Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Driving your own car is racist

In Russell County, Alabama, (just across the river from Columbus, Georgia, for the geographically impaired) there was a discussion last week about using county vehicles. The Columbus Ledger-Enquirer has the story, but here's a summary: One county commissioner -- one of the four white ones -- brought up for a vote a policy saying that county commissioners could use the county-owned Ford Explorer only when traveling outside the local counties (Russell County, Alabama and Muscogee County, Georgia). Commissioners would have to use their own personal vehicle when driving in the local counties, and could be reimbursed at the standard rate. Another commissioner -- one of the three black ones -- called the proposed policy "racist." The vote was 3-3-1. That broke down to three whites voting "yes," three blacks voting "no," and one white abstaining. They finally ended up agreeing to research what the policy has been, since nobody remembered. Without knowing what the previous policy was, assuming there was one, it seems to me that a county vehicle could be used for county business, regardless of where the business is. A policy that says you can't use a county vehicle for county business in the county is ... stupid. Not racist, just stupid. Calling it "racist" is ... racist. And stupid. At least it's nice to know that stupidity is color-blind.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Virus removal

Because so many people use a Microsoft Windows operating system, most viruses and other malicious software ("malware") are targeted for Windows users.

So, because of the large number of viruses out there targeting Windows, it could happen that you get a virus.

Three reasons

There are three primary reasons (in order) you could get a virus:
  1. Bad computer habits
  2. Missing or outdated security applications
  3. Bad luck
Not much can be done about the bad luck. However, many will blame bad luck first. But, if you haven't taken care of the first two, bad luck isn't the reason. Bad decisions would be more likely.

I've written about the bad habits and the security applications. You need to understand the importance of those.

If you don't think they're important, you're wrong. And that's experience talking.

I've had bad computer habits. Cutting down on those has helped. It's called learning from experience.

I've run without (or with outdated) security applications. I learned my lesson. It's called learning from experience.

I've also encountered bad luck. It happens. But if you haven't corrected bad computer habits or aren't running up-to-date security software, bad luck's the least of your problems.

Shut up and help

Alight, let's assume you have a virus on your Windows computer. If it's because of bad habits, or because of lack of security protection software, or because of bad luck, you're in the same situation: You have a problem and need to fix it.

How?

First, you need to use an anti-virus software package to clean things up. Or try to, anyway.

I have had success with the AVG and with the Avast! packages. Get one of those.

How?

If you can connect to the Internet, you can download AVG or Avast! by clicking on either link.

But sometimes, the virus will intercept your attempts to go to one of those pages and redirect you somewhere else. AntiVirus 2009 Pro (not to be confused with legitimate packages like the similarly-named Panda package) is one that does this.

If you can't access the Websites, you need to go to a safe, protected computer, take a USB key ("flash drive"), and download a package. If you must use another computer, go ahead and download both to the flash drive. You may need them both.

Attempt to install one of the packages on the infected computer. If one fails, try the other. I have always had success with one or the other; however you may find neither works. If that's the case, try other packages on this list. I've not used them all, so I can't speak to all of them.

Once you've installed and run the antivirus package, have it clean or remove everything it finds. This may take a while. This may take hours. Do it anyway.

Once you've cleaned the computer, you're not done. Scan it again. Then, if everything is still clean, you're still not done.

There's more?

Reboot your computer. Then, scan it again. Yes, I said scan it again.

You see, some viruses can reconstitute themselves after a reboot.

Keep scanning and cleaning and rebooting until everything is gone. If you find you're stuck in a loop -- the same virus keeps being removed but keeps coming back -- try another antivirus package (Avast! or AVG).

Eventually, one should do the job.

Next, you need to keep your computer safe. Microsoft actually has a good summary of things to do here.

They'll try to sell you their security package, Microsoft Live OneCare. It's a good package. But keep in mind what you just used to clean your computer. You may want to consider giving that application the job full-time. And, you may want to buy their full suite of protections software as a reward for a job well done.

The final step

The last thing you can do is prevent problems in the future. You can help by following the suggestions here.

The best way to get a virus off your computer is to not let it on to start with.

Virus protection

Most computer users are running computers with a Microsoft Windows operating system. That, all by itself, makes a computer susceptible to a virus or other dangerous or malicious software ("malware").

I'm not trashing Microsoft; I'm stating a fact. Microsoft Windows is so prevalent that it's a target for those that create viruses or other malicious software.

It's common for many computer users to get a virus. The most common reason is a lack of proper protection. That involves not having good, up-to-date security software. It also involves careful computer habits.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas 2008

  1. And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.
  2. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)
  3. And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.
  4. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David)
  5. To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
  6. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
  7. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
  8. And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
  9. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
  10. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
  11. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
  12. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
  13. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
  14. Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
  15. And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.
  16. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.
  17. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.
  18. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A Visit From St. Nicholas

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse; The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there; The children were nestled all snug in their beds, While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads; And mamma in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap, had just settled down for a long winter's nap, When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter, I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter. Away to the window I flew like a flash, tore open the shutters and threw up the sash. The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow gave the luster of mid-day to objects below, When, what to my wondering eyes should appear, but a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer, With a little old driver, so lively and quick, I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick. More rapid than eagles his coursers they came, And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name: "Now, Dasher! Now, Dancer! Now, Prancer and Vixen! On, Comet! On Cupid! On, Donder and Blitzen! To the top of the porch! To the top of the wall! Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!" As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly, When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky, so up to the house-top the coursers they flew, With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too. And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof the prancing and pawing of each little hoof. As I drew in my hand, and was turning around, down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound. He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot, and his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot; A bundle of toys he had flung on his back, and he looked like a peddler just opening his pack. His eyes — how they twinkled! His dimples how merry! His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry! His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow, and the beard of his chin was as white as the snow; The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth, and the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath; He had a broad face and a little round belly, that shook, when he laughed like a bowl full of jelly. He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf, and I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself; A wink of his eye and a twist of his head, soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread; He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work, and filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk, Laying his finger aside of his nose, And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose; He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle, and away they all flew like the down of a thistle. But I heard him exclaim, as he drove out of sight, "Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night."

Monday, December 22, 2008

An Icebox Fruitcake recipe

For those raised up in the South, you're probably familiar with what an "icebox" is. If you're not ... well ... it's an early refrigerator. Ran on ice. If you can call it running. It actually just sat there. An icebox was an insulated chest or cabinet that contained ice, and kept the contents cool. You'd restock it when the ice melted down. You've probably seen one. Ever watch The Honeymooners? The Kramdens had one. After refrigeration came affordable for many folks, the phrase "icebox" stayed around for a while. My grandmother (father's mother) often called her refrigerator "the icebox" until she died (a decade and a half ago). So, now that you know what an "icebox" is -- if you didn't already know, that is -- you'll understand better the name "icebox fruitcake." It's fruitcake insofar as it's very similar in appearance to traditional fruitcake. But it won't keep. Traditional fruitcake can be kept around 40 years or more. Or so it seems. Not so with icebox fruitcake. You need to eat it, or, like your --or my -- grandmother might say, "put it in the icebox." The Wife's grandmother actually is the source of this icebox fruitcake recipe. I don't like fruitcake. I like this. Ingredients
  • One box (approx. 12 oz.) of vanilla wafers
  • One pound of candied cherries (red and/or green)
  • One can (approx. 14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk (do not use evaporated milk)
  • One cup raisins
  • One cup coconut
  • One cup pecans, chopped.
Directions
  1. Finely crush vanilla wafers.
  2. In a large bowl, add the vanilla wafers and sweetened condensed milk.
  3. Hand mix until wafers are moistened.
  4. Add remaining ingredients.
  5. Mix well by hand.
  6. Press mixture into a buttered tube pan. Alternately, press into cupcake pan for individual-size cakes.
  7. Cover.
  8. Refrigerate overnight, or until firm.
It will spoil if you don't refrigerate it (or "put it in the icebox"). Keep in mind, there are many varieties of icebox fruitcake recipes. This is but one. Feel free to expand on it in any way (graham crackers, adult beverages, etc.). If you've never experienced an icebox fruitcake, you don't know what you're missing. If this recipe turns out to be your first ... well, you're welcome.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

All I want for Christmas is...

Remember the movie A Christmas Story? The main character, Ralphie, wanted "an official Red Ryder carbine-action 200-shot range model air rifle with a compass in the stock, and this thing which tells time."

And, at the end of the movie, he got it.

Remember Peggy Joseph? She's the woman who said that, because of Obama, wouldn't have to worry about putting gas in her car or have to worry about her mortgage.

video

She thinks he's Santa Claus.

Well, so do most Americans, it seems. They voted him as the next president.

In the spirit of those American classics -- A Christmas Story and Barack Obama -- I'm wondering what you want Obama to bring you for Christmas.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Majel Barrett

Majel Barrett-Roddenberry, widow of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, died today. She was 76, and had been suffering from leukemia. She's the only person to have appeared in all Star Trek series. She was second in command, "Number One," in the original pilot, moving to the role of Nurse Christine Chapel in the original series. She reprised the role of Chapel in the animated series, and voiced the computer in The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Enterprise, as well as in many of the movies. She also had the recurring role of Lwaxana Troi, in TNG and DS9. I met her once. She was appearing at a Star Trek convention in Savannah, and I had the pleasure of seeing her there. But I got the chance to meet her after the convention. When everything was done, everyone was getting ready to leave. My brother-in-law -- my Big Sister's husband -- was tired of it all, and sat down in a chair outside the elevators. I joined him, while my Big Sister wandered around trying to find some Star Trek stars she could bother. My brother-in-law and I sat there, talking. We've know each other a long time. He and I knew each other years before he and my Big Sister ever met. Suddenly, the elevator doors opened, and out came Majel Barrett-Roddenberry, trying to lug around several pieces of luggage. Turns out she was ready to go, and the person who was supposed to meet her and get her luggage was late. So, she grabbed them, dragged them onto the elevator, and pressed the "Lobby" button. As she struggled to get her bags out of the elevator, we jumped up and offered to help. She was a little wary, but mostly frustrated that her assistant wasn't there to have her luggage transported for her. Her wariness was relaxed somewhat when she found out that one of the men offering to help was a chief of police (my brother-in-law, the Chief). She got everything where she needed to be, and went on her way to her next destination. I liked the fact that she was a determined lady. She needed to go somewhere, others weren't cooperating, and she made it happen anyway. And, no, carrying one's on luggage isn't a big deal. But, heck, I don't know that I'd like carrying that many bags around a hotel myself. If you're a Star Trek fan, you understand the loss we're feeling. If not, just know that a funny, determined woman has left us. I'm sad.

Monday, December 15, 2008

His place in history

When the Electors meet in the several states' capitals today to formally cast their ballots for president, something historical will occur. But I have a question regarding Barack Obama's place in history: Will he be the second Mob-connected president, or the third? Just wondering.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Ho ho ho

The Christmas parade was held in Columbus and Phenix City yesterday. My teenage niece, was in the parade with other area pageant winners from Georgia and Alabama. So, in addition to taking the grandchildren to see the Christmas parade, I got to see my niece riding in the parade. Parades aren't like they used to be. For instance, in my home town ... a small town in southeast Georgia ... we'd have the Christmas parade, and it would have a few cars, a few floats, the JROTC, the high school marching band, and Santa on a fire truck. The parade yesterday in Columbus and Phenix City was a larger version of the same thing. Lots of cars with area mayors, other cars with folks from businesses or other politicians, floats from churches and other organizations, marching bands, fire trucks, and such. It was the high schools, though, that caught my eye this time. The Carver High School band came by. And they had ... oh, I don't know ... cheerleaders, dancers, or something. Bunch of high school girls wearing shorts. They stopped, the drum major (or whatever role the young man held), did his little whistle thing, the Carver marchers got into position, and the dancers started ... well ... I'm not sure how to describe it. A bunch of trusting pelvises was involved. Use your imagination. You'd be on target, I suspect. Right there in front of my 9-year-old grandchildren, a bunch of 16-year-olds acting like ... well, "ho, ho, ho" comes to mind. I calmly stepped forward between the two granddaughters, bent down, and told them, "If I ever catch you acting like that, I'll beat your ass." I meant it. And they know it.

Monday, December 8, 2008

A better college football playoff plan

Thinking about a solution to the BCS problem, I came up with a 16-team playoff system, using conference champions as the top 11 slots, with wild card teams filling out the field of 16. But some don't like that. Some complain that teams like Troy or Buffalo shouldn't make the mix while better teams like Oklahoma State, Georgia Tech, Brigham Young, or Ball State are left out. So, if its the best teams that should fill the field of 16, then there's an easy solution:
  1. Florida
  2. Alabama
  3. Georgia
  4. Mississippi
  5. Louisiana State
  6. South Carolina
  7. Vanderbilt
  8. Kentucky
  9. Arkansas
  10. Tennessee
  11. Auburn
  12. Mississippi State
  13. Oklahoma
  14. Texas
  15. Southern California
  16. Utah
Problem solved.

Solving the BCS problem

The mythical college football championship game is set. And lots of people are not happy. Me? I don't have a dog in the hunt. Or Dawg, to be specific. Still, there are some unhappy campers. And I'm in that group. Despite my not having a team of interest in the mix ... or close to the mix ... I'm in the unhappy group because ... well, let's face it: I have strong opinions. But I do more than just whine about something I don't like; I have a solution. Check that. I have THE solution: A 16-team playoff that uses the BCS for seeding. Automatic Bids There are 11 conferences. The 11 conference champions get an automatic spot. The remaining 5 spots ... call them "wild card" spots ... would be taken up by the top teams in the BCS standings that don't get an automatic berth. Here are the 11 conference champions, listed alphabetically by conference:
ConferenceChampion
Atlantic CoatVirginia Tech
Big EastCincinnati
Big TenPenn State
Big 12Oklahoma
Conference USAEast Carolina
Mid-AmericaBuffalo
Mountain WestUtah
Pacific 10Southern California
SoutheasternFlorida
Sun BeltTroy
Western AthleticBoise State
Wild Card Teams Here are the top five teams (according to the BCS) that did not win their conference.
RankTeam
3.Texas
4.Alabama
7.Texas Tech
10.Ohio State
11.Texas Christian
There are two ways of doing the seeding. One is using the BCS to rank them, plain and simple. But that's too plain and simple for me. I actually like the way the NFL does it. In the NFL, the division champs get the top seeds, and the wild cards get the leftover slots, regardless of record. For instance, in 2007, Tampa Bay was the #4 seed in the NFC, winning the South with a 9-7 record, while the Giants were the #5 seed, despite having 10-6 record. Likewise, Pittsburgh took the AFC North with a 10-6 record, and were seeded 4th, while Jacksonville, sporting a better record (11-5), was 5th seed, since they didn't win their division. Seeding Using that as a model, here's the 2008 NCAA Division I-A (using the older name) playoff seeding:
SeedTeamConferenceRecordBCS
1.OklahomaBig 1212-11
2.FloridaSoutheast12-12
3.Southern CaliforniaPacific 1011-15
4.UtahMountain West12-06
5.Penn StateBig Ten11-18
6.Boise StateWestern Athletic12-09
7.CincinnatiBig East11-212
8.Virginia TechAtlantic Coast9-419
9.East CarolinaConference USA9-4none
10.TroySun Belt8-4none
11.BuffaloMid-America8-5none
12.TexasWild card11-13
13.AlabamaWild card12-14
14.Texas TechWild card11-17
15.Ohio StateWild card10-210
16.Texas ChristianWild card10-211
Matchups This will set up some interesting matchups:
  • (16) Texas Christian at (1) Oklahoma
  • (15) Ohio State at (2) Florida
  • (14) Texas Tech at (3) Southern California
  • (13) Alabama at (4) Utah
  • (12) Texas at (5) Penn State
  • (11) Buffalo at (6) Boise State
  • (10) Troy at (7) Cincinnati
  • (9) East Carolina at (8) Virginia Tech
The 8 winners would play the following week, with the top 4 remaining seeds hosting the bottom 4 remaining seeds. The 8 first-round losers and the 4 second-round losers would get bowl invitations. And pretty good bowl invitations, in all likelihood. The final four would play as part of the January 1st bowl games. The final two would play a week later for the real ... not mythical ... championship.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

So how else were we right?

During the run-up to the recent election, those of us on the right said that an Obama election would be bad in several ways, including for the economy. And now, Barack Hussein Obama agrees:
In the intervening weeks, the economy has showed clear signs of worsening. Employers said they eliminated more than 500,000 jobs in November alone and retailers reported disappointing holiday-season sales. "The economy is going to get worse before it gets better," he said twice in the early moments of the interview, taped Saturday in Chicago.
What else does he now agree with us about? That he'll be weak on national defense? That he'll raise your taxes? That he'll increase government interference in your life? That he'll send the country to hell in a handbasket? I wonder: Regarding Obama, what else we were right about?

lolcat of the day

Having a cat ... or in my case, The Wife having a cat ... means that I get to appreciate all the wonderful things that cats do. Like leaving dead animals at the front door.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Two words

We all have out quirks. Some are cute. Some are silly. Some are ... aggravating. Mine? I don't have quirks. Just my own special way of doing things. Like taking care about what I say. Words are important. Some people refuse to say certain words. They'll come up with substitutes for other words. This is common with profanity. The word "darn" for instance is used by some instead of "damn." The TV show Battlestar Galactica came up with the word "frack" (in the 1970s series; it's "frak" in the current series). It, of course, is used instead of the word ... well, you know what word it replaces. The list goes on and on. My biggest quirk about words, though, isn't about finding replacements for curse words. Its about avoiding words that ... seem worse. For instance, there are two words that I've never used. And another two words I don't plan to use. Oh, I've used the words separately. But never together. In my lifetime, I've referred most Presidents by their title and name. But not all. I never referred to President Eisenhower as such during his presidency. I was too young. Same thing with President Kennedy. I've used the phrases "President Eisenhower" and "President Kennedy" but never during their terms in office. Or, at least, if I did, I don't remember doing it. But, beginning with President Johnson, I remember using the title with the name. Also with President Nixon, President Ford, President Carter, President Reagan, and President Bush. With the election of Bill Clinton in 1992, though, I just couldn't bring myself to say ... that phrase. Really. I've never written it. I've never uttered it. I can hardly think it. During those years, I referred to Bill Clinton either by his name ("Bill Clinton" or "William Jefferson Clinton" depending on the circumstances), or by his title alone. I would say "the President" or "the Commander in Chief" or whatever the circumstances called for. But I never could bring myself to say ... those two words together. That phrase. Still can't stomach it. And now, Barack Hussein Obama will likely be elected to the highest office in the land. When the electors meet in two weeks, it would be very, very, very, very, very unlikely for those pledged to Barack Hussein Obama to do anything other than vote for Barack Hussein Obama. We'll find out for certain in January, when the votes of the electors are actually opened and counted. I don't expect a surprise. Which means that I'll be spending the next four years using other words to describe the person sitting in the Oval Office. Right now, I have no problem calling the current office-holder by his title and name: President Bush. Come noon January 20th, I won't be able to say those two words: the combination of the office and the name. But not to worry. There are plenty of other words and phrases I have for the likes of Barack Hussein Obama.

lolcat of the day