Friday, December 31, 2004

The PUBLIC you

Kristi and I were taking a Sunday drive in the beautiful weather we had yesterday when we ran across a home for sale. Well, maybe it was for sale and maybe it wasn't. You see, the "For Sale" sign was very old and hard to see from the road. The house looked like it was no longer occupied (no visible furniture) and the yard no longer maintained (lots of leaves).

It was obvious the house was once loved, but today it really needs a helping hand. Maybe what this old house needs is our helping hands. So we decided to do some investigating...

First, we looked at the real estate listings. Nothing there -this is a dead end.

Then I checked the county website for property tax assessments. From this I found the owner's name, learned the property was purchased in 1970, and the house built in 1978. I learned the owner no longer lived there because of a lost Homestead Exemption (it's a Texas thing) and the owner was over 65 in 1992.

Using Google I was able to discover the owner was mayor of the town in the early 70's.

After thinking about his age and how the house was lived in anymore, I was able to discover some information on about his recent death.

During this stage, our search became a quest to fill in the missing pieces. Going back to Google we discovered information about his family, profession (dentist), and hobby (golf).

After a little more searching, I can now tell you about his last house. Further, I can tell you the land her mother lives on now was previously owned by their daughter, a real estate agent, through a series of companies.

One of his sons took the same profession and would seem to be a successful dentist in town.

All of which leads me to say, it doesn't take much to find out all about you and yours. Heck, if I feel a little bored tomorrow I might be investigating you!

Tsunami Toll & Relief

The tsunami that hit southern Asia has caused massive destruction. The death toll is staggering, and the photos show unbelievable devastation. A number of respectable charities are rushing aid to the area and I want to encourage you to use one of them.

If you have not yet chosen a charity, let me recommend Oxfam. And to give you something in return for your donation, I pass along the following message from a software company I have used and like.
This is Nick the CEO of CoffeeCup Software.

I'm sure you have heard about the earthquake and tsunamis that have devastated Asia. Over 120,000 people have died so far and almost 1/3 of these are children.

I just gave to Oxfam - a respected non-profit that is working to help survivors of this horrible disaster. Oxfam can not give you anything for your donation, but CoffeeCup can give you software when you help the people of South Asia.

You can donate quickly and easily online Here:


If you donate more than $35 email me your receipt and I will give you your choice of CoffeeCup VisualSite Designer, CoffeeCup Firestarter, or CoffeeCup PixConverter.

Donate more than $100 and I will give you the CoffeeCup HTML Editor or CoffeeCup Direct FTP.

Donate $500 or more and I will send you ALL of our software on CD.

To get the software just donate to Oxfam using the link above, then email your receipt and choice of software to:

Thank you for your support in this time of great need,

Dr. Nicholas Longo - FounderCEO
CoffeeCup Software Inc.
It's not much and maybe it won't mean anything to you, but it's a gesture of support for those in need. So I share this with you while hoping we all find one of our own.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

2004 Winter Snow

Look, it's snowing... at our home in Dallas of all places. The area is not guaranteed to see snow every year, with kids sometimes seeing their first snowfall at the age of 4 or 5. And those beautiful white flakes would typically fall much later in the season when it's quite a bit colder, but this year's roaring arctic front changed all that. What a nice treat as the first full day of Winter portends a beautiful Christmas.

Are you flying for the holidays?

USA Today has a super cool feature. Maybe you know about it because you already fly a bunch, but you can get airport delay updates from this page. It helps you know if you have time for another cocktail before heading to the airport.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

2004 Christmas Lights

Here is the picture of our Christmas Lights I promised y'all a few weeks back.

I don't know how to change the exposure on our camera, so this is about the best picture I took. We have large blue bulbs around the bushes and above the walkway leading to the front door. The bushes are filled with about the multi-colored light strands (about 3,000 bulbs total) and we have a set of packages in front of the tree.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Christmas... and the Death Penalty

Yesterday, we went to the Dallas Christmas Festival 2004 put on by Prestonwood Baptist Church. It was a very good performance, three hours long with professional production values throughout (great costuming, 30 piece orchestra, live animals, etc.).

Act I was series of popular Christmas songs with some fun little acts. This was my favorite section. Act II was choral music, which was fine, but I'm not a huge fan of choral stuff. It was definitely interesting to see a 300-350 person chorus at one time. Act III was a musical covering the life of Jesus Christ. Very well done given the time constraints.

The most moving scene of the entire play came when they recreated the scene from Matthew 27:15-22.
15Now it was the governor's custom at the Feast to release a prisoner chosen by the crowd. 16At that time they had a notorious prisoner, called Barabbas. 17So when the crowd had gathered, Pilate asked them, "Which one do you want me to release to you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?" 18For he knew it was out of envy that they had handed Jesus over to him.

19While Pilate was sitting on the judge's seat, his wife sent him this message: "Don't have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him."

20But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus executed.

21"Which of the two do you want me to release to you?" asked the governor.

"Barabbas," they answered.

22"What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called Christ?" Pilate asked.

They all answered, "Crucify him!"

23"Why? What crime has he committed?" asked Pilate.

But they shouted all the louder, "Crucify him!"

24When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. "I am innocent of this man's blood," he said. "It is your responsibility!"

25All the people answered, "Let his blood be on us and on our children!"

26Then he released Barabbas to them. But he had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.
To help you understand why this was so moving to me, please let me explain more of the scene. The crowd was cast by their huge chorus, so there were hundreds of people chanting for the release of Barabbas and the crucifixion of Christ. And if you've ever stood in a crowd and watch for potential mob dynamics, it was relatively easy to see how this event could have been orchestrated for the saving of one man or the death of another.

But what really hit me, was how this mirrors the political climate I live in. Here in Texas, the death penalty is considered a good thing. Of all the prisoners executed in the U.S., my state executes about 40% of them.

In a topically related event, the Supreme Court is reviewing a case for the second time. This rare event is because the Fifth Court of Appeals did not appear to follow directions on reviewing the longstanding history of Dallas' District Attorney's active discrimination in jury selection; because jury discrimination makes it easier for the DA to get a guilty verdict and the death penalty.

I have a hard time understanding how the people of this state can be so sure of their belief in a Christian god, and so sure we should be taking the lives of other human beings.

From a religious perspective, I understand the theological position that Christ needed to die on the cross, but I cannot understand how people can hear or read about this event and then think it is okay to have public exectutions of others. If only out of sympathy for their savior, it makes sense they would want to avoid this debacle. For how is what we do today much different than a mob calling, "Crucify him. Let his blood be on us and our children."

It's time to stop this nonsense.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Christmas music

I love Christmas music. I try to buy a few albums every year, but often hold myself back thinking the funds should really go to something other than another version of Silent Night. (10 years ago, when I last counted, I had 17 versions of the song.)

Carl's collection was never stalled by my rationality. He has 9-10 times the quantity I have.

I'm not sure if I think he is lucky or foolish.

via J-Walk

Friday, December 10, 2004

Ambient noise

I love traditions, well sometimes. As a child, I remember putting on nice clothes when the family went shopping at Sears. I like the idea of dressing up when you go out and think the world would be just a touch nicer if people continued this concept of respecting others in their own actions.

Another idea I like is saying, "Excuse me" before answering the telephone. I find it rude when a call from a stranger takes precedence over my presence.

I remember phone booths that closed around you, and I think that was a good idea also. And I think it rude when people do a lot of talking on cell phones in public places. To that end, here's a link that fights the rudeness of talking to loud on a cell phone with a new kind of rudeness. Not necessarily the best approach, but it's something.


Thursday, December 09, 2004

Big Al's *New* Home Page

Old pal, Big Al English reviewed my blog awhile back and sent me a nice note indicating he like my own pages and also hoped I was designing web pages. I'm not, but it was sure nice of him to say such kind words. A few weeks later, he sent me a note wishing me a happy birthday. Since his birthday follows mine by just a few days I decided to make him a gift this year; I made him a new home page.

Purdue needs your help

As many of you know, Purdue started this year's football season with as much promise as they could possible have or give their fans. The quarterback was an early contender for the Heisman Trophy, the team looked like it might go undefeated, or--at most--lose just a single game or two. Instead, after going 6-0, they then proceeded to lose 4 in a row. ARGH!

Despite this heartbreak for me, they do have a chance to win some awards which will benefit their general scholarship fund. Here's the text from the John Purdue Club.
The Purdue football team is in the running for two national on-line honors that would benefit the university's general scholarship fund.

Sophomore Jerome Brooks' 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown at Notre Dame on Oct. 2 is one of six finalists for the Pontiac Game Changing Performance of the Year. It was selected from 13 weekly winners by a panel of nine experts in college sports. Each play was considered both for its impact on the outcome of the game as well as how it affected the team's season.

The winning performance will be awarded $100,000.

Fans can vote for the winner on-line once a week through Jan. 1 by clicking here. The winner will be announced Jan. 3 at the Orange Bowl Beach Bash in Orlando and subsequently during the FedEx Orange Bowl on Jan. 4.

The Boilermakers also are one of seven finalists for the FedEx Express Team of the Year. They were the weekly winner after setting a Big Ten record with 763 yards of total offense in a 63-24 win over intrastate rival Indiana on Nov. 20.

The winning school will receive $25,000.

To help select this award, fans can vote on-line by clicking here through Dec. 20. Both the Fed Ex Express and Fed Ex Ground Teams of the Year will be announced at halftime of the Orange Bowl.

Please, for me, help me help my old school.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Christmas lights

I am pretty much done with the Christmas Lights for this season. We do something a little different with them every year, and we almost skipped this year altogether, until Kristi noticed lights on other homes and started missing them on ours.

I find Christmas Lights to be another chore I avoid and complain about, but don't actually mind all that much. It's the thought of them, not the doing, that bothers me. The tangled cords, the burnt out bulbs, the up-and-down-and-up again on the ladder, etc. But the result is always so pleasant. And when you are working on Christmas lights it is so very easy to see your progress.

So, it's done now, and I'll try to get a picture up so you can see what we've done this year.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Why do leaves change color in Fall?

Today, I raked the leaves in our yard for the first time this year. We have a good size backyard for this part of the country, and I raked a total of two bags. Not very much.

I know much of the country has raked for months, or is done already, but here in Dallas, we don't have much in the way of Autumn leaves. Our trees have three seasons here. First we have some growing in the spring, then lots of green for much of the year, and finally the trees look fairly dead.

I miss the colors of Autumn on the trees. I sure don't miss raking though. In fact, while my raking skills seemed fine, I have surely forgotten some of the skills it takes to stuff the leaves in the bag. And with the rate of leaf raking required, I doubt I'm going to get any better.

Friday, December 03, 2004

New Routines

I stay up late, much later than Kristi. This is not new, but we have come up with a fun and cute way to handle it. In the last couple of weeks, when she is finished with the cleaning and lotioning (something most guys don't understand) and ready for bed, she hollers and I come to tuck her in. I pull up the blankets and make them snug around her, shower her face with kisses, and we chat for a few final minutes before she goes to sleep. If your situation is at all similar I recommend you add this to your nightly routine. Guaranteed to make you smile with your own loved one.

Christmas music

Did you know I really enjoy Christmas music? Did you know I will often put on a couple albums in July because I miss the music? Yes, I like it that much. This year, as I spend much of my time in the home office, I have been listening to LAUNCHcast 's Holiday Stations. I have plugged this online, customizable radio before, and I thought it deserved another mention.