and not taking it back) by 01:30 UTC. (That's 8:30 PM Eastern Standard Time.)

Abulsme - Mon, 1 Nov 2004, 12:16:50 PST
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Florida Proposed Amendment No. 6

OK. Here is another one. First the ballot text:



This amendment repeals an amendment in the Florida Constitution that requires the Legislature, the Cabinet and the Governor to proceed with the development and operation of a high speed ground transportation system by the state and/or by a private entity.

The probable financial impact of passage of this amendment is a state cost savings ranging from $20 billion to $25 billion over the next 30 years. This estimate assumes the repeal of associated laws, the use of state bonds to finance construction, and could be reduced by federal or private sector funding.
And then the REAL text...
Article X, Section 19, Florida Constitution, is hereby repealed in its entirety.
Where the current text of that Section is:
High speed ground transportation system.--To reduce traffic congestion and provide alternatives to the traveling public, it is hereby declared to be in the public interest that a high speed ground transportation system consisting of a monorail, fixed guideway or magnetic levitation system, capable of speeds in excess of 120 miles per hour, be developed and operated in the State of Florida to provide high speed ground transportation by innovative, efficient and effective technologies consisting of dedicated rails or guideways separated from motor vehicular traffic that will link the five largest urban areas of the State as determined by the Legislature and provide for access to existing air and ground transportation facilities and services. The Legislature, the Cabinet and the Governor are hereby directed to proceed with the development of such a system by the State and/or by a private entity pursuant to state approval and authorization, including the acquisition of right-of-way, the financing of design and construction of the system, and the operation of the system, as provided by specific appropriation and by law, with construction to begin on or before November 1, 2003.
OK. I'm all for high-speed rail. It is probably an infrastructure investment that would make sense. And hey, it is just plain cool. If I was in the legislature I would seriously consider voting for it. But once again, I don't believe this is something that belongs in a constitution. In this case, since it is currently IN the constitution, and this proposal is to take it OUT...

My vote is: YES

If there is to be high speed rail, fine, but either let the private sector do it themselves (preferable) or have the legislature enact it on their own. A constitutional amendment is not the right forum.

Abulsme - Mon, 1 Nov 2004, 03:36:21 PST
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Grinning Watermelon

Well, I know I was supposed to be jamming on the ballot issues and all that, but instead I had shifted gears to try to get the September Top Ten out. Well, and several other things. Amy had a birthday party sleepover thing Saturday night, so there was a lot of cleaning and getting ready for that. Then the counting for the Top Ten. Normally that takes me a couple hours. But this time due to the hard drive explosion I was trying to pull together data from several different places, and working all day Sunday was just not enough, so it didn't get out.

I did take a break Sunday for a little bit to watch Brandy and Amy carve the traditional Halloween watermelon. The red toothy grin managed to scare many small goblins who showed up att he door. Well... actually we had about 15. A little less than I expected given how many kids seem to be around normally. But they were cute and they had costumes.

Today though I won't work much on completeing the count for the top ten, because now that I have missed that deadline, the election is more pressing. Today Brandy and I will try to get our Florida driver's licences (we should have done that months ago) to make the whole voting thing easier. (Rather than using something from the list of alternative IDs.)

And I'm going to try to spend the next 24 hours pressing through the rest of the ballot figuring out what I am going to do...

I'd post some pictures of our watermelon and other decorations, but I am lazy.

Abulsme - Mon, 1 Nov 2004, 03:16:12 PST
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